Trial and Tribulation
"For a long time after that [day], people wrote in asking what I was really thinking when they read the not guilty verdict. So here it is: I was completely shocked," she says. "I couldn't believe that verdict. As a journalist, I was trying to keep some sense of balance in the midst of my own very strong opinions, but it was difficult to do that day."
That day was even more difficult for Christopher Darden, the assistant prosecutor assigned to the O.J. Simpson case. The double-murder trial, known as the "trial of the century," captivated millions of Americans for 133 days and changed Christopher's life forever.
Less than two years after the trial ended, Christopher appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and gave an emotional interview about the prosecution's public defeat.
"I don't mind losing," he said almost 10 years ago. "I've lost before. But to lose this way—to have this process turned into a circus, a joke—it was a waste of my life. We gave up so much of ourselves for nothing."
"Basically, I was fired," Christopher says. "I just think that me, that image, that trial…I think it was political baggage for the D.A. at the time."
Now, Christopher works as a criminal defense attorney. Even though he has switched career paths and started a family, Christopher says the outcome of the O.J. Simpson trial still haunts him.
"I do have a lot of wonderful things in my life, but I think [the trial] changed me," he says. "Maybe I'm just a little stressed about it still even today."
Christopher says he regrets ever becoming involved with the O.J. Simpson case and has regretted it since the very first day of the trial. "I had a great career," he remembers. "I had lots of friends and all of that. Everything was just toppled on its head after that case, and everything changed. I lost friends. I guess I lost my center. I guess I lost my bearing."
Christopher says he wishes he could have done more for the families of the two victims, Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman. "I cared," Christopher says. "When you listen to tapes of Nicole and you spend time with the victims' families like we did for months and months, you really believe. You really want them to get some justice out of this process, and they didn't get it. And certainly, you know, they didn't get it partially because of [the prosecution]. That's a hard pill to swallow."
The trial didn't get personal until the press began calling Christopher a "race traitor" and an "Uncle Tom," he says. Christopher remembers feeling "taken aback" by the way he was treated in his own community.
"To be treated that way … to hear the things that people were saying about me … I never, ever could have imagined being in a situation like that," he says.
Even today, it's hard to talk about the trial without discussing race. Since the day the verdict was announced, opinions about the outcome have largely been divided along racial lines. A 2004 poll conducted by NBC television showed that 87 percent of white Americans polled believe O.J. is guilty, while 70 percent of black Americans polled believe he is innocent.
Fuhrman, who testified that he had found a bloody glove that linked O.J. to the scene of the crime, was a key witness for the prosecution. But, after Fuhrman's testimony, O.J.'s defense team presented taped recordings of Fuhrman using racial epithets into evidence to refute his testimony.
Although Marcia Clark, the lead attorney for the prosecution, and Christopher weren't aware of Fuhrman's racist remarks, Christopher says he had a bad feeling about Fuhrman before this new evidence came to light. He says Johnnie Cochran, a member of O.J.'s defense team, pulled him aside before Fuhrman's testimony and gave him a word of advice…Johnnie told him not to put Fuhrman on the stand.
To this day, Christopher says he's angered by what he believes Fuhrman did to the prosecution's case. "You really can't be a friend of mine and be a friend of Mark Fuhrman's," he says. "People in our case made mistakes. But the thing he did on the witness stand that day was intentional. He had every opportunity to tell me, to tell Marcia Clark, to tell someone about these epithets."
Christopher and his wife have decided not to tell their 8-year-old son Christopher Jr. about the O.J. Simpson trial…at least not yet. However, after the Michael Jackson trial ended, Christopher's son had some interesting questions for his dad.
"After the Michael Jackson verdict, we were watching television, and I think Tom Mesereau [Michael Jackson's lawyer] was on the stand and Christopher says, 'Dad, why isn't anybody in my family ever on television?' We just kind of shook our heads and laughed."