O. J. Revisited

AN advertisement for Robert Shapiro's new book, "The Search for Justice," says, "You may not agree with the verdict, but questions remain.... At last, the whole story." Mr. Shapiro, you undoubtedly recall, was one of O. J. Simpson's lead defense attorneys in the murder trial that needs no further explanation.

Big trials naturally generate books - in this particular case, dozens of them. Faye Resnick, a friend of Nicole Simpson's, has written two. Prosecutor Christopher Darden's book, "In Contempt," has just been published. The Goldman family will offer its own take on events after the civil trial concludes. And that's just the beginning.

The first question that comes to mind is, "Will this ever end?," and the first reaction is likely to be contempt. It's easy to see Mr. Shapiro (with his $1.5 million book advance), the Goldmans (with their $450,000 advance), prosecutor Marcia Clark (with her $4.2 million advance), and a number of on-the-scene reporters, lawyers, and academics, not to mention Mr. Simpson himself, as trying to cash in on a tragedy. But many of these participants-turned-writers have a legitimate - and unique - point of view. And they are, after all, responding to what became an off-the-charts media sensation.

The principal players, and even the peripheral ones, want to tap into that. Broadcasters benefited, and now publishers intend to as well. They probably won't be disappointed. People love a behind-the-scenes perspective, and that's what Darden, Dershowitz, et al., are offering. The authors and publishers are counting on the likelihood that many people want to know more.

And there are issues - many of them - from the trial that are far from exhausted: racism and reverse racism, jury reform, wife-abuse, and media coverage of court trials, to name a few. The tragedy of the Simpson affair will be compounded if these are buried by "hotter" topics, such as the feud between Robert Shapiro and F. Lee Bailey. After the trial, we observed that nothing helps a people be a nation more than national discussion of basic issues. It's to be hoped that the O.J. authors will take advantage of the opportunity to stimulate that discussion.

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