O.J. Simpson trial prosecutor talks case, criminal justice system at campus event

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Christopher Darden, one of the lead prosecutors in O.J. Simpson’s 1995 trial, spoke about the criminal justice system and the O.J. Simpson case at a Berkeley Forum event Tuesday evening.

During the event, author and practicing attorney Darden led a discussion about multiple facets of the criminal justice system — he talked about Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and others who had been killed by police officers, and said these examples indicated that the criminal justice system is still “seriously flawed.” He urged audience members to avoid getting discouraged and instead fight to improve the criminal justice system.

“If we want justice, we need the right people in the system, if anything is going to change,” Darden said. “We need to get involved in all levels — beat cops, corrections officers and prosecutors — in order to change the system.”

As part of his role as a co-prosecutor in the O.J. murder trial case, he argued that former LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman’s “racist past” should not have been made a central point of the case. For this decision, Darden said, he was called a “race traitor,” which he felt was unfair, alluding to his direct experiences with racism in the criminal justice system.

“Everyone from my community, including myself, growing up knew somebody who knew somebody who had something planted on them, (was) falsely accused or saw police officers lie on the stand,” Darden said during his presentation. “But somehow they thought I didn’t understand.”

Both campus freshman Sanjana Sanghani and junior Sabrina Schaefer said they attended the event because they were interested in the criminal justice system and had seen the 2016 show “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”

“I feel like it’s the first big-name event (on campus) that I actually caught before it happened, so I thought I should go,” Schaefer said.

When asked about the television show, Darden said he had not seen it, but said that Sterling K. Brown, who depicts him in the show, called Darden late at night after he landed the role. Darden said Brown called him at around 3 a.m., and he asked that Brown not call him again. The two have had no further interaction since, according to Darden.

Berkeley Forum event manager Tanya Mahadwar said Darden was invited because the connection between police brutality and the legal system has become a “mainstay” in the news, and that the forum aims to invite speakers with timely, relevant perspectives.

“Christopher Darden has unique insights into the difficulties of working with and navigating the legal system during times of racial and social tension,” Mahadwar said in an email.

Contact Luke Kopetsky at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @LukeKopetsky.