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O.J. - Style Justice for Blake? - April 22, 2002

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

We can feel it coming. The media frenzy has started. The helicopters are hovering. And the networks are clearing the decks. Actor Robert Blake's arrest is taking on that miserably familiar O.J.-like quality.

Court TV has already indicated that it is going to pursue in-court coverage, if a trial of Blake takes place. Other networks are certain to follow.

Most people would agree that the O.J. Simpson case did some serious damage to the criminal justice system. Can our system withstand another protracted televised trial and the media circus that inevitably follows?

The media are not to be blamed for their pursuit of the story. After all, we have a well-known actor marrying a considerably younger female grifter who's pregnant. The wife turns up dead. The actor's arrested 11 months later. A surprise witness for the prosecution surfaces. And the death penalty is being whispered about.

The case had fallen off the news radar screen for a period of time, to make room for several other high-interest stories. But trial-mania is back with a vengeance.

Despite the feeling of commonality between the two, Blake's case differs from O.J.'s in a number of ways. Simpson was a higher-profile celebrity. He was in the public eye when the crime occurred. Blake was basically a retired actor at the time of his wife's murder. Aside from two minor made-for-TV movies, he had not had a significantly visible role for over 20 years.

The Simpson trial had sociological and political implications. Simpson was a prominent, successful African-American figure. His murdered ex-wife, members of the prosecution and many of the key witnesses against him were white. At present, Blake's case does not appear to include any racial elements.

During the Simpson trial, there was room within the sphere of world events to focus on every aspect of the case. Today, our nation is at war. Circumstances are at a critical juncture in the Middle East. Our own economy and culture have yet to fully recover from last year's catastrophe. A celebrity trial must take a back seat to the geopolitical reality of our time.

Still, everyone wants to know

Will Blake go forward with a trial or will he plea bargain?

Will he take advice from O.J. and keep quiet?

Will Earle Caldwell, the recently arrested bodyguard, testify against Blake?

What evidence is there in the Blake case after the lengthy police investigation?

We'll just have to stay tuned.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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