The O.J. Simpsons case tops the list w...
The O.J. Simpsons case tops the list when
it comes to criminal cases covered by the media. Dabbed “trial of the century”,
the case set high standards for round-the-clock media coverage. The case was
more of a drama replete with bizarre incidents. Simpson, a celebrated
sportscaster, actor, and retired professional footballer got over ninety-five
million viewers glued to the screen to watch police chase him in his infamous
white Ford Bronco after he was accused of two accounts of murder. The drama
moved to court where there were all kind of characters from good to evil, and
the media covered all of it. The courtroom was televised for over 100 days
converting numerous viewers into Simpson trial junkies. The media is believed
to have significantly influenced the case and finally the ruling. At a certain
point in time, the grand jury has to dismiss court hearing due to excessive
media coverage. Some key witnesses also sell their story to the media thus
making the case even more difficult because the court could not use them.
Finally, the case comes to a close with Simpson being acquitted, but many
believe the media played a significant role in influencing the trial.
O.J. Simpson Background
Born James Simpson in 1947 in San
Francisco California, he would later be given the name Orenthal by his aunt.
The name is report to be of a French actor she adored. He would later be known
by his peers as “The Juice” as he gradually scaled the heights of football
stardom. Despite displaying immense talent and promise at Galileo High School
football team, his poor grades would prove to be an impediment to joining a
major college football program. However, he would soon excel at a competition
at the city college of San Fransisco and become a superstar through football.
He won the Heisman Trophy and set NCAA records. A year later, he joined the
professional Buffalo Bills. He would put on an exemplary performance, go on to
lead the NFL four times and set many league records ("O.J. Simpson",
Having gained tremendous popularity among
football fans, it was inevitable that Simpson would become successful in his
post-playing career. After retiring in 1979, he landed roles for several commercials,
movies, and later became a broadcaster for the NFL on NBC brand as well as
Monday Night Football. Interesting enough, in a 1974 film called The Klansman,
Simpson had played a man framed for murder. He divorced his wife of 12 years
the same year he retired, and in 1985 he married Nicole Brown with whom they
would have two children. In the same year, Simpson got elected to the Pro
Football Hall of Fame. The relationship between the two was nothing but
blissful. Nicole would reach out to family and friends about her husband’s
physical abuse. A huge fight happened in the 1989 New Year Eve’s party in which
Nicole alleged that Simpson threatened to kill her. Simpson would be charged
with spousal battery to which he pleaded no contest. In 1992, Nicole filed for
divorce. Two years later, Simpson would find himself entangled in the murder of
his ex-wife and her acquaintance ("O.J. Simpson", 2017). The paper
focuses on the case and how the media came into play throughout investigations,
hearings, and the final verdict. The main aim is to establish the impact of the
media on case outcomes.
Description of the Crime in its Historical
The “trial of the century” has an
important place in history books especially when it comes to sensational court
cases. The O.J. Simpson case is also a clear indication of the impact of the
media in an ongoing investigation or case. While some witnesses and evidence
strongly indicated that O.J. was guilty, the ‘Dream Team’ argued that the
evidence was planted on the grounds of racism by a white detective with a
history of being racist and rogue. Some members of the public thought O.J was
guilty while some including the African Americans argued that he was framed.
The fact that the ruling; not guilty
squeezed the air out of the nation in 1995 cannot be overlooked. A civil trial
three months later would find Simpson guilty of causing the wrongful deaths of
the two murder victims and would order him to pay the victim’s families for
damages caused. He had to part with $33 million.
Theoretical Analysis of the Crime Events
O.J. Simpson was the first suspect after
Nicole Brown (his ex-wife) and her acquaintance Ronald Goldman were discovered lifeless
at Nicole’s place in Los Angeles. The wounds indicated they were stabbed by an
assailant. At this time, Simpson was aboard a plane to Chicago. The driver who
took him to the airport in a limousine would later testify in court claiming no
one answered the door when he knocked at Simpson’s door only for him to see a
man fitting Simpson’s descriptions in the dark. Simpson would later reappear
from the house with a package (believed to be the murder weapon) that he did
not allow the driver to touch or see. Simpsons was called back for questioning
in Los Angeles. Sources claim that he did not ask when, how or who killed her
upon being informed of her death (Linder, 2018).
Simpson was questioned by the Los Angeles
police as soon as he returned and a deep cut on his right hand was a major
concern. Initially, he claimed not to know how he got the cut. He later told
the police that he got cut while reaching into his car on the night of the
murder then reopened it while breaking a glass in fury after he was informed
about the tragic incident while at his hotel room in Chicago. His attorneys
(known as “The Dream Team”) would later twist this story. The police concluded
that the interrogation was clumsy as neither follow up questions were asked nor
were potentially fruitful inquiries made. None of this information would be
used at the trial.
