Critique of Pure O.J.

By Joel Achenbach
Sunday, March 19, 1995

The O.J. trial is getting a bum rap. People say that it's a tabloid case, that it's trash, that at some level our fascination with it is shameful. I personally have vowed that for every minute I pay attention to the Simpson case I will spend a minute reading something by Henry James, or trying to end world hunger, or watching "Masterpiece Theater." If it still exists.

Many of us are instinctively wary of anything with mass appeal. We don't wish to be associated with the stripe of society once known as the Vulgus. The sniffy crowd presumes that the widespread obsession with the trial is ipso facto proof of its lowbrow nature. (Seconds later they let slip that they have personally downloaded maps of the Simpson estate from the Internet.)

The mainstream press has been unsure how to cover the trial. All out? With discretion? Heavily contextualized or with just the raw naked squalid tawdry facts? Old-line subscribers to the NewYorker must have choked on their crumpets when it started chasing Simpson scoops.

Attorney General Janet Reno, the mother superior of the legal community, was asked in January if she was watching the Simpson trial. "Are you kidding?" she said. "No." She said if everyone "put as much energy into other issues as Americans seem to in watching the trial, we might be further down the road."

Reporters received a fax in January from the University of Maryland stating that the public information office would offer no help "as a matter of principle" in locating legal experts to talk about the case: "It is the feeling of the Public Information staff that encouraging our faculty to participate in the escalating sensationalism of the trial would serve little -- if any -- useful informational purpose, would serve to trivialize the legal processes at work, and would further distract from the central fact that two lives have been lost and a third lies in the balance of justice."

Someone who dipped into CompuServe's OJFORUM , an epistolary hotbed of Simpson argumentation, left this harangue:

"I don't think that you people are . . . what is it? . . . intelligent enough . . . possessed of enough humanity . . . self-aware enough, or whatever it is that has been left out of your makeup that allows you to participate in this degrading spectacle, that I could ever impress upon you the destructive nature of your behavior in this regard. You are incapable of shame and I am shamed by that."

So you see that there is some negativity toward the case out there.

This is unfair.

As any truly intelligent, humane, self-aware observer could see, millions of us are caught in the gravity well of the Simpson trial not because we are drawn to small, mean, trivial issues -- but rather because we are drawn to the grand themes of human existence. Love, for example. Obsession. Power. Money. Truth. Deception. That kind of thing. Within that tabloid O.J. trash lurks the stuff of life.

Several of the enveloping themes, like race and domestic violence, already have been well-trod in the mass media. So let me take you down some thematic side streets, into some unfamiliar epistemological alleyways. As a service to the O.J.-obsessed readership, I have identified six realms of intellectual inquiry in which the Simpson trial can be edifying and revelatory: * Contingent truth vs. formal truth. * The subjectivity of logic. * The American ideal of the citizen leader. * The dissipation and recohesion of the mass audience. * The disturbing nexus of love and hate. * The myth of identity.

Readers should not hesitate to make their own lists, explicate their own themes. Robert Sternberg, a professor of psychology at Yale, says of the Simpson case, "It's sort of like a Rorschach test for different people's interests and passions. So people read into it what they want."

This is what I read into it:

1. Contingent truth vs. formal truth Not the grabbiest concept, admittedly, but we have to start with the basics.

The central question of the Simpson trial is: Did he do it? (How you answer the question is virtually an identification of the type of person you are. There are yes people, no people, and, increasingly it seems to me, "yes, but" people, who are uncomfortable with a simple murder scenario, preferring something with plot twists and arcane motives and sexually deviant co-conspirators.)

An ancillary question is: If he did it, can the prosecution prove he did it beyond a reasonable doubt? This is a cognitive quagmire. "Reasonable doubt" has no fixed legal meaning. Each jury gets to decide what is reasonable and what's not. There was even a long debate before the trial about whether the jury had to reach a conclusion that was a "moral certainty." No one had any idea at all what that term meant. Judge Lance Ito eventually decided to delete "moral certainty" from the jury instructions.

The Simpson case may inspire us to ask the bigger question: At what point do we know something? How do we know what we think we know?

"Doubt is central to the whole epistemological problem area," says Loyal Rue, a professor of religion and philosophy at Luther College in Iowa. (Warning: The expert testimony portion of this essay has just begun.)

