LETTER : Verdict that has split America

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The Independent Online
From Mr Trevor Lyons

Sir: It appears the OJ Simpson trial and verdict has split America on a simple black/white racial divide. How much better it might have been had the US abandoned the binary "guilty/not guilty" model in favour of the traditional Scottish system with verdicts ranging from "guilty" to "not guilty" via "not proven".

Had the OJ jury been able to select the "not proven" verdict, the prevalent sentiment that "we're-pretty-certain-you-did-it-but-they-haven't-quite- proved-it" could have been expressed. With a "not proven" verdict, OJ would still be free, but the patent injustice of a full acquittal could have been avoided. Honour would have been satisfied, and racial tensions might have been calmed.

One should not forget that any criminal justice system exists not solely to punish the offender, but also to give solace to victims and their relatives. A "not proven" verdict would have provided a useful neutral starting point for any subsequent civil case for compensation.

Yours faithfully.

Trevor Lyons

Senior Lecturer in Law

Staffordshire University

Stoke-on-Trent

4 October

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