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Simpson Trial Raises Questions for Aspiring Lawyers

October 4, 1995

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ For Harvard Law School student Richard Perez, the verdict is in _ on the legal system.

The O.J. Simpson trial and his acquittal Tuesday ``reaffirmed why I don’t want to be a lawyer,″ said Perez, who plans to use his law degree for a business career.

Bill Colleran, another Harvard law student, said he didn’t want to be a criminal trial lawyer before, ``and I’m damn sure I don’t want to now.″

They were not alone.

From coast to coast, many law students said the Simpson trial had shaken their faith in the profession. Among the criticisms were lawyers’ attempts to sway public opinion through the media and the emphasis on race.

Some, however, said they would like to model themselves on some of the defense lawyers _ especially the stylish Johnnie Cochran Jr.

``Those of us who are going to dabble in criminal defense, we’ve learned quite a bit from Johnnie Cochran,″ said Jamie Foreman, a law student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

Other students said they learned the most from the defense team.

``Charisma and personality plays a tremendous role,″ said Tommy Ford, also at the University of Florida. ``A more likable attorney, for better or for worse, may fare better, and I think this bore that out.″

Besides influencing students’ futures, the televised trial helped them with terminology and court procedures. Steven Duke, a professor of criminal procedures at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., used examples from the Simpson case to make points in class.

``Now the global issues are going to take center stage, and very fundamental questions about the structure of the justice system,″ Duke said. ``The relevance of money, race, police misconduct _ those issues are going to be uppermost now.″

Agree with the verdict or not, many law students said the trial worsened already negative perceptions of lawyers and the judicial system.

``This trial has been out of touch with reality,″ said Jason Gull, a law student at the University of Michigan who wants to be a criminal defense attorney.

``If you talk to your typical defendant in a murder case ... their trials were nothing like this one,″ he said.

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