A majority of both Black and White Americans now describe O.J. Simpson as either “definitely guilty” or “probably” guilty” of the brutal stabbing murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
The merging of opinions between blacks and whites have never been closer in agreement, reported the Washington Post.
Twenty years ago in June 1995 in front of millions of mesmerized television viewers, a jury acquitted the 1968 Heisman trophy winner and NFL legend. Simpson’s circus like trial, which produced highly dramatic moments—such as attorney Johnnie Cochran’s famous statement, “if the glove doesn’t fit you must acquit”—became arguably America’s first live reality TV program.
Significantly, the double-murder trial exposed controversial societal issues about murder, domestic abuse, racism, celebrity, and the quality of American justice.
When jurors reached a not-guilty decision for Simpson, a substantial portion of blacks celebrated the verdict. The Post writes “that the system that advantages the wealthy and the white had, this time, set a very rich black man free.”
Shortly after the trial, according to the Post poll, 82 percent of white Americans said called themselves “definitely” or “probably” sure of Simpson’s guilt, while merely 31% percent of black Americans agreed.
Simpson later lost a civil trial and the court ordered him to pay a sizable $25 million in punitive damages to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman. Much of it was never paid due to Simspon’s wealth being sheltered in untouchable private pension funds.
Today 83% of whites in America believe Simpson guilty of murdering Brown and Goldman. But, now 57% of blacks—a 26% increase—believe that the former football great committed the crime.
Overall, considering that the country over the last year experienced significant racial tensions due to the Ferguson and Baltimore riots spurred by the separate deaths of two black men detained by police officers, the shift in black opinion that O.J. committed the murders may surprise some.
However, the Post points out that the reason may be more of a technical one rather than an attitude shift and may be a consequence of a change in the wordings of the questions about Simpson’s guilt since the poll first took place in 1995.
Nevertheless, the fact that Simpson now serves 33 years for an armed break-in at a Las Vegas hotel room to steal sports memorabilia may have something to do with the dramatic change in the polls.