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COMMENTARY: O.J.’s death an opportinity for us all

I’m pretty sure that the number of people who are mourning the death of O.J. Simpson can fit into the trunk of the smallest car Hertz ever rented.

He was a man who killed his wife Nicole, as well as innocent stranger Ron Goldman, and was acquitted because he played the race card. As a human being, I am repulsed by the fact that he treated women like a punching bag. As a lawyer, I am repulsed by the fact that he did the same with our legal system.

But perhaps his death can serve a purpose. It will be a chance for us to focus on domestic violence, the generational abuse that ends in death and the destruction of families in every corner of the world.

Domestic violence has no language, no citizenship, no age, no profession, no sexual orientation, no religion and, in some cases, no gender requirements. It is the one crime that for years went unreported in the United States for this simple reason: It was not a crime.

When I was growing up, men could rape their wives and the marital contract shielded them from criminal prosecution. That’s changed, thank God, but it’s still very hard to get any kind of protection from the authorities when the person beating your face into a facsimile of raw meat is the person who owns the house you live in.

One of the reasons I was disgusted with the O.J. verdict was the reaction from some people who tried to put the victim, Nicole Simpson, on trial. There was that sense that she had options they didn’t, that she could have run away, that money was her safe haven. Unfortunately, money cannot protect anyone from a person who wants you dead.

It also reminds me of the men I represented who were themselves victims of domestic violence either at the hands of their wives or their male partners. People refused to believe they were “real” victims. Imagine the pain of being told that your ordeal is fabricated, or it was your fault.

And then there was the race card.

If Nicole had been a Black woman, it’s still possible that O.J. would have been acquitted.

I choose to think, though, that jury nullification wouldn’t have worked, because the subliminal message in the O.J. acquittal was “we are protecting a Black man who probably committed the crime to serve justice to all the other Black men who were wrongly punished because of white women’s lies.”

People might deny this was what happened. People might say that the late Johnny Cochran just did what great lawyers do: argue zealously for the rights of their clients.

The guiltier they are, the more zealously you fight. People might also say that O.J. still paid a steep price in terms of complete ostracization, and the loss of most of his earthly wealth. And those of us who believe in karma can take comfort in the fact that at the end, he suffered.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Nicole Simpson has been dead for three decades, that her son and daughter have been without a mother for 30 years, that the Goldman family lost a beloved son because of homicidal rage and that a murderer in all but the sentence was able to spend those last three decades of his life in relative freedom.

I hope his death will bring some solace to the extended network of his victims. And I hope it will also remind us of the horrific scourge of domestic violence that still exists, along with the repellent attempts to racialize human tragedy.

Contact Christine Flowers, an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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