Rue recalled that Rene Descartes started his philosophical program in the 17th century with an exercise in doubt. Descartes wanted to doubt everything. Did his body exist? Did the external world exist? There was, even before Descartes, a long history of explorations of doubt, going back to the Pyrrhonian skeptics, who thought it impossible for human beings to know anything.

The way philosophers have hashed this out -- the way they have reconciled the obvious fact that truth exists with the nagging inability of anyone to say what is and what isn't true -- is to create two categories of truth, what you might call "contingent truths" and "formal truths."

Rue explains:

"Empirical truths, that is, matters of fact, cannot be proven. They're contingent. They're not necessary. You can always imagine some possible circumstance where a statement of fact might be false. Is that bookcase that I see across the room really there? You can always say that there is the possibility that I'm sleeping, that I'm dreaming all of this." (Potential O.J. trial angle: Prosecution witness Ron Shipp said Simpson told him he had dreamed about killing Nicole. Subtle invocation of Pyrrhonian skepticism?)

Rue goes on:

"If you say 3 plus 5 equals 8, that's what you call a formal truth, or a necessary truth. That is to say, the definition of three, the definition of the operator plus, the definition of five, the definition of the operator equals, the definition of eight -- the definition of those elements -- logically implies the truth of the statement 3 plus 5 equals 8. It's true by definition. It's like saying a dog is a dog."

So that kind of formal truth is unattainable in a criminal trial. Everything's contingent. And even this contingent truth gets degraded over time, as information travels from the crime scene through the justice system and finally into the jury room during deliberations. The crime itself is unseen, so pure knowledge of the event is impossible. Detectives read the stains of the event, examine hairs and fibers, craft a scenario. In the adversarial arena of the courtroom the information is batted around by the opposing lawyers. Then it must survive the journey through the thought processes of the jurors. At the trial's end the jurors are sent into a room, by themselves, and told to stay there until they figure out what actually happened.

Call it justice, but don't call it truth.

With luck, the jury will be logical. But that brings up the next issue:

2. The subjectivity of logic When the prosecution finished its opening statement, I felt that it had been so powerful, so overwhelming, so startlingly thorough, that I wouldn't have been surprised if O.J. had suddenly stood up and said, "Would anyone entertain a crime of passion defense?" But then Johnnie Cochran had his turn, and he was dazzling, and the prosecutors were almost literally having heart attacks, and for a few days the Zeitgeist of the trial was inverted. Then the prosecution resumed what, to me, looks like a slam-dunk. Of course sometimes slam-dunks clang off the rim and bounce back to the half-court line.

I don't know what surprises are left in this case -- I assume that after I finish writing this and before it actually appears in the Magazine the conventional wisdom of the case will have gone topsy-turvy again, and that something really unbelievable will have happened, like Simpson tunneling out of jail, or Judge Ito posing nude in Cosmo, or Marcia Clark revealing that, in a previous life, she was Joan of Arc. It's that kind of case.

But the point is: Although the logic of the prosecution's argument seems strong to me, there are people who look at the same set of facts and allegations and draw the opposite conclusion. Seemingly reasonable people can have radically different ideas about what is logical and what isn't. There are people who say that it is preposterous, based on the evidence, to conclude that O.J. Simpson could possibly have committed the murders. For example, here are some comments posted on CompuServe's OJFORUM :

"There is no way that anyone could do that sort of carnage and not have more blood than what was found on {Simpson}."

"Why would OJ be so careful in hiding all other' evidence and then be so careless about climbing or jumping over a fence, where he knew someone might hear him, and careless enough to drop a very incriminating piece of evidence?"

"The IMPOSSIBLE thing is to explain how the loud, crashing, three-thump noise {heard by celebrity freeloader Kato Kaelin} could be done by a person back there ACCIDENTALLY . So it wasn't. It was done either by a non-person event (for example, the air conditioner compressor stalling under load or hydrostatic condition) or INTENTIONALLY by a person planting the glove and making sure someone had reason to come back there and discover it."

And finally, my personal favorite:

"Do you really think he would do such a horrible thing and then just leave his kids alone in that house?"

To each of these postings one usually finds a counter-argument. The debate is fast and furious:

"Have you ever heard of Occam's razor, the principle of logic which says that the best explanation is the one which accounts for all the data as simply as possible? If this were a case involving O.J. Jones and his ex-wife Nicole Jones, it would be as clear as a bell to almost anyone that the ex-husband was the most likely murderer."

