It has often been said that a trial is a search for truth. However, is there only one truth in a complex dispute? In 1995, former NFL star O.J. Simpson went on trial for the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. The criminal trial was broadcast on TV from the courtroom and captivated the nation’s interest. The “search for truth” was placed front and center in the American conscience. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz describes the scene in his article, Is a Criminal Trial a Search For Truth?:
A review of the trial transcript reveals that this phrase was used more than seventy times. The prosecutors claimed that they were searching for truth and that the defense was deliberately obscuring it. . . . The defense also claimed the mantle of truth and accused the prosecution of placing barriers in its path. And throughout the trial, the pundits observed that neither side was really interested in truth, only in winning. They were right – and wrong.
Simpson was acquitted of the criminal charges against him by the jury. The victims’ families also filed a civil lawsuit against Simpson for wrongful death of their loved ones. In the civil trial that took place immediately following the criminal trial, the jury found Simpson liable for the deaths. One incident, two trials, and two different “truths.”