POSTMORTEM by Jeffrey Abramson


The O.J. Simpson Case
edited by
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 A collection of essays on this season's ``trial of the century,'' edited by lawyer Abramson (Politics/Brandeis Univ.; We the Jury, 1994). The topics of these articles (some original, some previously published in Newsweek, the New Republic, and elsewhere) include the influence of race on the jury and public opinion; the disappearance of domestic violence as an issue at trial; the defense lawyers and prosecutors; and cameras in the courtroom. In his essay criticizing the legal journalists who covered the trial like wallpaper, Lincoln Caplan stresses their absence of historical perspective. This collection supports his view; many of the essays add nothing to what any attentive TV viewer would already understand. A few, however, make Postmortem worth a look. The most illuminating chapter is Yale Kamisar's reprise of the long history of calls to get ``tough on crime'' by eviscerating the Bill of Rights and minimizing the role of the jury. Harvey Cox, who calls the Simpson trial ``a nasty parody of multi-culturalism,'' sets the public reaction to the trial in the context of Americans' historically ambivalent attitudes toward the city. Stanley Crouch argues, almost convincingly, that good news can be found in the racial and ethnic variety of the major players on all sides of the drama, including the two teams of black and Jewish attorneys. Andrew Hacker, who has served on several juries, provides a unique and encouraging perspective on that much maligned institution. Scott Turow analyzes the judicial error in admitting evidence clearly obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment including, ironically, the bloody glove that may have sunk the prosecution. The most provocative essay is by Paul Butler, who maintains that black juries often are right to employ the doctrine of jury nullification--finding a defendant not guilty even though the evidence points to the opposite conclusion--in cases of drug and other nonviolent crimes (though not in a case like this one). A small contribution to understanding an overblown story.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1996
ISBN: 0-465-03319-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996