We don't know how the jury will approach these issues. Much will depend on whether the jurors think the tale as told by the prosecution matches the way humans actually behave.

For example, during opening statements the prosecution said that Simpson squeezed the murders in between a trip to get a Big Mac and his limo ride to the airport. Thus the official government scenario going into the trial was that Simpson -- a millionaire celebrity and Hall of Fame running back with a huge circle of pals and a beautiful girlfriend and a membership at a swank country club and positions on the boards of numerous private corporations and a starring role in a new TV pilot and so on and so on -- was idling in the drive-thru lane of McDonald's at about 9:30, and less than an hour later, unseen by anyone else, was slashing his ex-wife's throat, almost decapitating her, and stabbing to death a virtual stranger who just happened to show up at the wrong time.

It's a remarkable assertion.

Do things happen that way?

Not according to Johnnie Cochran. Cochran appealed to common sense.

"You'd have to believe that he was planning to kill his wife either before he got this Big Mac or then went and got the Big Mac, that Kato Kaelin will describe that he was dressed in . . . sweat clothes and some tennis shoes. That if you follow the people's case you'd have to believe that he then came home and said, gee, I think what I'll do is go over and kill my wife now and I think I'll take these tennis shoes off and put on some dress shoes, some hard-soled shoes . . ."

Murders don't happen like that, do they?

But then again: This was a messy murder. The bodies appeared to have been stabbed and slashed in a frenzy. The killer (killers?) left Nicole Brown Simpson right on the walkway by the front gate. Ronald Goldman's body was under the bushes by a fence as though he had been backed into a space from which there was no retreat. A trail of blood led to the back alley. When police went to Simpson's house they found a pair of socks haphazardly dumped in the center of a rug in an otherwise neat bedroom. When Simpson rode to the airport later he complained of the heat, and was sweating profusely, according to the limo driver. But it was 63 degrees outside.

So perhaps that is precisely what you'd expect if someone killed two people in a rush between going to McDonald's and catching the red-eye to Chicago.

No one considers himself or herself an illogical person. In fact, one's sense of being logical is a delicate part of one's identity, easily offended. Rarely have I seen people so furious as when, a few years ago, I wrote something about a "Let's Make a Deal" type of situation involving goats. This was a logic riddle that I first saw in the "Ask Marilyn" column in Parade magazine. Monty Hall tells you that there is a new car behind one door and a goat behind each of the two others. He then asks you to pick a door. You pick door No. 2, let's say. Monty, ever the teaser, then shows you what's behind door No. 1: a goat. He now asks you if you want to switch to door No. 3 or stick with door No. 2. What should you do? Answer: switch to door No. 3, because there's a two-out-of-three chance that the car is behind that door. Why? Because when you picked door No. 2, originally, you had a one-out-of-three chance of being correct. That doesn't change just because Monty, adhering to a strict game-show formula, always shows you what's behind one of the doors you didn't pick. And since door No. 2 has a one-out-of-three chance of having a car behind it, and we know there's not a car behind door No. 1, by definition there is a two-out-of-three chance that a car is behind door No. 3. Unfortunately this answer, though absolutely correct, offends the logical sensibilities of most people, in some cases even professional statisticians, and they are known to write angry letters to those of us who dare speak the truth. I mention this not to provoke more mail but merely to note that logic is, paradoxically, an extremely emotional matter.

You can find this emotionality in the debates over the authorship of the Shakespeare plays and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The passions derive partly from the affection people have for the plays and for the slain president. But I think they mostly come from the craving to live in a world that makes logical sense. For many Shakespeare buffs it is unthinkable that the great plays and sonnets were written by the uneducated man from Stratford. For Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorists it is unthinkable that Lee Harvey Oswald could have pulled off so dastardly a crime. But it is Shakespeare's name on the plays and Oswald's palm print on the rifle, a rifle he owned, and from which came the bullets that killed Kennedy. You can argue the details all you want, but the general trend is that the official version of history is based on things that we know (evidence, in short), while alternative theories are based on things we don't know, on uncertainties, mysteries, ambiguities, gaps in the record.

The Simpson case is no different. The legal battle is between that which is known and that which is not. Is the trail of blood "devastating" proof of Simpson's guilt, as Marcia Clark said in opening statements, or is the relative paucity of blood in the Bronco "devastating" proof of his innocence, as Johnnie Cochran contended?

