Judicial activism threatens innocents. Allowing a judge to be biased and to administer revenge for a previous acquittal, no matter what the circumstances, is a dangerous precedent that threatens innocents as well. It’s judicial activism run amok and amounts to the shirking of the important duty of judges, those whose responsibility it is to uphold the laws and the tenets that the Founding Fathers saw fit to ensure as a safeguard for innocents.
If any defendant is, in any case, seen to be clearly guilty of a past crime for which they were acquitting, ignoring that verdict and seeking to punish them twofold for a future offense is not only wrong and not only against the law. It’s against the very cornerstone of the legal tenets set to safeguard innocents and sets a dangerous precedent whereby a judge can become accustomed to allowing personal biases influence his or her decisions.
Not only are OJ and the far less controversial C.J. Stewart at stake. Such activism is what led to real innocents being ensnared in prosecutorial overreach. When Healthsouth founder Richard Scrushy won acquittal on charges involving his business based on the facts, at a time when juries were generally hostile to CEOs, the facts of the case played little role in the next step that prosecutors took. Upset over their lost, they accused Scrushy of bribing former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. All Siegelman had done was to appoint Scrushy, a donor, to the board of a hospital regulatory board that Scrushy had previously been appointed to by three prior administrations. Yet because prosecutors had presented flimsy “evidence” against Scrushy and Siegelman before, and lost (dropping the criminal charges themselves a day after they were brought in Siegelman’s case), they were bent on getting them no matter what, and were allowed to do so as justice slept. All would have been avoided if the tenets of fairness and justice had been insisted upon.
When a local judge decides, rightly or wrongly, that a person is guilty of other crimes, acting on it and not recusing oneself in such a case is both harmful and dangerous. In the case of OJ Simpson, and especially in that of C.J. Stewart, who would have been given probation for the same acts had they been committed with another lead participant, that principle must hold true as well. Slippery slopes are very real and a just system of law accounts for that.
There’s a reason for double jeopardy laws in particular and no one is worth breaking them, certainly not OJ. The reason for this is that a) it prevents an innocent person from fear of retrial and b) a murderer should be put to death swiftly and humanely, not tortured through a never ending process. Charging OJ with crimes that carry sentences similar to murder, in a case that would be treated as a disturbance of the peace under normal circumstances, violates the spirit of double jeopardy. He was essentially convicted for the murder he had previously been acquitted of.
Yes, the first jury should have been an honorable one (but likewise, so should the second), the government should have been more competent and a whole other host of facts are true. But
Breeching those tenets led to the wrongful conviction of a former governor. Society must err on the side of mercy as the law provides (in OJ’s case, one didn’t even need to “err” just to uphold the law as it is written) and there are reasons for that, the least of which is not protecting the innocent. Most importantly, there needs to be a quick remedy against judicial overreach when the liberty of a defendant is at stake. Because there was no such remedy, it took over a year for Siegelman to be released when he was ensnared in a similar act of overreach, one that was, in his case, totally unwarranted (it should be noted that 3 judges threw out over 100 charges and the lead prosecutor was married to his rival’s campaign manager).
Double jeopardy wasn’t the only law violated in the Simpson case. A judge cannot decide to be exceedingly harsh on a defendant for past crimes of which they were acquitted. In OJ’s case, prosecutors cut deals involving no prison time for all others defendants involved in the case. In other words, they deemed no one involved to be a risk to society. Well that’s what prisons are for, people who pose serious criminal risk to society and who cannot be easily rehabilitated otherwise. Sentencing someone to jail, such as C.J. Stewart (the real human tragedy in that trial) for refusing to accept a plea deal is amoral, unjust and a threat to a fair society. And breaking the law and its tenets in order to “get” OJ runs a greater risk for society as well. Especially as similar tactics have previously been used unfairly against others.
I can’t stand OJ. But we do need to protect society. And that means safeguarding the tenets that protect the falsely accused, tenets which must be upheld universally, so that there’s no room for guesswork, as guesswork is the very thing that has ensnared innocents in the past.
May G-d protect all.