O.J. Simpson’s parole last week once again dropped the former icon of football, sports commentating and rental cars into our nation’s living rooms like a crate from a military cargo plane. The evidence in the case that put him in prison for nearly nine years was briefly taken out and casually inspected.
There was the inevitable debate about whether O.J. was truly remorseful and whether he was authentically rehabilitated, and of course, whether he had been adequately punished.
Then, there was the long look back at his trial; the double murder trial of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. And for those of us who remember all the major networks preempting programming in order to cover the “Dream Team”, Marcia Clark, Chris Darden and Judge Lance Ito, we also remember the jarring, unavoidable truth about our country that grew overpoweringly, day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month as the trial roared down its tracks.
Justice and the perception of justice is not equal in America.
Justice is our universal, collective responsibility: all of us, fathers, mothers, parents, teachers, coaches and families. It manifests itself and is taught and modeled in the most subtle ways; from the tone and words that we use about people from other ethnic, racial, religious, gender and cultural backgrounds to the respect and regard that we practice in our homes toward people who live with us.
But the daily tending to justice: the watering, fertilizing, protection and stewardship of the crop is the calling of lawyers, judges and police. It is our job to understand not just the law and its black letter application, but also how laws and justice are perceived; by people from every possible walk of life. Everyone should be able to walk down straight, cultivated furrows of Justice and feel an absolute perfect confidence that the crop is theirs – for their support and nourishment and the future of their families.
O.J. Simpson’s release on parole appears to be consistent with Nevada law and the behavior that former prisoner 1027820 demonstrated while he was incarcerated. He was punished and is now being returned to society. The reminder, though, that his prosecution, trial and verdict cast over our country in brilliant L.A. neon still pervades our nation’s divided sense of justice.
Our judicial system is imperfect and for many, that imperfection is embodied in the history and conclusion of the O.J. Simpson trial.
For everyone who works in our courts, though, it is a superb privilege to every day have an opportunity to strive for the Constitution and fairness. Seed by seed, step by step, we work and tend and cultivate in our imperfect ways. The process is adversarial but ironically, when we all perform our tasks correctly, we create a unified result that is justice.