"Mr. Goldman's blood would be all over the perpetrator's clothes, hair, all over his body," said Cochran. "There's no evidence, Goldman's and Nicole's bloodstains inside that Bronco of the amount that you would expect given this situation . . ."

So: Do you see the blood that's there, or the blood that's not there?

The jury has to figure this out.

Which raises another issue:

3. The American ideal of the citizen leader Hardly any other country in the world asks normal citizens to decide factual matters of guilt or innocence. The Simpson trial is a vivid example of a peculiarly American phenomenon. We believe in ourselves. We trust the individual, or in this case 12 individuals, to be wise and just.

In November I sat through some of the alternate juror selection. One woman in particular stuck in my mind.

"I'm just a nobody," she said. "I don't stand out in a crowd."

She said she worked for the post office but doesn't like the job. When Judge Ito explained that, if picked as an alternate, she might be sequestered for months, she said, "Any way I could get out of working for the post office, I'll do it."

Why do we ask regular people -- most of whom, in the Simpson case, do not have a college degree -- to referee a case of this complexity? The fact is, the system was not actually designed to be this way. The jury was supposed to be the "conscience" of the community, not its fact-checker. No one 200 years ago envisioned post office clerks sitting through a month of scientific testimony about DNA testing.

"The jury system arose in the infancy of society, at a time when only simple questions of fact were submitted to the courts; and it is no easy task to adapt it to the needs of a highly civilized nation, where the relations between men have multiplied exceedingly and have been thoughtfully elaborated in a learned manner."

De Tocqueville wrote that, a century and a half ago.

Amy Ihlan, a professor of philosophy at Cornell College in Iowa, says, "There's something very important about leaving the ultimate decision in the hands of everyday people." It goes back to the Greeks, she says. "The trial of Socrates was a jury trial." But the Socrates case wasn't really about facts; it hinged on what today we might call "community standards." The philosopher was accused of corrupting the youth and questioning the gods. He didn't really deny it, he just put a favorable spin on it. When convicted, he was asked what he thought his punishment should be. He answered, "What is appropriate for a poor man who is a public benefactor and who requires leisure for the purpose of giving you moral encouragement? Nothing could be more appropriate for such a person than free dining at the Prytaneum." That was where Olympic heroes were feted. The jury instead sentenced him to death.

In the Simpson case the central facts remain in dispute. The jury cannot simply weigh the possible motives of Simpson; it has to figure out whether he was at the crime scene at all. "Helping" them make this decision are two high-powered and completely adversarial legal teams.

"Everything is spun. There is no bottom line, there is no truth, there is no justice, there are no facts," says William Howe, a professor of leadership studies at the University of Richmond.

He says the best way to approach the case is through hermeneutics -- the art or science of interpretation. Everything in the courtroom is like a literary text. You don't know it, you merely interpret it.

In an essay in the Journal of Leadership Studies Howe writes, "Even the so-called empirical evidence in the case -- the blood, the glove, the hair, etc. -- turns out to be something other than empirical; it may or may not be admissible, it may have been planted,' tests on it are subject to different experts' ' different interpretations, a ski cap' is a ski mask,' tests may be reliable or unreliable . . ." Meanwhile, the media have started interpreting their own interpretations of events -- "a kind of meta-interpretation which indicates how multi-layered the process of interpretation can get."

The Simpson case, Howe told me, "is profound. It really is profound."

There is a second jury in the Simpson case. It is the jury without walls. We are that jury. Which brings up an extremely complex matter:

4. The dissipation and recohesion of the mass audience A personal anecdote to illustrate media obsessiveness. One day during jury selection I chased Los Angeles Police Department Detective Mark Fuhrman, who the defense says is a racist, as he tried to flee the press in the Criminal Courts Building. Fuhrman and what may have been a couple of his lawyers tried to walk right out the front door, but the cameras spotted him and started converging. He went east along an elevated landing with a stone balcony but quickly saw that it ran into a dead end. He swung one leg over the balcony, to jump, but it was too far down, and perhaps he didn't want that to be the leading image on the nightly news. He ran back into the courthouse, to try to go out the south side exit -- but that too is always guarded by the cameras. The way the CCB is staked out, most of the cameras are at the front entrance, because that's the only way anyone can get into the building unless he is a prisoner like O.J. Simpson or someone with an office, in which case there's a basement garage entrance. But there are also cameras on duty at the back exit, just above the parking lot, in case Johnnie Cochran or Robert Shapiro or some other luminary decides to leave that way. So Fuhrman was trapped. Solution: He ducked into a stairwell. A minute passed. Then I peeked into the stairwell. He and his companions were still there. I waited. Suddenly he burst forth and dashed out the southeasternmost door and ran down some steps before I or the bored backdoor bad-assignment crews could react.

