The Acquittal of OJ Simpson: Silence, a sharp intake of breath and disbelief

Glenda Cooper joins the throngs who gathered by the TV in America
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The Independent Online
"YEEES!" "It's a joke" simultaneously burst out.

For 20 minutes, 16 men and two women had crouched over a tiny black- and-white television at the French Quarter Diner on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. Piped music was cut, coffee got cold and tills were abandoned as everyone waited for the OJ Simpson verdict.

"Sssh" greeted every footstep as Judge Lance Ito's face came up on screen. "Oh my God, I'm so confused," Beth Dara, 34, said. "I know what I think, but I don't know what they'll say."

"Shut it," hissed her neighbour.

"Say something, say something," pleaded Jack Adrian as the jury forewoman checked the verdict. Suddenly the silence was broken as a vacuum cleaner started up next door. The diners turned as one to bellow "Shuddup!"

Then the verdict was announced and everyone drew sharp breaths, disbelief on many faces. "It's sick. Money talks, doesn't it?" Dennis Charvez, 36. said."When you think of the American money that has been spent on this trial when LA has such problems with homelessness and disease."

"But the jury were right," said Freddie Salacar. "There's been so much hype, but they saw through it."

Roy Kinney, a server at the diner, disagreed. "The jury think he is guilty but just can't find enough proof. That's why they wouldn't meet his eyes on Monday. And calling up Allan Park's testimony - that was meant to tell him they knew."

Mr Salacar turned away from the set and what had been predicted as "the most viewed event in daytime television history". He shrugged: "It doesn't really affect my life, though, and I think it's been taken way too seriously. Yes, waiting for the verdict has been exciting, but at the end of the day it's just the trial of one man."

"No, it's more than that," Mr Kinney said. "The lawyers turned it into a matter of race. They took the focus off whether he was guilty or innocent and turned it into whether you felt the police were racist or not."

Jeremiah Walker, a taxi driver, agreed. "This trial has all been a load of crap, hasn't it? It's been twisted from the beginning. I just hope [the police] are watching."

Then the piped music came back on, and Mr Kinney asked: "So who did kill Nicole and Ron, then?"