By Stephen Singer and Kera Ritter
WASHINGTON – Much of official Washington came to a halt Tuesday around midday, when a verdict of “not guilty” was being handed down in Los Angeles in the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
Former secretary of state James A. Baker III postponed giving a luncheon speech at the National Press Club, where he had been scheduled to talk about his four years in the Bush administration, the subject of his recently published memoir.
Club President Monroe Karmin said Baker called him at home Tuesday morning and questioned “whether it would be advisable to go ahead with the address, because the schedule called for me to introduce him at precisely 1 p.m., when the verdict was coming in from Los Angeles.”
Said Karmin, “All attention would be elsewhere.”
The speech was rescheduled for Oct. 11.
Esta Soler, the director of the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund, interrupted a luncheon honoring seven domestic violence programs to talk about the Simpson case.
Soler told the audience at a Northwest Washington hotel that the case had stirred particular interest among battered women. The trial became a “national teach-in on domestic violence,” Soler said.
“I think that it [domestic violence] was America’s dirty little secret. That’s changed,” she said.
Because of the replaying in court of a 911 call from Nicole Brown Simpson following an incident of domestic violence, “a lot of women are going to seek help and not keep it a secret,” Soler said.
Restaurants and shops near Pennsylvania Avenue’s Eastern Market were packed when the verdict came down, acquitting Simpson of the June 1994 murders of his wife and her 25-year-old friend, Ronald Goldman.
But the shops quickly emptied as government workers and residents resumed their schedules.
There were still a few people mesmerized by the television set at the Hawk ‘N’ Dove restaurant about an hour after the verdict, quietly discussing it and speculating about what happened the night of the murders.
“I believe O.J. is innocent but knows who did it,” said Wimberly Higgs, 38, a D.C. community organizer.
“I believe they were involved with the victim, and if they were not related, it was someone you would let in your home, like a police officer,” Higgs said.
Felicia Taylor, 29, a legal secretary at the Library of Congress, said she made it a point to station herself at 1 p.m. at BNW Sports, because she knew the athletic apparel shop had a television. She said she waited long enough to hear the verdict and some of the follow-up reports, then went back to work. Taylor said she was satisfied with the result. “They didn’t have substantial evidence,” she said of the prosecution. -30-