Saunders: Zimmerman, O.J. cases don't match up

July 21, 2013 

Nineteen minutes?

What took y’all so long?

That’s the length of time it took before the first reader invoked the name Orenthal James Simpson after my recent column on the George Zimmerman murder trial, and that was my disappointed response to it taking 19 minutes: I’d predicted sooner.

Many of the emails and phone messages were unfit for human consumption, but those whose letters were printed expressed the same sentiment, only more respectfully.

“Contrary to Barry Saunders’ column ... justice was served,” wrote one Sunday Forum letter-writer named Joseph. “Sorry that Barry didn’t get the O.J. Simpson jury he was hoping for.”

Another reader, responding to a news story about the racial dialogue spurred by the verdict, wrote “One has to ask: Where were the protesters when O.J. Simpson got away with murder?”

No, one does not have to ask that. They were everywhere. All over television, thundering from newspaper op-ed pages, in bars.

Lord knows, they were in bars. My buddy Mayfield said that days after the verdict he’d had to leave his favorite gin palace in Louisiana when Simpson’s face appeared on the TV screen because patrons began cursing the TV, the court system, Simpson and anyone who looked like Simpson.

Soon after the Simpson verdict, comedian Chris Rock astutely noted that many whites were way too distraught over the verdict and many blacks were way too jubilant. “Hey, I didn’t get my ‘O.J.’ check yet” he cracked.

News outlets were only too happy to show interviews with people who thought the verdict signaled the end of Western Civilization or with those made ecstatic by it.

Indeed, I took great delight in lampooning the black people who acted as though the Simpson verdict was the Voting Rights Act and the Emancipation Proclamation all rolled into one, as if Simpson were some modern-day freedom fighter. He wasn’t, and I pointed that out.

One delightful Simpson-supporting sisterwoman called in, sputteringly apoplectic. “You know what, Saunders. It’s not O.J. who has a problem with blackness. It’s you.” That’s the only printable thing she said before concluding her call by telling me to go commit an unnatural act on myself “and the horse you rode in on.”


I was neither ecstatic nor sad about the Simpson verdict, although you’d have to be willfully ignorant if you didn’t note that many people acted as though this was the first time someone had possibly gotten away with murder. So deep ran the vein of disgust with the jury’s verdict that many, many people wanted to junk the entire U.S. judicial system, to do away with citizen juries and go to a system of professional jurors.

All because one man got away. The same people praising the defense attorney who got Zimmerman off are, of course, the same ones who vilified the late Johnny Cochran for his Houdini act on Simpson’s behalf.

For the record, I know no one personally who thought Simpson was innocent. And I’m still not surprised by the Zimmerman verdict.

As someone with a facile imagination – I once imagined that I looked good in a lime-green leisure suit with stacked heels (it was the ‘70s) - not even I can convince myself that there’s a parallel between the Zimmerman and Simpson cases.

We are, as the president said last week, a nation of laws. The court has spoken. We don’t all like what it said.

Sound familiar?

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