I never actually asked Fuhrman anything, because there was nothing really to ask -- it was just a lunge-and-grab situation. There's no Socratic dialogue in O.J. City. The game we play is more like tackle football.

How did the media mob get so out of control?

On the one hand, the case partly reflects the fact that a popular public figure, a hero no less, is accused of a particularly heinous crime. But celebrity aside, the case is also fascinating from a purely moral standpoint. O.J. is either a horribly wronged victim, a man falsely accused of murder, or he's a moral monster, someone who killed two people and seeks to get away with it by hiring good lawyers and claiming he was home practicing his golf swing.

Still, the trend in recent years toward greater and greater media saturation of big events does seem to be driven by some craving that goes beyond journalistic curiosity. There is a Super Bowl mentality surrounding major news stories. Even in a disaster, like the Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles or Hurricane Andrew in Miami, one senses that the tragedy is not just a subject for the press but its vehicle. The Simpson trial is particularly like the Super Bowl in that the contest itself is probably incapable of matching the hype. (Simpson, by the way, never got to play in the real Super Bowl.)

The Simpson trial would be a treasure trove for Marshall McLuhan were he still alive. Remember "the medium is the message"? Fortunately one can still turn to Nelson Thall, chief executive officer and president of the Marshall McLuhan Center on Global Communications, in San Francisco. Thall is the kind of man who speaks rapidly and enthusiastically without much prompting. Feed him a phrase -- "Simpson trial" -- and he's off to the races.

"Those people aren't sitting in a courtroom. They're sitting in a television studio," he says, McLuhanistically.

He was once the chief archivist of McLuhan, he says. I asked him what McLuhan would say about the Simpson trial if he were still around and Thall said, "He'd say pretty much what I'm saying."

The McLuhan/Thall interpretation is that corporate America lost its audience in the last 20 years due to fragmentation of the media. The major TV networks lost audience share. Society became compartmentalized. Shared experiences were fewer. The Simpson case offers the corporate world a chance to reconvene that audience.

"American business has lost the ability to get in touch easily and quickly with a large audience," Thall says. "This now is a mechanism by which corporate America has been able to get in touch with the audience again . . . O.J. Simpson has rescued the capitalist system." I told you this was deep stuff. Now consider:

5. The disturbing nexus of love and hate One day outside the courtroom a small group of demonstrators put on Nicole Brown Simpson masks and carried placards denouncing domestic violence. They chanted, "The Juice, the Juice, guilty of abuse!" The prosecution was actually saying something much worse upstairs. Murder is not just "abuse."

Perhaps the chanters were giving the defendant his presumption of innocence on the actual criminal charge. But another reason might have been that domestic violence is a terror we can grasp, while hacking people to death with a knife is something bewildering, unimaginable, too strange to do duty as an emblem of societal pathology.

The prosecution has said the case represents 17 years of abuse, culminating in murder. This gives the defense attorneys an opening for a powerful counterattack. They can show all those pictures of the Simpsons looking very much in love. Who wanted to get back together after the divorce? She did. She lobbied for it. Johnnie Cochran has lined up the nation's most famous domestic violence expert to testify that O.J. Simpson doesn't fit the profile of a batterer and stalker.

But maybe the real lesson is: You can never understand another couple. Think of all the times you have seen two people horribly mismatched, only to watch as they stay together, oddly content. What might look like crazy behavior to us is, to the couple, normal -- is, in fact, the very essence of being in love.

Robert Sternberg, the Yale professor, faxed me something he wrote called "Love Is a Story," from the journal the General Psychologist. He argues that every relationship is like a story written by both partners, a blend of fiction and fact. They buy into the story line. Sternberg writes, "Scientists never reach any absolute truth; we never reach absolute truth in our relationships either."

