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Comparing O.J. and Arias

On Oct. 3, 1995, Orenthal James Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. During that moment, at 10 a.m. PST, the country stopped. One hundred million people were watching live on TV.

Wikipedia quotes attorney Alan Dershowitz’s (he was part of Simpson’s defense team) book as saying the nation was so captivated with the verdict, long-distance phone call volume was down 58 percent during the moments the verdict was read. Even trading on the New York Stock Exchange dropped 41 percent. America was hooked on the star football player’s trial.

I was a 17-year-old senior in high school at the time. My class begged and pleaded with our English teacher, Mrs. Anderson, to allow us to see the verdict live. After rolling her eyes, she relented and allowed us to watch. Back then, I had never seen anything like this. A celebrity, who I knew more from the “Naked Gun” movies than from watching his old football highlights, was accused of two gruesome murders.

The trial lasted almost the whole year and the entire trial aired live on TV. It was filled with mistakes and quotes like, “If it (the bloody glove) don’t fit, you must acquit.”

The names from the case are still seared into my memory, many of them became celebrities too. Judge Lance Ito, LAPD Detective Mark Furman, prosecutor Marcia Clark, Robert Kardashian (yes, he’s the father of those Kardashians and was part of Simpson’s defense team) and of course, Johnnie Cochran, whose famous lines are still parodied today.

Fast forward 18 years and instead of the nation being captivated by the murder trial of celebrity, celebrities are being created during their own murder trials. Exhibit A: Casey Anthony. Exhibit B: Jodi Arias.

At first, the Arias trial in Phoenix garnered local attention. Then Nancy Grace showed up.

Since then, people have camped out on the sidewalk in hopes of gaining entry into the small courtroom as if the judge was giving away free flat-screen televisions in there. People have driven in from Las Vegas and California to attend. Some have even come from as far away as Australia to catch a glimpse of Arias.

What’s often gotten lost in the mix is the fact that she is on trial for murdering her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008.

That year there were over 14,000 murders in the United States. This is the only one that has received this kind of the attention, probably because she’s a woman and because there are naked pictures to look at and sex stories to read about. Oh, and there were television cameras in the court room.

The cameras captured Arias’ every word during her 18 days on the stand much the way they captured O.J. Simpson putting the black glove on his hand (yes, that’s a Cochran rhyme). Arias enjoyed every second of it. Because guilty or not all this attention has made her famous, almost as famous as O.J.