The OJ trial was weird. Although I don't have any of the specifics, I do know that DNA can't jump and that if you're innocent you don't go driving away in a white Bronco with the entire police force on your tail. Or maybe you do. But that's beside the point. I was not a juror and OJ was found innocent. Marcia Clark, though, was guilty - of making four key errors in her pitch to the jury.
Error #1: not listening to the audience
Clark had lots of experience with black female jurors - she had noticed that when it came to prosecuting violent offenders, it was these women who knew, more than any other, of the destructive effect of violence on society, and would want these offenders off the street. But something had happened to society. And that something was Rodney King.
Police brutality towards blacks was now on the radar. The issue of violence was no longer black and white. It was blue on black. Clark knew this when the trial started, but she, like so many of us, find comfort in using a strategy that has always worked. So, she proceeded with the strategy of putting violent offenders away - when the issue had changed to violent policemen.
Error #2: not recognising the real destination
Clark spent 23 weeks presenting evidence to prove that OJ Simpson killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Brown. “It was premeditated murder,” she said, “That is what I will prove.”
She could have done that on day one. Her real job was to return a guilty verdict. As we know, from the clear message of impending death on our cigarette boxes - knowing and acting are two very different things. We know smoking will kill us eventually. But we smoke. We are not ignorant - it's just that belief and action are two different things.
The OJ defense knew this, so all they had to do was make it uncomfortable for the jurors to return a guilty verdict - give them another, more comfortable action.
Error #3: lecturing
Clark did not leave out a single detail. That's a pity for two reasons. First, it reduces the audience to a passive spectator - they don't have to be engaged in anything - they're not involved. Secondly, your audience feels dumb. The jury preferred to vote against the person that appeared distant and made them feel stupid. Just as a client in a pitch would.
Error #4: boring the audience
Clark told the story of DNA. She described in excruciating detail how the Restriction Fragment Link Polymorphism Test done in lab 1 differed from lab 2. She even provided the impressive statistic that the blood on OJ's sock belonging to anyone other than his victim was one in 21 billion. Golly gee whiz.
The defense preferred to tell a story. One of lies, corruption, ineptitude and police bigotry. And then, of the glove that OJ showed was too small to get his hand in, Johnnie Cochran said: “If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.” And after deliberating for less than four hours, that's just what they did.
Reference: Jon Steel. Perfect Pitch. John Wiley & Sons.
Sid Peimer knows how to pitch. You can find all the evidence on his website at www.stratplanning.com. He is also the strategist at large for the full service agency BEHP in Cape Town, where he can often be found on payday.
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