Thursday, November 23, 2006

Double Jeopardy

by Meryl Neiman

The double jepardy clause of the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution "protects against three distinct abuses: [1] a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal; [2] a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction; and [3] multiple punishments for the same offense." U.S. v. Halper, 490 U.S. 435, 440 (1989).

It makes sense. We wouldn't want law enforcement to be able to harass an individual, prosecuting them over and over for the same offense. The innocent should be protected from multiple trials. The guilty should be protected from multiple punishments.

Right?

Well, any good principle is most tested in the extreme cases. The ones that beg for an exception.

OJ Simpson is one such case. The man brutally murdered two people. The evidence was more than clear. But the prosecution's case was flawed: tainted by the foul mouth of the racist lead detective, an over abundance of highly technical testimony, and a glove gambit that failed. Ultimately, the jury did not want to convict one of the nation's African American sports heroes.

But rather than slink gratefully off into the night, OJ stayed in the public eye. He vowed to "track down his wife's killer." He enjoyed the high life while hiding his assets from the families of his victims.

Most recently, his case took a stomach twisting turn. OJ Simpson "authored" a book: If I Did It -- a "hypothetical" account of the slaughter of his wife and her friend.

OJ armed himself in the Constitution, relying on the 5th Amendment to protect him from a second trial, regardless of the content of his prurient story. And nobody questioned his right to do so. Our liberties are so entrenched that we embrace them even in those tough cases. And I'm proud we do.

I would never have bought that book. I would never let my dollars enrich a killer. Yet I struggled with whether to watch the Fox interview. I knew that I shouldn't. That I should boycott the television broadcast, just as I would the book.

But yet. What a rare opportunity. A chance to see a double murderer interviewed. A chance to hear him speak about that experience in his own words. Research for a crime novelist that is rarely replicated.

Now, thank God, my moral dilemna is no more. Just as our country stands up for its legal principles, people also speak up about what is right. The people told the publishing company and Fox that they would not tolerate OJ profitting from the lives that he ruined. And the publisher and Fox listened.

Tonight on Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I live in the United States. That I live in a place where law is above man, but man is free to speak and demand response.

4 comments:

Nancy said...

Thanks for all this info, Meryl. (I'm going to print it out. It may be useful in a book soon!)

I read in the paper that OJ's ghost writer was paid $100 grand to write the book. I bet he's disappointed he won't be seeing any royalties. It's bad when a working writer gets screwed. On the other hand, what kind of person would take such a job?

Looking at a LOT of leftovers today....

Kristine said...

Amen to that, Meryl. I was literally cheering in my seat when Fox pulled the book and the TV interview. Yes, it would have been interesting research information, but in the end, the thought of OJ making a profit from these murders sickened me.

Tory said...

I'm wondering about people who really believed he was innocent. What are they thinking now?

Meryl Neiman said...

Tory, those people have now rewritten their past. They will seamlessly segue into becoming those who never believed OJ was innocent. Except of course for the few idiots who really think the book was hypothetical