White anger spills over in aftermath of OJ acquittal

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The Independent Online

Los Angeles

The talk radio shows in Los Angeles still rang with white anger over the OJ Simpson verdict yesterday. At Nicole Brown Simpson's townhouse, a printed sign read "OJ Must Die". Nearby a lone woman protested with a placard that read: "OJ Simpson, wife beater, wife killer.''

Five days after the former football hero was acquitted by a black-dominated jury of the double-murder of his white ex-wife and her friend Ronald Goldman, race still intrudes at every turn, from virtual shouting matches in television- show audiences to the letters pages of the Los Angeles Times.

In an interview with the newspaper USA Today, President Bill Clinton called on people not to use the "polarisation of perception" on the case to widen the gap between black and white. It would be a great mistake if "this became the beginning of some new division in our country", he said.

But a veteran television commentator on the current affairs programme 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney, said yesterday he was so convinced of Mr Simpson's guilt that he would pay $1m (pounds 630,000) if another killer was found. Mr Simpson's acquittal was "the worst thing that's happened to race relations in 40 years", he said.

The fall-out from the Simpson case, beyond a nation venting its racial differences, is deeply confused. The Los Angeles Police Department technically is investigating misconduct charges raised in the trial but its officers, and at least half the country, firmly believe they got their man.

The conservative presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, who appeals most directly to the Republican Party's right wing, said the jury's vote must be accepted even if it is wrong.

Many whites seemed to take Mr Simpson's acquittal as almost a personal affront. Residents of the upscale and mostly white Brentwood neighbourhood, where Mr Simpson remained closeted behind the gates of his estate, were openly hostile. "Somebody who got away with murder lives down the street," said one neighbour.

One conciliatory note was sounded yesterday by Nicole Brown Simpson's mother. "I don't hate," said Juditha Brown. "Life goes on." After the Simpson children, Sydney, nine, and Justin, seven, spent a first night with their father, she said: "Blood is thicker than anything. He is their father."

But the prosecutor in the trial, Marcia Clark, let loose against the jurors who have angrily denied allegations that they ignored the overwhelming evidence of Mr Simpson's guilt. "Liberals won't admit it, but a majority black jury won't convict in a case like this. They won't bring justice," she told a reporter. The Los Angeles District Attorney's spokesman immediately said Ms Clark had been speaking off the record.

Mr Goldman's family, who have bitterly denounced Mr Simpson as a murderer, are determined to pursue a civil lawsuit for damages. The family's attorney said legal papers had been served on Mr Simpson to lay the groundwork for a case.

Mr Simpson's lead attorney, Johnnie Cochran, pleaded for the matter to be dropped. "I don't want to be a part of it," he said. "We did what we had to do. We played by the rules of the games they set."

Bitter feuding continued yesterday between members of the Simpson defence team. The legendary defence attorney F Lee Bailey let drop that his fellow lawyer Robert Shapiro, who has publicly split with the so-called "dream team", had once suggested a plea bargain.

Mr Simpson's friends and advisers went on a frenzy of damage control, saying he had never considered pleading guilty to a lesser charge, such as manslaughter. "From the moment all of us have been with OJ Simpson, this man has persistently maintained his innocence," said Barry Scheck, one of the "dream team".