And now the inevitable: The cast of the O.J. follies wants an afterlife. Marcia Clark signs with the William Morris office, Johnnie Cochran is talking with several agencies, and F. Lee Bailey’s ego is such that he’ll probably start his own talent agency. As for O.J. himself, ICM still represents him but insists it will not solicit deals to help him profit from “this tragedy.”

It’s as though the stars of a Broadway flop failed to notice there’s no audience left. Can’t someone tell these people to clear the stage? They’ve occupied a big sector of our lives for a year now, and most of us are sick and tired of them.

The TV post-mortems last week made all this abundantly clear. Who wants to hear Bailey call Chris Darden “a poor loser”? Who cares if Robert Shapiro doesn’t want to speak to the other lawyers again – none of us want to; nor do we want to read their damn books. Even Jay Leno admits that the Dancing Itos need a new gig.

All week long the lawyers have paraded through the post-mortems repeating the same self-serving message: The system works, they tell us.

Oh, really?

I’m beginning to feel more compassion for those 12 jurors who, over the course of a year, were hermetically sealed off from the real world and whose total life experience consisted of viewing a succession of nasty cops, clumsy prosecutors, inept criminalists, arrogant attorneys and a star-struck judge.

At the end of it all they rejected the D.A., the experts and, most of all, the cops. By not even deliberating, they effectively declined to pass judgment – they simply checked out. “We don’t buy any of this,” was their message. Now, before we all start hammering at these people yet again, consider for a moment that they weren’t so much jurors as hostages of the state – prisoners whose every movement was scrutinized and whose every conversation was monitored.

At the risk of sounding facetious, I would ask you to consider what it’s like to interact with any arm of the government. Renewing a simple driver’s license is worse than root canal. A casual encounter with a customs agent rivals a crash landing at sea.

Forget about serving on a jury – has anyone out there applied for a passport lately? Or asked a question of an IRS agent?

I’m not ready to join a militia, but the hard truth is that our government – any arm of our government – increasingly represents the Enemy to the ordinary citizen. So now we place 12 jurors in the hands of the Enemy and then exacerbate that punishment by forcing them to interface with what passes for law enforcement.

Whoops.

As Scott Turow, the bestselling author and former prosecutor, wrote in the New York Times, the central truth about the O.J. case was that the cops blundered and the D.A.’s office “arrogantly defended these blunders.”

The job of the prosecutors, Turow reminds us, is not to tolerate police ineptitude but to condemn it. In short, you don’t put idiots on the stand.

And the lawyers keep telling us “the system works.”

Turow’s points are reinforced by an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, which notes that “people at all levels of society, on the streets and in the board-rooms, now think the legal system is rigged against them.” Why should these 12 jurors in Los Angeles be expected, then, to put their trust in it? Or, for that matter, why should the TV audience?

Does this mean O.J. is innocent? Hardly. It does mean, however, that the whole nation has lived through a searing and bewildering experience served up by the mass media and, having done so, we are owed some effort to put it in perspective. Instead we have all of the “instant celebrities” from the trial elbowing one another aside to cash in on the glitz. We have one network grabbing a juror, another nailing a parent or sibling and Larry King gliding through his suck-up interviews. Meanwhile, in the background, a veritable avalanche of TV films and quickie movies are being readied, not to mention the books and self-congratulatory memoirs.

If the trial left a sour taste in your mouth, folks, keep one thing in mind: It’s not going to get any better.

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