IU Media Relations
IU School of Law-Bloomington
EDITORS: On Oct. 3, 1995, an estimated 150 million people watched the televised verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial. For many Americans the trial served as an introduction to the American judicial system. Three nationally recognized criminal law professors from the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington are available to offer their perspectives on the lasting impact of the Simpson trial on public perception of the American judicial system. Contact information for each professor is listed below.
"Recently celebrated criminal cases, including the O.J. Simpson case, have severely battered the public's image of the criminal justice system," said Craig Bradley, the James L. Calamaras Professor of Law at the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. After the Simpson trial, 51 percent of Los Angeles County residents said their confidence in the criminal justice system had decreased as a result of the trial. "If trials came closer to achieving the due process ideal, rather than providing a forum for lawyers to demonstrate their skills, then 'public perception' would take care of itself," Bradley said. Bradley and Joseph Hoffmann, the Harry Pratter Professor of Law, developed 10 suggestions that could serve as starting points for discussion about issues in the O.J. Simpson trial, such as discovery, jury selection, the right to silence and admissibility of evidence. The suggestions were previously published in the Southern California Law Review. "Only by engaging in such a dialogue can we begin to restore the connection between criminal trial procedure and the deeply shared norms and values of American society," Hoffmann said. Hoffmann is a nationally recognized expert on criminal procedure, habeas corpus and the death penalty, and he recently served as co-chair of the Massachusetts Governor's Council on Capital Punishment. Bradley, an authority on American and foreign criminal procedure, is editor of the forthcoming book, The Rehnquist Legacy, which will be published later this year by Cambridge University Press. Bradley can be reached at 812-855-1257 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Hoffmann can be reached at 812-855-6150 or email@example.com.
African Americans view the legal system as racially biased, said Kevin Brown, professor of law at the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. "For many in the African American community who are used to being stopped by the police without provocation, used to watching white police officers being acquitted after beating black defendants -- even when the beatings are videotaped --and used to seeing African American males on a daily basis being treated more harshly than whites, the O.J. trial was not about an isolated individual criminal perpetrator accused of committing a heinous crime on others. Rather, it was about the entire criminal justice system that for centuries was and continues to be openly racially biased," Brown said. "The O.J. trial was understood against the backdrop of a criminal justice system where the police are more likely to arrest a black person than a white person when both are acting in the same way; a system that is more likely to prosecute a black person than a white person committing the same act; a system that is more likely to convict a black person than a white person for the same crime; a system that is more likely to sentence a black person to jail time than a white person; and a system that is more likely to sentence the black person to jail for a longer period of time. Thus, O.J.'s acquittal was an example of where the system didn't do what it normally does, convict an innocent black person. For once, the system didn't display its typical racial bias." Brown, who studies the convergence of law, education and race theory, is the author of Race, Law and Education in the Post-Desegregation Era (Carolina Academic Press, 2005). He can be reached at 812-855-6145 or firstname.lastname@example.org.