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It never was the "trial of the century." That, I would think, was Nuremberg in '45 and '46 when we hanged those bastards and MPs scattered their ashes in streams and trash dumps so neo-Nazis couldn't erect shrines. On a local scale, I'd think the Lindbergh Baby trial was bigger. Anyway, what started out there in a courtroom in Los Angeles more than a year ago is now finally over and maybe by the time you read this, they'll have a verdict. Or, more likely, that hung jury we've been hearing about for so long.

In any event, it wasn't a trial so much as the roller derby in judicial robes. Punch & Judy without laughs. A travesty and a farce and as bad a thing as ever happened to the legal profession and to the belief of Americans in our 200-year old system of justice.

They chose Judge Ito to preside because he wasn't white and he wasn't black. Nor was he very good.

The opposing lawyers? You see better on "Night Court."

As for Judge Ito, he let the trial get away from him for months at a time. He allowed everything in that courtroom but the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps and the Flying Wallendas. If Johnnie Cochran thought they could have aided the defense, we would have had the Vienna Boys Choir. The "Morton Downey Jr." show conveyed a greater dignity, more gravitas.

And throughout the sideshow with its pitchmen and slimeballs, its scoundrels and fools, there he sat, smug and somewhat indignant, the defendant in a capital case brought to determine if he butchered his former wife and a young man who happened along. Back in the cells when the warders ushered in his bimbo du jour for a little "conjugal" R&R, O.J. must have been hard-pressed to keep from rollicking about in laughter.

No wonder poor Mr. Goldman erupted in decent, Biblical rage at the smarmy asides and superior grins of the lawyers, and the Brown family wept. In all the capering and histrionics, for days and even weeks it seemed to have been overlooked that two people were dead. The very indictments, it often appeared, had become postscripts to the posturing.

Since the prosecutors, rather stupidly, handed around leather gloves no one ever bothered first to try on and then hung big chunks of the case on a fascist cop (did Marcia Clark, supposedly the best they have in the D.A.'s office out there, ever ask, so tell me, Fuhrman, when did you join the German-American Bund?)

And maggots like Kato crawled out from under rocks and negotiated magazine and television deals and got himself an agent. And whacked-out "friends" of the dead cut their book deals. And "scientists" on acid were called for their "expert" opinions. And we learned more about Bruno Magli shoe styles than they know over at Footwear News.

In their zeal to prove a vast and complex police conspiracy (the cops not only framed O.J. but themselves may well have committed the murders!), the defense called every lawman since Wyatt Earp. If the FBI wasn't framing O.J. then it was Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. The Secret Service, anyone? Scotland Yard? To hear his lawyers talk, O.J. was more innocent than "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" and more sorely put upon than the Prophet Job.

At this writing they are just into the summing up (Judge Ito instructed the jury prior to the summaries, another oddment of curiosa in his management of the case), and Johnnie Cochran and Robert Shapiro have not yet called as possible suspects exculpating O.J. such questionable folks as Dr. Kissinger, Emile Zola, Ensign Pulver, Father Junipero Serra and Lizzie Borden.

F. Lee Bailey, I am, told, was seriously considering a subpena for the 11th hour appearance on the stand of J. Edgar Hoover. Until they informed him in a sidebar that Director Hoover had passed from us.

Just when you thought no new outrage to the system could possibly occur, Judge Ito permitted the defendant to make a little speech while not actually testifying and leaving himself open to cross-examination. Remarking on the event over CBS later I thought poor Nick Dunne, who has been in that damned courtroom more hours than the jury, was going to go apoplectic. In its account, The New York Times spoke of the Simpson statement as so obviously prepped and polished, as to contain "calculated.....commas."

The following weekend Johnnie Cochran flew to address the Congressional Black Caucus, which is fond of referring, modestly, to itself, as "the conscience of the Congress." If this is so, then the rest of them up there on Capitol Hill must be rascals indeed, and the caucus gave conquering hero Cochran a most warm and welcome greeting as he informed them that, yes, indeed, the race card had been played in the O.J. trial and it was white racism that had poor O.J. in this terrible fix.

O.J. who, in this awful white society of ours, parlayed a wondrous athletic talent and grace and a likable grin into movie and television and advertising careers that made him millions and a white woman became his wife and gave him children. While all the time the LAPD and others conspired to nail him to a racist cross of justice. If it strains credulity the way O.J. manages to smother laughter, think of poor Cochran in the mornings, confronting himself in the mirror over the shaving cream, and practicing his look of somber and virtuous concern.

Nor has the media distinguished itself. If there ever was an argument to keep cameras out of courtrooms, this is it. Checkbook journalism? We've made the stench of Fleet Street sweeter than attar.

In its final days someone leaked a story that O.J. already has his post-trial plans laid and is buying a beachfront home in Mexico where he'll hide away for a time with the kids (whose mother someone chopped to death, you may possibly recall). I doubt this Mexican scenario very much.

For one thing, the vultures on his legal team haven't left him the pesos. For another, he'll be too occupied with talk shows, book deals, celebrity pro-ams and lectures to bar associations to have the time.

Did I hear, "endorsements"?

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