Different societies in different periods of history may have different conceptions of what counts as just or unjust; in the same way as different societies may have different conceptions of what counts as moral or immoral. These conceptions may indeed vary from culture to culture; from period to period. Nonetheless, there is something which these conceptions of justice share; that is, when we talk of justice, we mean, as John Rawls would put it, fairness. Every democratic and liberal political setting must, of strict necessity, ensure that justice is administered.
In the administration of justice, the court should guarantee that investigations and verdicts are carried out not only by following the procedural rules of court but more importantly, that investigations and verdicts are carried out with the utmost concern for fairness. This principle should always be the criterion for determining whether justice has been served. James Simpson’s trial may be cited as a case in point. It was on an early morning, the 13th of June, 1994 when the bodies of allegedly murder victims Nicole Brown-Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were discovered bathing in their own blood in Los Angeles’ Brentwood District.
As it appears to the initial crime investigation, all the evidences for the brutal murders of the two victims all point to a single man: the Black football legend Orenthal James Simpson (hereafter O. J. Simpson). Since its inception, the O. J. Simpson Case had been one of the most studied cases in law schools. For the most part, the case in itself is controversial. This is because at some points, the case seems to elicit different reactions from the people, investigators and of course, the jury. “On June 18, 1994, newspaper headlines across the world trumpeted the arrest of sports superstar O. J.
Simpson in Los Angeles for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman” (Koehler, p. 214, 1996). Koehler’s statement clearly presents us with the idea that a lot of people in different parts of the world were actually happy with the fact that O. J. Simpson was arrested and will be put into trial. And yet, at the same time, other observers were not happy about it. This is to say that the O. J. Simpson Case became a popular murder trial where people are divided as to whether or not the accused is guilty of two counts of murder. It becomes increasingly complex when we take into consideration the result of the trial.
“After a contentious nine-month trial, the jury took only three and a half hours to find Mr. Simpson not guilty of both murders” (Ibid). Clearly then, the verdict says that the prosecution was not able to prove that the accused, O. J. Simpson is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. What are the problems that the prosecutors of the case encountered then? Why are they not able to prove that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt? First, and from a legal standpoint, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution; and the burden says that they have to prove that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
The defense’s main task then, is simply, to raise doubts. If the defense can present or raise serious doubts, then, as we all know, they can make or break a case. The burden of evidence however, shifts from both sides. This is to say that both the prosecution and the defense have the burden of evidence. To wit, the prosecutors’ main problem is the fact that they were not able to satisfy the burden of proof requirement. This problem could have been remedied if had they focused more on hard evidences (i. e. DNA evidence) than mere persuasive arguments especially with the composition of the Jury.
Second, the problem with the O. J. Simpson Case is that it became a popular murder trial. “Each official act and comment, and any new discovery [in the Hollywood Hills case] received extensive news coverage” (Kane, 1994, p. 24). This is to say that the media turns the case into a circus; turning away from the tenets of accurate and balanced news reporting, blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction. What the foregoing statement points out is that in different types of courts in the United States, whether a Civil Court or a Criminal Court, as we saw in the O.
J. Simpson Case, what matters most, from the point of view of social justice is that we ensure that due process is followed and the right to a fair trial is made available not only by the courts of law but also by institutions like the media and the press. References Koehler, J. One in Millions, Billions, and Trillions: Lessons from People v. Collins (1968) for People v. Simpson (1995). Journal of Legal Education, 47:2, 214-223. Kane, P. (1992). Murder, Courts, and the Press: Issues in Free Speech/Fair Trial. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.