opinion

OJ Simpson, Oscar Pistorius, George Pell and the thread that ties them all together.

It’s estimated that 95 million people, more than 50 per cent of Americans, watched the verdict of the OJ Simpson trial on October 3, 1995.

The NFL player and actor was tried on two counts of murder, for the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.

The case received more coverage than the Bosnian War and the Oklahoma City bombing, combined. The story sat on the front page of the Los Angeles Times for more than 300 days after the murders took place, making it one of the most publicised events in US history.

Nineteen years later, another trial was broadcast around the world.

South African Oscar Pistorius, one of only ten athletes to ever compete in both the Paralympic Games and Olympics Games, was tried for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The 29-year-old was shot dead in Pistorius’ apartment on Valentine’s Day, 2013.

Pistorius’ trial was televised around the world, with a channel titled ‘The Oscar Pistorius Trial’, dedicated to coverage in South Africa.

It became the most successful pay-TV channel in South African history.

And then this week, Australia had Cardinal Pell.

The George Pell sentencing was broadcast live, across all networks. People stopped on the street to watch the footage streamed through their phones. Entire offices huddled around a television or computer screen. Cafes fell silent, as everyone turned to listen to what they knew would be a historic decision.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd spoke for 70 minutes about the considerations that went into sentencing the highest ranking Catholic in Australia, and the third highest in the world.

The news eclipsed every other story, and has dominated headlines since we learned of his conviction.

Video by Nine
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OJ Simpson. Oscar Pistorius. George Pell.

Once an NFL star.

Once an Olympian.

Once Pope Francis’ right hand man.

Three powerful men, all on trial.

Rich (Pell by his connection to the Vatican). Famous. Seemingly untouchable.

Three men who perhaps thought they floated above the system, horrified by the fact they were now answerable to it. Their trials offered some cultural reassurance; perhaps power doesn’t always guarantee you freedom.

We watched, mouths slightly agape, as three figures of uncontested authority were stripped of their medals and trophies and garments.

We were reminded that a man (or a woman) is not their title or a status, but a product of their actions.

The trials were like a glimpse into an alternate universe, where everything was suddenly upside down – a fall from grace we didn’t see coming.

The thread that ties all three cases together?

They were men who thought they ruled the world.

And perhaps we just wanted to watch the moment they realised they didn’t.

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