The O. J. Simpson Trials: Rhetoric, Media, and the Law

By Janice Schuetz; Lin S. Lilley | Go to book overview

5
The Credibility of O. J. Simpson:
"If the Shoe Fits ..."

Patricia M. Ganer

JUST AS THE TESTIMONY OF AND ABOUT MARK FUHRMAN was the turning point for the criminal case, the testimony of O. J. Simpson served this dramatic function for the civil case. The public wanted to hear his story, and the media responded with extensive excerpts of testimony and media commentaries. Interviews with friends and family of the defendant and participants from the criminal trial infused the media commentaries with strong negative and positive feelings about his credibility. At the time that he testified without cameras in the courtroom, the media recreated Simpson's testimony so that it appeared live. They showed pictures of him from the criminal trial, from his arrest, and as a celebrity spokesperson for Hertz rental cars. They superimposed the words of his testimony in the civil trial on these old media images from the criminal trial to create the qualities of telelitigation—personality, stardom, feeling, and conflict.

The setting on the day of the civil trial was almost surreal. Television cameras were set up in the Capitol, ready to air the State of the Union address of the newly reelected president of the United States. But three thousand miles away, cameras also were gathering around a nondescript courthouse in Santa Monica, California, ready to air the civil verdicts against this former star football player. The results of the two cases were different, the criminal jury finding Simpson "not guilty" of the crimes of which he was accused, and the civil jury finding him liable in the death of Ron Goldman and the beating—and by extension, the death—of Nicole Simpson. Much speculation has been offered as to the reasons for the different verdicts. Reasons offered have included differences in the quality of the teams of attorneys, the personality and rulings of the judge, the lack of cameras in the courtroom, the appearance of new evidence, and

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