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Sun, Jun

Former OJ Simpson Prosecutor Darden Sets Sights on LA’s Judicial Bench!

POLITICS

CAMPAIGN 2024 - When one mentions the name Christopher Darden, one naturally thinks of his association with the trial of the century, the prosecution of former USC great & Heisman Trophy winner Orenthal James Simpson, the first 2,000 yard rusher with the Buffalo Bills who ended his career with the San Francisco Forty-Niner’s and would go on to become a color analyst on ABC’s Monday Night Football and actor who would appear in the popular Naked Gun film series. 

He was handsome, clean-cut and an iconic celebrity that transcended his playing days in the NFL as a Hall of Fame running back and Hertz pitch man. 

And then came June 17, 1994. 

It was one of the most watched and most notorious live events in United States TV history as O.J. Simpson's low-speed, LAPD pursuit two days after the brutal murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman saw the reconstruction of this superstar celebrity into an accused murderer and  high profile defendant in the most watched trial ever,  ending in a “not guilty” verdict that left most Americans stunned. 

Now some thirty years later, accomplished attorney, best-selling author and law professor Christopher Darden is a candidate for LA County Judge. 

For the candidate was gracious with his time as we spoke for over an hour talking about his past, the time since the trial and his judicial future as he rounds out and completes this circle of public service with a run for a seat on the bench. 

I tried to remove the 600lb gorilla in the conversation by speaking to this historical event first and getting his take on the trial some three decades later. 

Darden was insightful in retrospect believing that what was initially a negative, turned out to be a “net positive” for America and the justice system. 

Darden believes the impact on the issue of domestic violence and abuse was immeasurable, and the millions of women over the years who benefited on it being brought to light as the shame was cast aside for truth. 

In 1998 Darden received the Crystal Heart award from Loved Ones of Homicide Victims, an organization dedicated to aiding families that have suffered the loss of a loved one as a result of violence. 

In 2000 he was named “Humanitarian of the year” by Eli Horne, a shelter for abused women and children. 

While there is a dark cloud of regret in the trial’s outcome, the friends that were made and the overall struggle for change that occurred cannot be emphasized enough. 

While Darden is clearly not a politician, he was proud to see his candidacy receive the endorsement of victim’s right advocate Kim Goldman, former LA County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, and Faye Resnick, an author and friend of the murder victim, Nicole Brown Simpson. 

Darden also has picked up the endorsement of retired LA Judge Lance Ito, who presided over the controversial criminal trial. 

Darden described Ito as “a good man, you don’t meet many men like him.” 

Describing himself as an individual raised in the 1960’s, he stated he still “believes in the people.” 

“I don’t answer to politics. My debt is to my conscience, community and the law.”

What kind of character makes for a good judge was my next observation. 

“Patience, knowledge, a sense of community and people, honesty and following and interpreting the law. Execute and apply the law fairly and equitably regardless of race or religion,” offered the candidate. 

For Darden believes his time as a prosecutor, criminal attorney and law professor makes him uniquely qualified and suited to serve the people of Los Angeles once again. 

“While the system can seem to be flawed and dysfunctional, we must stay true to the Constitution and judges must follow the law.” 

I asked the candidate what effect did COVID-19 have on the system and no doubt a back log was created when the courts were eventually closed and in that time period he only managed about a dozen or so cases in his private practice. 

While Darden is etched in time as a young man, he now spends much of his days in the classroom as a law professor who is now entering his 44th year as a member of the bar.

Teaching at Santa Monica College twice a week, he offers a course in Crime Scene Investigations as he continues to touch another generation of potential lawyers and others pursuing a career in criminal justice. 

The candidate acknowledged that he’ll need to raise several hundred thousand dollars to be competitive in this race he intends to win. 

The term of office would be six years and if need be, he’ll donate to his own candidacy because he sees this race as part of an overall journey in his career in public service. 

I asked Darden what his impression was of a all-volunteer jury pool and he believed the process needed to be random, and did not want to see those participants coming from the same demographic or economic status of individuals. 

For Darden was philosophical on how the legal system impact’s the lives of ordinary people. 

“No matter how big or small, the impact on people’s lives that enter a courtroom is enormous, be it financially or otherwise. My goal is to treat all with dignity and respect. Victims must be heard. The rights of defendants honored.” 

And Darden believes the system is at a crossroads. 

“Do the people still believe in justice and do they receive justice,” questioned the judicial hopeful. 

“It will be a tremendous honor to be picked by the people.” 

I asked Darden to close the interview with three things he wanted voters to remember most about his candidacy. 

“My deft of experience in the system as both a litigant and prosecutor. My understanding of all aspects of the system, and my time as a teacher and practitioner of the law.” 

Darden spoke fondly of his father and told a story once of him taking a second job as a garbage man to make ends meet to provide for his family of which he was the fourth of eight siblings. 

“My Dad was a Korean War veteran who had a strong sense of family,” noted Darden who believes his father’s sense of service impacted his own decision to place the principle of service above himself. 

His extraordinary courtroom experience, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney coupled with his legal scholarship as a professor, instructor and author has brought citizen Christopher Darden to this place before the electorate as certainly a qualified candidate to wear the robe that defines our system of justice here in America today. 

To learn more about his candidacy, visit his website at www.christopherdardenforjudge.com

 

(Nick Antonicello is a thirty-year resident of Venice that covers the governmental agencies and elected officials that impact the neighborhood. He will be covering the races for LA Judge as well as District Attorney and can be reached at [email protected])

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