The police later discovered incriminating
evidence against Simpson and therefore gave him an ultimatum to surrender to
which he agreed. Part of the evidence would include blood stains on his
driveway, bronco, socks, and gloves. Simpson raised eyebrows in a shocking turn
of events when he tried escaping only to be tracked down and pursued by police
in a car chase. He had left a letter at his house that seemed like a suicide
note. The police pursuit was televised nationally to over 95 million viewers.
Simpson was seated at the back of a white Ford Bronco driven by his friend
Cowlings, also a former NFL player. The slow speed chase would finally end with
Simpson giving in to the police that evening. He denied that he tried to vanish
despite being found in possession of his passport, a disguise (false beard), a
gun, and $9,000 in cash. Simpson pleaded not guilty to the charges (Linder,
Media Involvement and Coverage of the
The Simpson case was newsworthy to the
media because he was a celebrity, and they ensured they never missed anything.
Right from the start, the media heightens the drama by showing his freeway
chase which attracts millions of viewers. The press did extensive coverage of
the trial as their ratings hiked. Therefore, the media continually proves that
violence is an essential component of news selection (Jewkes, 2018, p. 65-66).
However, this would be detrimental on the part of the Jury. In fact, they had
to postpone some hearings due to too much media interference. Racism also came
to play. The media would soon start asking the public if a black person can get
a fair ruling. The Dream Team would also tap into racism (Brown, Duane &
Fraser, 1997). The media would also publish stories before confirming the
facts. They even bought stories from two key witnesses thus the court could not
rely on that information.
Other than using racism, Simpson’s
defence team also had a strategy to undermine the evidence of the prosecution.
They questioned the prosecution’s timeline and pointed out that the primary
evidence was planted, corrupted or both. Concerning O. J’s motive, they claimed
he had arthritis and was incapable of murdering two individuals. When Simpson
was ordered to put on the gloves, he seemed to struggle with them then pointed
out that they didn’t fit him. Although the gloves might have shrunk due to the
blood, millions of viewers were convinced that the gloves did not fit O.J and
therefore were not his. Papers would also show him wearing ill-fitting gloves.
Most people who saw this were somehow convinced that he was being framed.
Johnnie Cochran, one of his attorneys, became famous for giving the headline;
"If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." Simpson was set free. After the
ruling, some newspapers circulated photos of Simpson wearing a size 12 shoe
that he denied owning. Perhaps this affected the ruling for a civil court that
took over the case three months later that found him liable for causing the
wrongful deaths of the two murder victims.
Perspective Concerning Media Effects on
The public’s fundamental source of
information about a crime is the media. The media is responsible for the
headlines and thus influences the attention of the public in regards to a crime
(Muraskin & Domash, 2007). When the media becomes involved in a case, the
jurors are equally exposed, and this affects them. If a juror were to go home
to watch the news and find a media house covering a story about the case
they’re handling, they are likely to be influenced by the public’s opinion. The
juror might make a decision based on the story covered, which is against the
court system. The decision will have been achieved by wrong means, yet
sometimes the statistics presented by the media is flawed thus unprofessional
journalism leading to an unlawful decision ("Analysis - Rating The Media's
Performance | The O.j. Verdict | FRONTLINE | PBS", 2005).
Coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial can be
considered as a nahillation of the United States legal system. The press pushed
stories including the issue of race that affected the outcome of the case. The
glove scene influenced the view of the public on the trial which eventually affected
the verdict that was being watched by half the population of the U.S.A. That
only shows how the media can have an impact on history. The decision to allow
media into the courtroom was controversial. Perhaps, this explains why the
September 11 bombings trials were not televised. The media does affect the
world, but our opinions should not rely on what the media feeds us.
Rating The Media's Performance | The O.j. Verdict | FRONTLINE | PBS. (2005). Pbs.org.
Retrieved 16 February 2018, from
Brown, W., Duane,
J., & Fraser, B. (1997). Media coverage and public opinion of the O. J.
Simpson trial: Implications for the criminal justice system. Communication
Law And Policy, 2(2), 261-287.
Jewkes, Y. (2018).
MEDIA & CRIME (3rd ed., pp. 65 - 66). Sage Publications.
Linder, D. (2018).
The Trial of Orenthal James Simpson: An Account. Famous-trials.com.
Retrieved 16 February 2018, from http://famous-trials.com/simpson/1862-home
& Domash, S. (2007). Crime and the media. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson Prentice Hall.
O.J. Simpson. (2017). Biography.
Retrieved 16 February 2018, from