Students Say They Won't Watch Trial
But Simpson Case Makes Presence Felt In Classes, Conversations, Even Parties
The Law School
Willie J. Epps Jr., president of the student government at Harvard Law School, says most law students dislike the attention the media has given to the case. But the same students also enjoy seeing their profession "in the spotlight."
"In general, I think on one level most of the law students are fairly turned off by lots of the media hype," Epps says. But, he adds, "Law students are excited that for the first time the American public is going to watch a trial from start to finish."
First-year law students will not only watch it; they'll act it out. Epps says that because the case raises many legal issues, this fall's first-year course on lawyering concentrates on a trial similar to the Simpson case. In fact, one piece of required reading was the book Juice, a biography of Simpson.
"It shows you how it has pretty much saturated the American lifestyle," Epps says.
"Juice wasn't a serious book," he adds.
This year, the course is being taught by visiting Professor of Law from Practice Peter L. Murray '65-'64 and Weld Professor of Law Charles R. Nesson '60. Efforts to reach the two instructors were unsuccessful.
At least one other member of the Law School community has an important stake in the case. In July, Simpson hired Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz as a consultant to the defense team to evaluate constitutional issues in the event of an appeal.
Dershowitz declined a request to discuss his role in the case.
But Mary Prosser, a clinical instructor at the Law School's Criminal Justice Institute, says that whatever role Dershowitz plays, his involvement may stimulate interest in the case on campus.
"It may make certain folks pay closer attention and have either a local hero or not," Prosser says.
Epps, however, says Dershowitz's involvement in the case has not had a significant effect on Law School students.
"Professor Dershowitz has lots of commitments and has been hired by lots of famous people," Epps says.
Prosser is supportive of Dershowitz and all of Simpson's attorneys. So far, she says, the defense has litigated pretrial matters appropriately.
"If you're going to challenge the evidence, you're going to do that ahead of time through motions to suppress and hearings where witnesses testify about how evidence was seized," Prosser says. "They're doing what they should be doing on behalf of their clients, but that doesn't mean that's going to be their full defense."
'Crates and Crates'
Despite many Harvard students' self-professed lack of interest in the case, several Harvard Square merchants report brisk sales of Simpson paraphernalia.
Peter Freilinger '95, a sales clerk at Out of Town News, says the Harvard Square kiosk has sold "crates and crates" of magazines related to the upcoming trial. Margaret DeRosia, clerk at Harvard Book Store, says that in four days her store sold all seven of its copies of a Simpson biography published after the murders.
"It sold out right away--it really did," DeRosia says. "Students primarily bought them."
T-shirts have been a different story, Andrei H. Cerny '97 says he came close to buying a Simpson t-shirt this summer "for the freak value of it." But sales of "Canned Juice" shirts and Simpson buttons at Newbury comics have been negligible, says salesperson Noelle Thomas.
"They're not selling," Thomas says "People look at them and laugh."
Guilty or Innocent?
Prosecutors and defense attorneys in Los Angeles will begin their search today to find 12 impartial women and men to serve on the Simpson jury. That job promises to be difficult, for many members of the public, including Harvard students, have already formed strong opinions about Simpson's guilt or innocence.
"He's guilty," says Michael A. Cress '97. "I don't like his defense lawyer because he's such a slime. He'll take up anyone's case. He's the reason I'm not going to Law School."
"I think he got framed," says Aarort T. Peterson '96. "I know there's plenty of evidence against him, but I couldn't see him killing anyone."
But Prosser, a defense specialist, says it is dangerous for people to decide Simpson's fate before the trial. Facts disseminated through the media may differ significantly from the reality of a courtroom trial 3,000 miles away she says.
"I would hesitate to give an opinion on guilt or innocence at this stage," Prosser says. "People who are not lawyers or who do not work in the criminal justice system probably have a lot of misinformation about the trial process."