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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Watson: "Old Business: the O.J. Simpson Verdict"

They love me in Florida

Thanks to Watson for this great analysis - THANKS WATSON!

While we wait for our 'justice system' to process the police killing of Sean Bell, permit me to revisit another racially charged case. I followed the O.J. Simpson trial pretty closely, closely enough to believe that the outcome was a miscarriage of justice, and that OJ got away with a double murder.

My complaint is with the mainstream reaction to the verdict. I thought that Simpson's acquittal was a routine example of the wealth effect on criminal justice. There were some evidentiary problems with the prosecution case, Simpson had the resources to magnify those defects, the defense team was more credible than the phony Marcia Clark, and so the jury acquitted Simpson.

Our punditocracy doesn't usually object to the fact that defendants wealthy enough to spend millions of dollars on investigators, experts, and lawyers regularly turn prosecution weaknesses into 'reasonable doubt' acquittals.

But in the Simpson case the pundits were infuriated. What was different in his case?

Granted, double murder is more serious than the varieties of grand theft for which our well-to-do brethren are ordinarily indicted. But an honest punditocracy would object to the wealth effect phenomenon in all cases.

To me the different reaction was because our pundits are biased and racist.

Wealthy defendants are typically white males, our pundits are mostly wealthy white males. Simpson, though wealthy, was black, as was the lead attorney, and most of the jury.

The pundits asserted that the miscarriage of justice was caused by Johnny Cochrane's unprincipled 'playing the race card', but it was they who were unprincipled in howling 'reverse racism' to obfuscate the fact that the result was just another instance of the wealth effect.

Cochrane didn't bring race into the case. Time Magazine admitted that its 'cover portrait of O.J. Simpson after his arrest was doctored to make his skin look darker. The manipulation made an accused man seem more sinister before he had gone to trial, and it did so by playing off the language of racial stereotype.' Race was introduced into our culture hundreds of years ago by slavers, and we adamantly refuse to take the steps necessary to become a non-racial society.

Cochrane didn't bring race into the courtroom. The LAPD injected race into the trial when it dispatched racist Mark Fuhrman to the crime scene and to Simpson's residence.

The famous gloves were put into evidence by the prosecution on the theory that they were the murderer's gloves. Officer Fuhrman said that he found one of them in Simpson's yard. When they appeared not to fit Simpson, it was perfectly appropriate for Cochrane to argue that Fuhrman was a liar whose racism gave him a motive to frame Simpson.

Dishonest criticism of the Simpson verdict has served to reinforce our dominant culture's dogma that blacks, unlike whites, are irrational and dishonest about race and racism.

As if.

That's why I believe that it's important to defend the Simpson verdict as rational given the circumstances. The outcome was because rich people can buy justice, not because Cochrane or the jury were racist or unprincipled.

- posted by Watson