The killing this week of Nipsey Hussle, a rapper and advocate for the communities of South Los Angeles, sent a painful tremor throughout those neighborhoods and the music industry.
Now the man charged in his death, Eric Holder, is being represented by another Los Angeles figure: Christopher Darden, who became a household name when he helped prosecute — unsuccessfully — O.J. Simpson in 1995 for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman.
Here’s a look at Mr. Darden, the man who famously asked Mr. Simpson to try on the bloody glove.
What has Mr. Darden been doing since the Simpson trial?
After leaving the district attorney’s office, Mr. Darden worked as a law professor, and was a co-writer on several legal thrillers as well as “In Contempt,” a behind-the-scenes account of the Simpson case that The New York Times called “powerful and affecting.”
The Times’s review noted the personal consequences that Mr. Darden said he suffered as Mr. Simpson’s lead lawyer, Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., manipulated the issue of race during the trial: “The defense lawyer’s suggestion that Mr. Darden was a token black recruited by the prosecution team for the color of his skin led to accusations, on the street, that he was ‘an Uncle Tom, a sellout, a house Negro,’ Mr. Darden says. He writes that he received death threats and was spat upon, and that his family, too, was harassed.”
Mr. Darden also became a defense lawyer and worked as a commentator on legal cases for a number of television networks.
Is it common for prosecutors to become defense lawyers?
Yes. Many law school graduates favor starting their careers as prosecutors. It pays less than some of them could make in private practice, but it provides invaluable court experience early in their careers, while their more highly paid law school classmates who take private jobs spend their time on legal research and helping more seasoned lawyers prepare cases.
Prosecution work also teaches them the ins-and-outs of plea bargaining and negotiations between lawyers, which is how the overwhelming majority of criminal cases are resolved. So when they hang a shingle to become a defense lawyer, they can immediately draw on years of experience as prosecutors.
Many of the criminal defense lawyers in any county seat are typically former prosecutors, while the best private lawyers who handle white-collar litigation and other expensive specialties often were once federal prosecutors. (Earlier in his career, Mr. Cochran had been a prosecutor in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.)
Did he miscalculate by asking Mr. Simpson to try on the bloody glove?
It’s the most remembered moment of the Simpson trial, which prompted Mr. Cochran’s famous exhortation: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”Mr. Darden addressed the impact of that pivotal moment, and his decision to ask Mr. Simpson to try on the glove, during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session in 2017.
“Quite honestly, I did not appreciate at the time the impact that little ditty had on the jurors,” Mr. Darden wrote. “I thought it was a kids’ rhyme for idiots, to be honest, but it was effective.”
He added: “I take responsibility for the glove issues, so if there is any blame or fault to be assessed, it fell on me. And it should be assessed to me, because I’m the only one strong enough to carry that burden.”
He said he felt it was clear that Mr. Simpson did what he could to avoid making the glove fit. “I hoped the jury would recognize that, but they couldn’t see it, because they didn’t want to see it,” he said.
What has been the reaction to Mr. Darden representing Mr. Holder?
Some have been critical of Mr. Darden, 62, for taking on the defense of a man charged with killing a beloved figure in his community. But as Mr. Darden made plain in his book, he has endured such criticism before, including being called a traitor for helping to prosecute Mr. Simpson.
Yet many lawyers hold strongly to the concept that everyone is entitled to a defense. In fact, Mr. Darden has said that if he had been a criminal defense lawyer at the time, he would not have had a problem defending Mr. Simpson.Mr. Darden has said that, as a young man, he grew interested in becoming a lawyer from watching trials involving civil rights leaders.
“I knew how important the law was to the black community, and I admired those lawyers who took those cases, and I wanted to be one of them,” he said on Reddit.