North Coast Journal



No OJ, please

by Judy Hodgson
Editor and publisher

When we started working on this edition, I told our regular Journal columnists, "No OJ." Life goes on -- except for two people. And besides, ask any deputy district attorney or others in law enforcement and they'll tell you sometimes the guilty go free. Ask any public defender and they'll tell you the poor do not get the same brand of justice as the rich.

And you don't have to go all the way to L.A. for examples of the occasional failures of our justice system. I have been reporting locally since 1981. Although I never had what is known as the "cops" beat, there are two stories I did work on that came immediately to mind.

One was a murder trial. Because of pretrial publicity, the case was moved to Oakland where the jury was said to be less friendly to law enforcement. Mistakes were made in the investigation. The guy walked. I considered leaving the news business. Cops must feel the same way about their jobs sometimes.

I remember, too, a story uncovered by a reporter named Mary Barnett who worked for me when I was editor of The Union in Arcata in the 1980s. Because of her experience (40 years in the news business) and her personality (best described as dogged), she was the best reporter I've ever worked with. Not always the most pleasant.

I remember her asking for a file in municipal court one time and the clerk didn't want to give it to her. Because Mary's father and brother were both prominent San Francisco attorneys in their day, Mary knows the law better than half the attorneys in this county (maybe more than half). The clerk had called me and said there was a reporter there pounding on the counter and saying unpleasant things. (OK, she was swearing.) I said, "Does she want some sort of public information or a file and you don't want to give it to her?"

Anyway, Mary wrote a story about a guy who went to jail for a long time (nine months, I believe) for stealing a carton of cigarettes. It turns out he was a drunk and a nuisance but the offense was really quite minor. The jail at the time was less crowded than it is today, but still crowded. It was a good story.

As it turns out, only one columnist this month had a tiny mention of OJ and I let it slip by. Then Wally Graves -- who wrote a great cover story this month, "Carson Mansion, the inside story" -- walks in with this OJ piece.

I groaned. What more could possibly be said that hasn't been said?

I was wrong. Wally's OJ piece, called "Reasonable doubt," is well worth a few more column inches on the so-called trial of the century.
But that's it. No more OJ.

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