Some Desert Mountain High School students started Tuesday with a somber lesson, when Fred Goldman spoke to their criminology class about his son’s slaying and the subsequent criminal trial of O.J. Simpson.
Goldman’s son, Ron, was slain along with Nicole Brown Simpson in Los Angeles in 1994. Simpson was acquitted in the slayings but later found
liable in a civil trial.
Goldman spoke about the loss of his son, as well as the injustices he sees in the court system. He fought back tears as he described the messages on his son’s answering machine after his death.
While it is painful to share memories, Goldman said his desire to encourage civic responsibility among students motivates him to speak.
"It’s important that they know what’s going on in the world, and that they hear from victims’ family members," said Goldman, who works for a department store at Scottsdale Fashion Square.
He told students to educate themselves about the court system and to embrace their future jury duties.
"Many people find a way to get out of jury duty. Don’t do that," Goldman told them. "Learn about these things so you won’t be confused or bowled over by some defense attorneys and their games."
Students asked Goldman questions about what has been called the "trial of the century," ranging from the role of attorneys to evidence and racism.
They learned the details in a criminology course, taught by social studies teacher David Mietzner. Desert Mountain is the only school in Scottsdale that offers criminology, but a handful of other high schools in the Chandler, Mesa and Tempe Unified school districts offer similar courses.
For the semester elective, students study Arizona statutes, criminal trial procedures, famous cases, serial killers and political assassinations.
Mietzner, who majored in criminal justice before becoming a teacher, also separates fact from fiction among youth who watch shows such as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Cold Case."
"Sometimes I have a lady from the Scottsdale police crime scene investigation, and she can tell them what it’s really like," he said. "You don’t solve crimes in 45 minutes and you don’t wear leather jackets and high heels around."
Shane Gibson, 16, said he has no interest in the entertainment crime shows, but he does like learning about real investigations.
"The class is all pretty interesting, especially learning about the trial procedures," he said.
He was just 6 or 7 during the Simpson trial, but he was eager to hear Goldman speak and even recorded the presentation with a tape recorder so he could listen to it again.