Scenes From a Southern Gothic Murder Trial
October 26, 2012
Americans love a good procedural, and the Jeffrey MacDonald murder case is right up there with O.J. Simpson in the true crime genre. Ever since MacDonald, a Green Beret doctor at Fort Bragg, was arrested for allegedly murdering his wife and two young daughters over 40 years ago, Americans have been captivated by the sordid tale, and bitterly divided over its meaning. The result of the military's initial investigation was that the evidence and charges against MacDonald were "not true," so he was released.
The Case for Televising the Trayvon Martin Trial: America Needs a Re-Do of the O.J. Case
April 17, 2012
Let’s not kid ourselves: If George Zimmerman’s trial is televised, it will become fodder for jokes. “All Trayvon All The Time” will become a mantra, a cue for sophisticated Americans to roll their eyes. We would be made to think that there is something tacky, obsessive, trivializing in broadcasting the judicial fate of the man who thought he was just stopping a “suspicious” black thug and wound up murdering a 17-year-old on the phone with his ladyfriend and carrying a bag of Skittles. The spectacle of the O.J.
How Mitt Romney Outlived His Greatest Weakness
August 12, 2011
With enough political reporters in Iowa to cover both the Lindbergh kidnapping and the O.J. Simpson trial, Thursday night’s GOP debate had to be a defining moment, a game-changer so epic that it will shimmer in memory like Ronald Reagan. Yeah, sure. Even though Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann provided the expected fireworks, while Jon Huntsman made his muted entrance from stage center, the two-hour Fox News face-off mostly served as a reminder that we have only just begun. This was not a debate that triggered mass conversions to a single candidate.
One of the most obnoxious habits of reflexive defenders of the American legal system is their tendency to respond to any and every outcome of that system with the claim that “the system worked.” After all, as long as you never define what you mean by that claim, there’s literally no outcome that can refute it. Nevertheless, it’s reasonable to argue that the acquittal of Casey Anthony and the apparently imminent dismissal of charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn both represent examples of the system working as it should.
The Dominique Strauss-Kahn Shipwreck
May 26, 2011
The Dominique Strauss-Kahn case is headed toward a dismally predictable shipwreck, and I wonder what anyone is planning to do about this. The punctilious fair-mindedness of the trial may well turn out to be obvious to everyone who grants the possibility of such thing.
And We Have Learned -- What? The Real Lesson After The Beer
August 02, 2009
So they had their beer. Teachable Moment. What have we learned? Something--but not what I sense will get much press in the aftermath. Directly from The Beer--not much. Gates and Crowley had an “exchange,” although about what we are not to know. And they intend to have more such exchange. Of some sort. All very civil. Gates has said he’ll be putting together a documentary about the profiling issue.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. On O.j., Reconsidered
July 24, 2009
"Wynton Marsalis says, 'My worst fear is to have to go before the criminal-justice system.' Absurdly enough, it’s mine, too." That was Henry Louis Gates Jr., in 1995. It comes from a piece he wrote for The New Yorker about the reaction of black Americans to the O.J. Simpson verdict. (The magazine has helpfully placed the whole essay online).
Cool We Can Believe In
March 20, 2008
Save for the odd occurrence of a black contestant managing to win more than fifteen cents on “Deal or No Deal,” I rarely feel any racial pride.
A Paler Shade of White
June 24, 2002
Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past by David R. Roediger (University of California Press, 323 pp., $29.95) "What is a White Man?" asked Charles Chesnutt in the pages of the Independent, a mass-circulation weekly, in 1889. This was no mere academic question.
A Room With a View
November 19, 2001
A Trial by Jury by D. Graham Burnett (Alfred A. Knopf, 183 pp., $21) Among political theorists today, there is a vigorous debate between those who advocate deliberative democracy and those who emphasize public ignorance. The deliberative democrats insist that it is not enough for laws and jury verdicts to be adopted democratically. Instead they must be adopted for the right reasons.