Believing police “planted something on him,” Carter says, “I thought they compromised it so much I can’t trust the evidence. The corruption overshadowed all the other things that may have been logical to me.”
Cameron Vigil, who is White, saw it differently.
“Clearly (Fuhrman) was difficult and lying and trying to obfuscate while he was up there,” recalls Vigil, a 45-year-old strategic retail analyst from Charlotte, North Carolina. “That’s a win for the defense. I thought it was just another nasty look at the LAPD, and not that big for the case. I kind of separated those things out.”
“Just because he is a not very smart, racist guy,” Vigil says, “I don’t know that means O.J.’s not guilty.”
The bloody glove itself, which probably was the strongest evidence of Simpson’s guilt, also was seen through very different lenses.
Prosecutors asked Simpson, in court, to try it on. The former movie star struggled and grimaced while trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to fit the glove on his hand.
Spicker laughs at the memory.
“I’m sorry, I thought it was hysterical. I laughed that day too,” she says. “It doesn’t make any sense. Any good attorney wouldn’t make him try it on. Those were his gloves. His facial expression, it was comical. He was acting.”
But it was a big moment for Carter. He repeats the famous line from Cochran’s closing statement:
“If it does not fit, you must acquit.”
The 12-person jury did exactly that. Nine jurors were Black, two White, and one Hispanic.
Duncan was at home, watching on television, as the verdict was announced. He literally jumped for joy.
“It wasn’t so much for O.J. I was jumping for joy. It was the process. … It was the victory over the United States justice system that has always had a different treatment for me and my brother.”
“I never said O.J. wasn’t guilty,” Duncan continues. “I just said he got off. That’s what it is: O.J. got off. There’s a side of me that’s annoyed by my jubilation. But my jubilation is motivated by the ills and pains of the past. There have been too many tears.”
Not all Black people cheered — Looney recalls hearing the verdict while a student at Stanford business school, and being perplexed by other Blacks’ response.
“Not that it made me question my identity, but I’m thinking, I don’t relate to these people,” says Looney, who thinks that Simpson committed the crimes but the prosecution didn’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
“They were cheering because Black folks have always felt like the justice system was stacked against them… Lots of disenfranchised Black people experiencing the brunt of police brutality probably found a lot of solace in this.”
There was no solace for Spicker. The cheers that echoed across Black America that day troubled her.
“These two innocent people were killed, and you’re cheering because their murderer was just set free,” she said. “It was a shame. It feels racist against the White victims.”
Spicker recognizes White racism, then and now. She has Black family members, and when she hears White people making racist remarks, she speaks out. But that doesn’t change her sense of injustice over the Simpson verdict.
“A lot of inner-city kids and adults are taught not to trust the system, not to trust police; as a young Black person you’re going to be found guilty before any evidence comes out because you’re Black,” she says.
“That may be true sometimes,” she says, “and it may not be true sometimes.”
Carter now thinks that Simpson was guilty, but he makes no apologies for his feelings at the acquittal 20 years ago.
“That pride that I felt, I don’t take it back. I don’t feel I was hoodwinked. I was just living in the moment, and it was a victory for my people,” says Carter, now 42.
“I didn’t think of it then, but that’s what it was for me. A victory,” he says. “I could have cared less about O.J., but when I saw him, I saw myself.”
By: Jesse Washington