Monday, November 20, 2006

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty

Recently there has been a lot of fuss among booksellers on whether or not they should stock and/or sell O.J. Simpson's new book. All the discussion hinges on free speech. Should potential readers have the right to buy the book if they want to read it? Should a bookstore be able to not stock the book because they disagree with the sugject?

Well, first, bookstores censor all sorts of books so I don't know why they are talking about free speech. Bookstores don't stand for free speech. Not at all. They stand for what they see as good books. If they really stood for free speech, they'd be traumatized every day in selecting which of 6 million titles to fit into their stores. I don't know of any bookseller who is so traumatized.

Second, and perhaps more important, a jury trial determined that O.J. Simpson was not guilty. And our country used to pride itself on a person being presumed innocent until proven guilty. Yet, in this discussion no one has questioned the underlying assumption: That O.J. Simpson is guilty despite a jury finding him innocent.

Now, of course, it's hard to think that Simpson was truly not guilty. Most of us think that the jury erred (and that the prosecutors were incredibly inept). But will anyone else stand up for our jury system? Or will we all drape ourselves with flags and the sanctity of free speech and shout Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! If so, we should do the same for every other man or woman found innocent by a jury -- especially if we disagree with the verdict.

I do think that Simpson was guilty. I don't want to believe that, but if I had been on the jury, I would probably have voted guilty. I say probably because I didn't watch the trial closely and I don't know even half the evidence that was presented on either side.

I cried when Simpson was driving around in a white Bronco. I cried for the lost opportunity of a good life, for the sad fact that many marriages end horribly, for the brutality of many men against women, for the fact that Simpson had been one of my heroes. All of that. I wanted him to be innocent. I came to believe that he was not. So sad.

His new book, from what little I've read about it, is junk. As a publisher, I would never have published it. I would have demanded a true telling of his story. I don't think we got that with this book.

So, it should be obvious to many of you that my thoughts on this subject are jumbled. My emotions certainly mixed. But, still, will anyone stand up and say, "Hey, a jury found this man innocent! Are we to become the new judge and jury, and ignore the due process of the legal system?" Oh well.
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