The decision by Los Angels prosecutors not to seek the death penalty in the OJ Simpson case came as a relief to many. His lawyers stated that OJ was not about to 'lose any sleep' over this decision.
The picture of OJ charged on two counts of murder is a very vivid one. His calm, bemused and, at times serene, countenance has dominated print and TV journalism ever since the murder case began. However, the decision by the prosecutors has divided America like the slavery issue did over a 100 years ago.
Black leaders have expressed relief and have in fact lobbied for weeks against the call for the death penalty for the former football star. But others, including feminist leaders, have suggested that a double standard was at work; a famous figure was receiving special treatment.
Whatever the prosecutor's decision a controversy was inevitable. After all OJ was an American hero. Blacks and whites across America have banded and rallied together with billboards stating OJ's innocence. OJ's lawyer, the articulate Shapiro, has become a national figure and the press is hounding him for interviews. Of course, as a lawyer, he cannot say much publicly for fear of damaging his client's position. But terse statements help and Shapiro, I'm sure, will not be without business for a long time.
As the hot summer days recede and the cool gusts of winds blow, especially in the mountain states, American eyes are turned to the case which will kick off with the Jury selection on Sept. 26. The unprecedented debate about the case has taken a volatile turn as never before has someone so well-known faced the gas chamber. In the past, criminals have become famous because of the gas chamber but in the OJ Simpson case it is
just the opposite.
The Jury selection will be a very thorough process and they will have to face the prosecutor's plea to obtain at least a first degree murder verdict.
Accusations of double standards in the US legal system have been made. The case of the brothers Eric and Lyle Menendez charged with murdering their parents has been cited. The prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for them.
The 18 and 20 year old merit the death penalty, claim many legal experts.
However, Leslie Abramson, the attorney for Eric-Menendez, states that: "if, you are a celebrity, you are going to be given considerations and privileges which the average citizen does not get."
However, John Mack, head of the Los Angels Chapter of the Black Urban League says there are already too many blacks on Death Row and they don't need any more there. Simpson has been a role model for many blacks and is unlikely to receive a fair trial.
Every day reports of new evidence turns up. This, in addition to the rumors surfacing about the impending trial. The latest was about Black Comedian Bill Cosby who was forced last week to deny reports that he was helping finance Simpson's defense. Who was the denial aimed at? Whites, blacks or feminists?
Nobody knows. However one thing is clear: OJ Simpson who once was the glamour boy of American football has now divided America. A nation that is already in search of a healing process finds itself with another wound. This will also take time to heal.
The OJ Simpson case has touched a nation's soul.
Let us wait and see how America will come out of this one after the Jury gives its decision. In the meantime, let the media play on.