October 9, 1995
From Correspondent Charles Feldman
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The trial is over, the verdict is in and opinions have been formed. Now comes what some may argue is the hard part for O.J. Simpson -- his public "rehabilitation."
"A difficult thing for any person who has been acquitted of a crime is to overcome the stigma that inevitably lingers," said UCLA Law School professor John Shepard Wiley Jr. "The problem with our criminal justice system is that you're not found innocent, you're only found not guilty."
Unlike a non-celebrity defendant who can move to another community and start life anew, Simpson is known throughout the world. So how does he make a living and, more important, how does he live among those who, despite the not guilty verdict, believe him to be a double murderer? Los Angeles Urban League President John Mack said it will be a tricky period for Simpson, requiring him to pursue "different alternatives" to rehabilitate his show business career. (203K AIFF sound or 203K WAV sound)
Simpson could choose to write another book. His first, "I Want To Tell You," written while he was in jail, sold very well. Celebrity publicist Michael Levine expects Simpson and his advisors to follow "the most audacious, boldest course of exploitation imaginable." (210K AIFF sound or 210K WAV sound)
In one respect, Simpson's rehabilitation is already under way. Last week, he was a caller on CNN's "Larry King Live," a move another Hollywood publicist called a "very big mistake" on Simpson's road to image recovery. "I don't think he's going to change anybody's mind (on his guilt or innocence) and he's just adding to the dissension," said Julian Myers.
Levine recommends Simpson take a low-profile approach, not capitalizing on his legal ordeal. "I think an approach of humility would be far more appropriate, though I suspect there's virtually no chance of that happening," he told CNN.
Another approach, suggested Mack, is for Simpson to remember his roots and "make a contribution, especially to young people" by embracing the African-American community. (170K AIFF sound or 170K WAV sound)
For those who will always believe O.J. Simpson is a killer, the very notion of rehabilitating his image is likely to be repugnant. Nonetheless, the jury has spoken. And by allowing Simpson to be a free man once again, jurors have now shackled him with the burden of winning his case in the court of public opinion.