There was considerable discussion on tv about OJ Simpson’s new arrest and problems and why Americans were responding to this with some level of smug satisfaction. One pointed out that he has successfully evaded responsibility in most of his life.
There is little doubt that most American’s consider him a killer despite the innocent verdict. Of course, the civil case that found him legally liable is some basis for this, but the real reason for this guilty verdict is his continual series of trials in the court of public opinion. These he has consistently lost, including the coverage of the trial that freed him from the murder charge.
The lesson for crisis communicators and issue managers is clear–here is one of the most clear cut cases available that there is a vast difference between the court of law and the court of public opinion. OJ certainly would rather win in the court of law because it avoided life in prison or worse. But to live in the prison of eternal public judgment is no picnic either. Companies, celebrities and organizations need to pay more attention to the court of public opinion than they traditionally have.