There are some echoes between O.J. Simpson’s celebrated murder trial, which seemed to bring America to a standstill in 1995, and the widely covered proceedings that are underway on Monday at a courthouse in Minneapolis.
Defendants who have become household names. Court TV and numerous other media outlets broadcasting the cases live into homes across America.
But few expect anywhere near as much attention surrounding the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer facing charges in the killing of a Black man, George Floyd.
The reason has little to do with the legal issues at stake. Rather, celebrity was widely seen as the catalyst for the national fascination with the legal drama involving Mr. Simpson, a former football player and actor who was accused — and ultimately found not guilty — of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.
“This trial is an issue trial, a very important issue trial,” Laurie L. Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Loyola Law School, said of Mr. Chauvin’s trial. “People went to the streets over this case. But there’s not a celebrity defendant. There are not celebrity lawyers.”
It is, of course, too early to know whether this trial will have any of the dramatic courtroom moments of the Simpson case, such as when a bloody glove introduced as evidence did not appear to fit on Mr. Simpson’s hand and Johnnie Cochran, one of his lawyers, declared, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
In some ways, Ms. Levenson said, Mr. Chauvin’s trial is more similar to an earlier Los Angeles-area trial from the 1990s, that of the white officers who beat another Black motorist, Rodney King. But those proceedings were not televised. The verdict — not guilty for the officers — prompted residents of South Los Angeles to pour into the streets in anger in April 1992.
Ms. Levinson became a household name during the Simpson trial, sitting through months of testimony and providing analysis at night on CBS.
“I’ll be tuning in and out,” she said midway through the proceedings on Monday. “It was important for me to hear the opening statements, and nothing I heard surprised me. I don’t know that I’ll listen to every moment. I doubt I’ll be glued to my set.”