It’s beginning to feel a lot like OJ. A divided country watching sworn testimony and cross examination on live television from our Capitol. Talking head lawyers on both sides will saturate the cable TV networks.
Back in 1994 -95, I was a veteran Denver Chief Deputy DA called on by a hungry media for my opinion about the OJ Simpson prosecution.
The damning facts were overwhelming, I pronounced, but the presentation by prosecutors was underwhelming. The criminal jury in downtown LA acquitted Simpson.
Many Caucasians were shocked and saddened, but African Americans felt different. They suspected LAPD, and the Mark Fuhrmans of the world, as capable of setting up a black man for a crime he did not commit. OJ represented a punch back at a criminal justice system they regarded as racist. The jury was composed of nine blacks, one Hispanic and two whites.
We’re at another such moment today, with our society as divided as ever. This time, the focus is on the president.
OJ was the televised trial of the century, and accomplished Denver lawyer/broadcaster Dan Caplis astutely rode the wave, hosting a late afternoon radio show with entertaining and informed analysis of the day’s courtroom events.
Judge Lance Ito always adjourned about 3 p.m., so it was perfect for drive time radio in Denver. I listened as much as I could to the day’s testimony on the radio. This case would have a permanent impact on the criminal justice system.
Many days, I’d run out of the Denver DA’s Office at 5 p.m. to speed down Speer to 9News to hustle on the TV news set to be questioned by Ed Sardella and Adele Arakawa.
Afterward, I’d rush over to Dan Caplis’ radio studio for more OJ analysis. Dan Caplis had phone lines on fire and the hottest radio show in town. Scott Robinson, an exceptional criminal defense attorney, was also a frequent guest.
Growing up as a Denver sports fanatic, I’d watched OJ excel at USC and then for the Buffalo Bills under Denver Broncos’ former head coach Lou Saban. America loved OJ Simpson as he was the advertising spokesman for countless mainstream products. He became a movie star and TV personality. No one I know rooted for his downfall. OJ was an American icon of success.
Donald Trump is also an American icon of success. We watched him get rich, go broke, get richer, marry pretty women, co-write a bestseller and then become a top-level TV personality.
The Donald has now achieved unparalleled heights as president of the United States. I voted for Trump in 2016 because the Democrats had moved too far left for me and I feared the Clintons were corrupt.
Right now, the immediate impeachment issue is whether President Trump is too corrupt. Did he commit bribery or another high crime or misdemeanor? What is the punishment that would fit the misconduct?
The upcoming House public impeachment hearing and the removal trial in the Senate that may follow will be TV spectacles not seen since the OJ trial. Political partisans have taken sides. This time, the country is not divided so much on racial lines as we are based on ideologies.
The stakes are extremely high for our country. Can smart lawyers debate the great issues of impeachment without getting bogged down with interruptions, cheap shots and distractions?
Difficult issues were debated for nearly a decade on the Caplis & Silverman radio show as we tackled topics like gay marriage, guns, abortion, OJ, JonBenet, presidential campaigns and a couple of American wars.
Dan Caplis and I kept our cool. We had different views and perspectives on fundamental issues, but we had dialogue and fun.
The country needs something like that now, a show where people can hear both sides of a story, debated wisely, with passion but without anger or hostility. These are consequential times and people have strong feelings.
But almost always, the truth can be discerned if we listen, with good lawyers asking good questions, and at media sites that focus on fair discussions of the facts.
I currently host The Craig Silverman Show on 710KNUS. Politics and prosecution are a toxic mix, which was my campaign slogan when I ran as an Independent candidate for Denver DA in 1996.
Most of my guests and listeners are conservative, and I understand their difficulty digesting damaging facts against their hero, Donald Trump. But let’s not hide from hard truths or label it fake news. Let’s talk about it.
I met OJ Simpson in person at the DIA luggage carousel over Christmas break in 2005. Number 32 knew who I was and agreed to come on the Caplis & Silverman Show on 630KHOW.
Dan Caplis was on winter break, but I was not lonely. OJ, from his vacation chalet in Vail, stayed on air with me for two hours. We started off talking football, but eventually got to his home on Bundy in Brentwood. I told OJ I was convinced he murdered Nicole and Ron. He said I was entitled to my opinion.
I told OJ I’d have convicted him if I had prosecuted. Simpson said something like, “We’ll never know that Silverman because you weren’t the prosecutor.”
So true. I am just a veteran Colorado trial lawyer with an opinion who likes calling things as I see them. The call with OJ ended calmly. The radio audience heard quite the discussion.
Let’s all approach this upcoming national drama involving 45 with the aspiration of judging facts honestly with the goal of a lawful and peaceful outcome.
Craig Silverman is a former Denver Chief Deputy DA who also has worked in the media for decades. He practices law now as a Colorado trial lawyer at the Denver law firm of Springer & Steinberg, P.C.
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