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For the nation: different verdict, same reaction

February 5, 1997

Once again the nation held its breath and waited for a verdict on O.J. Simpson.

And once again reaction seemed to explode along starkly racial lines: a black verdict and a white verdict, in the public’s mind and in the courtroom.

Acquitted 16 months ago by a mostly black jury of murdering ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, found liable Tuesday by a mostly white jury and ordered to pay $8.5 million in compensatory damages.

An ABC telephone poll conducted for ``Nightline″ immediately after the verdicts were announced found that of the 66 percent of respondents who agreed with the jury’s decision, 74 percent were white and 23 percent were black.

At Mezzaluna, the Los Angeles restaurant where Nicole Brown Simpson ate her last meal and Ronald Goldman worked as a waiter, shouts of `Yes!′ and enthusiastic claps followed each finding against the former football superstar.

``It should have happened the first time,″ said Vera Kaprielian, 35, a stockbroker from Redondo Beach.

``Oh, thank God,″ said Laurie McCormick, a Brentwood stockbroker who sat beside her.``Now, let’s get the (Simpson) kids where they belong.″

Reaction was bitter at Sylvia’s Soul Food Restaurant in Harlem, N.Y.

``It’s a disgrace,″ declared an angry Rudy Battle, a construction contractor from New York, shaking his head as he watched the verdict on a television

``No witnesses, and you’re charging a man,″ said Battle, who is black. ``No witnesses. This is sick. No witnesses, not even one.″

Said bartender Julian Williams, 23, also black: ``It’s a lack of consistency. He was acquitted for the murder. How can they find him innocent of murder and liable?″

Brad Mizelle, a 44-year-old white man visiting the restaurant from Kingston, N.C., said, ``I feel like the families deserve some compensation. I don’t like the fact it was ever made racial.″

But at a Winchell’s doughnut shop in South Central Los Angeles, James Williams, 73, said the case was about race from the start.

``They tried to break him, but he’ll make money somewhere else,″ said Williams, who is black. ``They were determined to get a white jury, that’s why they got the black one (juror) off, to make sure that they won.″

The only black juror was removed last Friday, the fourth day of deliberations, for failing to disclose that her daughter was a secretary in the district attorney’s office that prosecuted Simpson’s murder trial.

Others wondered where Simpson will find the money to pay the compensation to the families of the victims.

``If the guy got away with it, just let him go. Eight-point-five million does not bring Nicole back,″ said Karla Cabado, a 45-year-old Hispanic woman, at Gold’s Gym in southwest Dade County, Fla.

``Let it rest.″

The call for closure was echoed by Harry Scull Jr., the freelance photographer who took the controversial shot of Simpson wearing Bruno Magli shoes at a Buffalo Bills-Miami Dolphins game. The photograph, and others that surfaced of the shoes, were considered major pieces of incriminating evidence.

``I’m glad it’s over,″ said Schull, of Buffalo, N.Y. ``I hope there’s some closure for the Goldman and Brown families. I do look forward to the day I can discuss this with them in private. Hopefully, everyone can get on with their lives.″

At the Potrero Hill Recreation Center in San Francisco, where Simpson played as a boy, a group of people echoed those sentiments as they interrupted a basketball game to listen to the news. They, too, said they were ready to move on to other things.

``It’s no big deal. He’s got his freedom,″ said a 27-year-old man who called himself Smoot.

``There won’t be no riot about O.J.’s verdict. Everybody’s sick of his problems. We love O.J., but we don’t need O.J. We need jobs,″ said Mitchell Jackson, an unemployed engineer.

Lisi Albee, a 36-year-old homemaker from Laguna Hills, Calif., felt compelled to visit Nicole Brown Simpson’s grave shortly before the verdict was read. Standing outside the locked gates of Ascension Cemetery in Orange County, Albee said a prayer for her soul.

``I just kind of want to sit on her grave and hang,″ Albee said. ``I didn’t want her to be alone.″

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