Race and the American Criminal Justice System: The O.J. Simpson Case

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Race and the American Criminal Justice System: The O.J. Simpson Case Historically racism has pervaded the administration of justice in America and Canada. Racial biases against blacks are still apparent today through the many different arenas of the criminal justice system. Black Americans argue that they are treated unequally and more brutally than whites at all levels in the criminal justice system. As a result of this unequal treatment blacks are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted and receive longer sentences then whites for the same crimes. Black Americans make up about 12% of the US population and they account for more then 30% of all arrests, 44% of all prisoners and 40% of prisoners on death row (Hunt, 1999:74). The racial problem exists in many forms within the criminal justice system and most of this racial disparity can be attributed to the practices of the prosecution and more particularly the police. The unequal treatment of blacks within the justice system becomes evident through various forms of police misconduct such as excessive use of force against blacks, harassment, planting and falsifying evidence and police perjury. Most of these issues were brought to question in the criminal court case against O. J. Simpson, who was arrested and charged with the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman. The question of race was addressed in the high profile court case of O.J. Simpson when Simpson's lawyer, Johnnie Cochran took a Critical Race Theory position in defence of his client (Aylward, 1999:68). Cochran believed that racism was a central issue to the case and it was revealed primarily by detective Mark Fuhrman of the LAPD in a white supremacist form. Fuhrman was the detective who uncovered most of the evidence that connected Simpson to the murders. The defence's argument was that detective Fuhrman, motivated by his hatred of blacks, had planted the blood on O.J.'s bronco and the bloody glove at the Simpson's residence in order to incriminate him for the crime. In order to prove Fuhrman's racial hatred and willingness to fabricate evidence, Cochran wanted to introduce evidence of thirty incidents where detective Fuhrman used racial epithets ("nigger") and eighteen examples of his misconduct contained in audio tapes that Fuhrman had made (Aylward, 1999:69). The court did not allow this evidence to be admitted but did allow for the defence to put three witnesses on the stand to testify to the racist attitudes they had experienced from detective Fuhrman.

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