O.J. Finally Found Guilty

 "Guilty." Twelve times, "Guilty." How sweet the sound.

Thirteen years ago to the day, if not quite the hour, I was at home in Los Angeles with Handel's "Hallelujah" chorus queued up in the CD player as I anticipated what I was certain would be a guilty verdict in the killer's murder trial. I had made regular appearances in the same courthouse, sometimes on the very floor where the circus was running. I had waded through the cameramen and the kooks, the T-shirt sellers and the tourists, all the characters that made up the surreal menagerie assembled every day outside the building. The killer's hour of justice had finally arrived. Or so I believed.

I didn't play the music that day, of course. And I don't mind saying I was angry about what followed: the celebrations on the street outside the courthouse and elsewhere, the relentless preening of Johnny Cochran and his insufferable "Dream Team," the smug, self-satisfied swagger of the killer himself. How can this be, I wondered.

Then I saw the jurors interviewed on television. One of them, a woman, was discussing the presence of EDTA, a chemical found in laundry detergents but also used as a preservative in forensic blood samples, on the socks found in the killer's bedroom, socks that bore damning traces of both Nicole Simpson's and Ronald Goldman's blood. "There was ETA on them socks," she said, and then I knew. The killer could have confessed to the whole thing on the witness stand, he could have carved "I did it!" into the counsel table with the murder weapon as all of them watched, and that bunch would have found a way to give him a pass and blame it on the cops.

But now, "Guilty." Twelve times, "Guilty."

There was no comparable spectacle outside the Las Vegas courthouse when the verdict was announced Friday night. There were even empty seats to be found in the courtroom itself. Much in the news had eclipsed the three-week trial, of course, but even if there had been no ongoing presidential race, even if there had been no meltdown on Wall Street, it was as though America couldn't quite bring itself to focus on the killer and his low-rent toadies and their low-rent robbery. Sure he did it, most people thought, but if he beats this one, we don't want to watch.

But it was worth watching, coming as it did just as the eleven o'clock news was starting here on the west coast. "Guilty," said the court clerk. Twelve times, "Guilty." And then came the poetic denouement as the killer was handcuffed and taken into custody, perhaps for the rest of his life. The only sounds were the sobs of the killer's sister, eerily echoing the sobs we heard thirteen years ago as Kim Goldman saw the man who had butchered her brother set free.

Not so smug now, is he? It isn't justice, but it will have to do.