OJ Simpson's 1994 murder trial put spotlight on racial division in America

Crystal Cranmore Image
Thursday, April 11, 2024
Role of race in OJ Simpson's 1994 murder trial
Crystal Cranmore has more on the pivotal role race played in OJ Simpson's murder trial.

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- The pivotal role race played in OJ Simpson's murder trial cannot be overstated. It came in the aftermath of the Rodney King police brutality case, and many in the Black community felt Simpson's acquittal was retribution for what they deemed injustices to Black Americans.

Simpson was a celebrated athlete and actor. The double murder charges shattered his reputation. His trial however, would put a spotlight on racial division in America

At Reverend Al Sharpton's annual Civil Rights Conference in Midtown Manhattan, most people remember where they were when Simpson was found not guilty.

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Crystal Cranmore has more on the pivotal role race played in OJ Simpson's murder trial.

"We were all in the conference room at my job, and I can tell you, there were mixed vibes but most of us were rooting for OJ," said Mary McClary, who attended the conference.

A celebrity turned accused criminal for the 1994 murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, Simpson became a symbol of racial divide in America.

"The nature of how he was pursued and portrayed in media as such a villain, that Black people sort of felt like... we know this story and we know how these stories end and I think that was why there was support for him," said Patricia Ackerman, a former educator.

Experts say Simpson's trial shed light on police treatment of Black Americans, but like the country, the evidence was also divided.

Bloodstains linked Simpson to the crime, but a mostly Black jury ultimately acquitted him.

"There was one piece of evidence that was tampered with, the sock that had his blood and the blood of the victim on it," said attorney Alan Dershowitz said. "It really sent a very important message to police officers and prosecutors that if you tamper with evidence, even in a strong case, the jury is not going to believe you."

Civil rights advocates believe the trial highlighted the effects of wealth and privilege on the criminal justice system.

"Disproportionately, African Americans who get caught in the system lack resources, therefore we would've never seen that length of trial," said NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson.

Simpson maintained his innocence over the years. His legacy has a different meaning depending on who you ask.

"I still remember the Hertz commercials of running through airports," Ackerman said.

"Then you also had the OJ Simpson that was on display from the white Bronco, through the trial there were many people who didn't really like what they had seen," Johnson said.


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