O.J. Simpson was handed a punishment last week that some have called retribution for the 1995 ruling.
Simpson was convicted of criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, robbery and use of a deadly weapon on Oct. 3. All are felony charges. A judge sentenced him on Dec. 5 to 33 years in prison with the possibility of parole in about 9 years. I must admit that I followed his criminal trial much closer than I followed this latest case. The day Simpson was found ďnot guiltyĒ the assistant principal at the high school I attended made an announcement over the intercom.
I donít think anyone made that kind of announcement this time.
I remember the firestorm that followed that first ruling and almost everyone seemed to agree that he had gotten away with murder - twice.
But at times like this - all I can do is hope his punishment in the case was in no way a reflection of the judgeís opinion of the verdict in Simpsonís first case. Admittedly, our justice system is crippled at best, but itís all we have to work with.
A government professor once told me that the Framerís created our legal system so that a guilty man would go free long before an innocent man would be sent to jail. After all, what would be a greater injustice: an innocent person locked away or a guilty man set free?
If you were to ask Plato, he would say the guilty man was done the greatest harm because left unpunished, his soul could not be salvaged. But our founding fathers didnít see it that way. And thatís why criminals found not guilty canít be tried again.
In a world of instant access and 24-hour information, we seem to have lost sight of the founding principle that a person in our country is innocent until proven guilty. And that being brought to trial does not guarantee guilt or innocence. It doesnít even prove one or the other.
Truth is such a precarious ideal. Thereís my side, your side, his version and her version, and somewhere in the middle lies the truth. At the end of the day, the truth is what you know it to be and what you can make peace with. All we really have to go on, if we were not present, is what the courts decide the truth to be.
Honestly, I think Simpson may have gotten away with murder. But I wasnít there. As a journalist I depend on courts and their records to prove to me what the truth is. So I would have to say Simpson was found not guilty in 1995. And in our country, if a person is not guilty, thatís the end of it. There can be no double jeopardy or we risk losing so much more than we could ever stand to gain.