Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Contempt by Christopher Darden

In 1995 it was difficult to find an adult American unaware that O.J. Simpson was on trial for the murders of Nicole Brown, Simpson's wife, and Ron Goldman, Nicole's friend. The media blitz of what became known as "The Simpson Trial" was unprecedented and the news coverage was constant. Perhaps interest was so high because the trial touched a nerve with many Americans on many levels. Without question, the trial drew a heightened awareness to the issues of domestic violence, unjust police practices and the state of race relations in America, all, still "hot button" topics today.

This book gives a firsthand account from the perspective of co-prosecuting attorney, Christopher Darden.

Darden spends a little time at the beginning of the book describing his childhood of a rather meager existence but makes clear that strong family ties and a hard work ethic were instilled in him. He describes the people who helped him along the way and gives a personal glimpse into what he considers his own failings, especially in his adulthood.

However, the meat of the book really is an account of the circumstances that lead to Darden becoming co-prosecutor and some of the highlights, and "lowlights", of the actual trial. Darden recounts conversations between himself and famed defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, lead counsel for the defense, F. Lee Bailey, co-counsel for the defense, Marcia Clark, co-prosecuting attorney and Judge Lance Ito, whose face graced many a magazine cover and TV screen during the lengthy trial.

Darden also talks about the personal torment and ridicule he and his family endured because of his role in the trial as an African American male co-prosecuting an African American male.

He recounts the many pieces of evidence and replays the now famous moment when O.J. Simpson attempted to put on the infamous "bloody glove", describing in detail what he saw from exactly where he stood in the court room, and the media circus that preceded, and followed, that moment.

As an added bonus, for those who are inclined to listen to the audiobook version, Darden reads the book himself. So it is like a personal conversation listening to him, and the reader is immediately transported back to 1995 and the hoopla that surrounded what many called "The Trial of the Century".

Other books written about the trial include: Murder in Brentwood by Mark Fuhrman, 1997 and Without A Doubt by Marcia Clark, 1997, as well as the much publicized If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer released for publication in 2007. The latter book was originally scheduled for publication and then cancelled by the publisher because of public outcry that a murderer was profiting from his crime. However, the rights to the book were awarded to the Goldman and Brown families and became part of the financial settlement award as a result of the guilty verdict against Simpson in the civil suit brought by the families against Simpson. The civil trial found for the families and against Simpson in 1997, a decision that was upheld upon appeal in February, 2008. The families also added some 14,000 words to Simpson's original manuscript, and added the subtitle, Confessions of a Killer.

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