One common story is the "war" story. This is the couple who argue constantly. Their relationship is a war. It looks weird from the outside, but to them it's love.

Another couple might create a "cookbook" story. They'll read books on relationships and follow the recipes, step by step, for how to be in love.

Yet another couple might be living a "fairy tale" story, in which they idealize the partner as a prince or princess.

There are also "maladaptive" stories. These are ones that trap the couple, that are destructive over time. One of them is the "horror" story: a "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" relationship, filled with terror and violence.

Sternberg said he couldn't give a serious professional opinion about the Simpsons' relationship, but he did throw out some speculation. It might have been a "police" story, he said. The man is a vigilant monitor of the woman's behavior. He watches her. He follows her. He tries to control her. As Sternberg puts it, the man thinks, "I want to know where you are every minute and make sure you don't do anything bad."

And stories can get combined. You could have a police-horror combination.

"It sounds like, plausibly, they may have gotten into a maladaptive story," Sternberg says.

We can label a relationship, categorize it, but we can never understand it completely. Nor can we understand the mind of any given person. It is hard to even understand ourselves. Which brings up one final issue:

6. The myth of identity Before he fled in the Bronco that afternoon last June, O.J. wrote, "Please think of the real O.J. and not this lost person."

It was a moving plea. But who was the real O.J.?

We all knew a certain O.J. Simpson. The Juice. For many of us he was the greatest football player of his era. He was fabulously fun to watch. He was always a threat to go all the way. He wasn't one to pound it up the middle or to content himself with four yards and a cloud of dust. He ran away from people, not merely elusive but escapist. On a famous Monday night run he broke free, zigged and zagged through the secondary, saw himself hemmed in, and made a cutback move so precipitous, so completely counterinertial, that he had no choice but to slip to the turf, slide, and use the friction between his body and the ground to stop his great velocity, a maneuver whose Newtonian genius became apparent when he leapt back to his feet and ran off in the opposite direction, his hapless opponents still trapped in their previous trajectories.

Off the field he was similarly fabulous. He always had a smile for an admirer, an autograph for a little kid. He became the superstar in rent-a-car. He was a broadcaster, actor, all-purpose celebrity.

The prosecution says he is a wife-abuser who hid behind the image of a nice guy.

The defense says he was a genuinely decent man, generous with his family and his in-laws and children from his old neighborhood.

The prosecution says he was a scowling, sinister figure at the dance recital he attended on the afternoon of the murders. The defense presented a videotape that showed him laughing and joking at the same event.

The disturbing possibility is that all these things are true. Simpson, perhaps, was every bit the good guy and every bit the abuser that the two sides have alleged. Or perhaps the real O.J. is unknowable, even to himself.

Kenneth McClane, the W.E.B. DuBois professor of literature at Cornell University, talks about a home movie made by Eva Braun, Hitler's girlfriend.

"Adolf Hitler looked like Walter Cronkite," McClane says. "It would be nice if evil people looked evil. But they don't."

Human beings, says McClane, "remain largely conundrums. What we should see in O.J. Simpson or in anyone is human potentiality, human frailty, and the fact that there are reaches that any of us might confront."

He recalls a line by Zora Neale Hurston: Sometimes your best friend can turn into an alligator.

People have names. But to name a thing is not the same as knowing what it is. A human being is staggeringly complex. Each of us struggles to know himself or herself. There are people who spend much of their lives reading self-help books or going to psychiatrists or therapists in a desperate quest to understand why they think and behave the way they do, and to change it. Sometimes they fantasize about reinventing themselves, about becoming a new person, about someday springing upon the world "the new me."

Identity, it turns out, is a construction project. It's never finished. What's already there is forever Under Repair.

In one last attempt to sort this all out for you, I called Richard Rorty, a professor at the University of Virginia and probably the most famous philosopher in the United States. Rorty is a treasure, because as smart as he is, he's still willing to talk about anything, however lowbrow. He hasn't followed the Simpson case too closely, he said. He doesn't own a TV.

But on the big issue of identity he has a firm opinion: "I think Which is the real person?' is a really bad question. All of us are 3 or 4 or 16 people, because there are that many coherent stories you can tell about our lives."

When this trial is over we will remember the real O.J., and we will remember the lost O.J. And we'll struggle to understand how they could be the very same person.

Joel Achenbach is a reporter for The Post's Style section.

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