THIS IS A VERY LONG BLOG!.
The O. J. Simpson murder case (officially called the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson) was a criminal trial held in Los Angeles County, California Superior Court from January 29 to October 3, 1995. Former American football star and actor O. J. Simpson was tried on two counts of murder following the June, 1994 deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. The case has been described as the most publicized criminal trial in American history. Ultimately, Simpson was acquitted after a lengthy trial that lasted over nine months which was presided over by Judge Lance Ito.
Simpson hired a high-profile defense team initially led by Robert Shapiro and subsequently led by Johnnie Cochran. Los Angeles County believed it had a solid prosecution case, but Cochran was able to persuade the jurors that there was reasonable doubt about the DNA evidence (then a relatively new type of evidence in trials) – including that the blood-sample evidence had allegedly been mishandled by lab scientists and technicians – and about the circumstances surrounding other exhibits. Cochran and the defense team also alleged other misconduct by the Los Angeles Police Department. Simpson’s celebrity and the lengthy televised trial riveted national attention on the so-called “Trial of the Century”. By the end of the criminal trial, national surveys showed dramatic differences between most blacks and most whites in terms of their assessment of Simpson’s guilt.
Later, both the Brown and Goldman families sued Simpson for damages in a civil trial. On February 6, 1997, a jury unanimously found there was a preponderance of evidence to hold Simpson liable for damages in the wrongful death of Goldman and battery of Brown. On February 21, 2008, a Los Angeles court upheld a renewal of the civil judgment against him.
At 12:00 am on June 13, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were found murdered outside Brown’s Bundy Drive condo in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Her two children, Sydney (age 8) and Justin (age 5), were asleep inside in an upstairs bedroom. O. J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson had divorced two years earlier. Evidence found and collected at the scene led police to suspect that O. J. Simpson was the murderer. Nicole had been stabbed multiple times in the head and neck with defense wounds on her hands. The wound through her neck was gaping, through which the larynx could be seen and vertebrae C3 was also incised.
The Bronco Chase
Lawyers convinced the LAPD to allow Simpson to turn himself in at 11 am on June 17, 1994 even though the double murder charge meant no bail and a possible death penalty verdict if convicted. Over 1,000 reporters waited for Simpson at the police station, but he failed to appear. At 2 pm, the Los Angeles Police Department issued an all-points bulletin. At 5 pm Robert Kardashian, a Simpson friend and one of his defense lawyers, read a rambling letter by Simpson to the media. In the letter Simpson sent greetings to 24 friends and wrote, “First everyone understand I have nothing to do with Nicole’s murder … Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve had a great life.” To many, this sounded like a suicide note, and the reporters joined the search for Simpson. According to Simpson lawyer Robert Shapiro, also present at Kardashian’s press conference, Simpson’s psychiatrists agreed with the suicide note interpretation; on television the attorney appealed to Simpson to surrender.
The police tracked calls placed on the cellular telephone from Simpson’s van in Orange County. At 6:45 pm, a police officer saw Simpson’s white Ford Bronco driven by his friend Al Cowlings, going north on Interstate 405. When the officer approached the Bronco, Cowlings, who was driving, yelled that Simpson had a gun to his own head. The officer backed off but followed the vehicle with Simpson at 35 miles per hour (56 km/h), with up to 20 police cars participating in the chase.
For some time a Los Angeles News Service helicopter piloted by Bob Tur, and contracted by KCBS had exclusive coverage, but over 20 helicopters joined the chase; the high degree of media participation caused camera signals to appear on incorrect television channels. Radio station KNX also provided live coverage of the slow-speed pursuit. USC sports announcer Pete Arbogast and station producer Oran Sampson contacted former USC coach John McKay to go on the air and encourage Simpson to end the pursuit. McKay agreed and asked Simpson to pull over and turn himself in instead of committing suicide. He responded to the pleas from McKay and other friends by stating that he was “just gonna go with Nicole”. Simpson’s friend Al Michaels interpreted his actions as an admission of guilt.
All Big Three television networks and CNN as well as local news outlets interrupted regular programming, with 95 million viewers nationwide. While NBC continued coverage of Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets, the game appeared in a small box in the corner while Tom Brokaw as anchorman covered the chase. The chase was covered live by ABC News anchors Peter Jennings and Barbara Walters on behalf of ABC’s five news magazines, which achieved some of their highest-ever ratings that week.
Thousands of spectators and on-lookers packed overpasses along the procession’s journey waiting for the white Bronco. In a festival-like atmosphere, some had signs urging Simpson to flee. They and the millions watching the chase on television felt part of a “common emotional experience”, as they wondered if O. J. Simpson would commit suicide, be arrested, or engage in some kind of violent confrontation. Whatever might ensue, the shared adventure gave millions of viewers a vested interest, a sense of participation, a feeling of being on the inside of a national drama in the making.
Simpson reportedly demanded that he be allowed to speak to his mother before he would surrender. The chase ended at 8:00 pm at his Brentwood home, 50 miles (80 km) later, where his son Jason ran out of the house to greet him. After remaining in the Bronco for about 45 minutes, Simpson was allowed to go inside for about an hour; a police spokesman stated that he spoke to his mother and drank a glass of orange juice, resulting in laughter from the reporters. Shapiro arrived and a few minutes later, Simpson surrendered to authorities. In the Bronco the police found “$8,000 in cash, a change of clothing, a loaded .357 Magnum, a passport, family pictures, and a fake goatee and mustache.”
Arrest and Trial
On June 20, Simpson was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to both murders. The following day, a grand jury was called to determine whether to indict him for the two murders. Two days later, on June 23, the grand jury was dismissed as a result of excessive media coverage, which might influence the grand jury’s neutrality. Jill Shively, a Brentwood resident who testified that she saw Simpson speeding away from the area of Nicole’s house on the night of the murders, testified to the grand jury that the Bronco almost collided with a Nissan at the intersection of Bundy and San Vicente Boulevard. Another grand jury witness, Jose Camacho, was a knife salesman at Ross Cutlery who claimed to have sold Simpson a 15-inch (380 mm) German-made knife similar to the murder weapon three weeks before the murders. Shively and Camacho were not presented by the prosecution at the criminal trial after they sold their stories to the tabloid press. Shively had talked to television show Hard Copy for $5,000, and Camacho sold his story to the National Enquirer for $12,500.
After a week-long court hearing, California Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell ruled on July 7 that there was sufficient evidence to bring Simpson to trial for the murders. At his second court arraignment on July 29, when asked how he pled to the murders, Simpson, breaking a courtroom practice that says the accused may plead only simple words of “guilty” or “not guilty,” firmly stated: “Absolutely, one hundred percent, not guilty.”
Following the preliminary hearing, the case was moved from Santa Monica to the Criminal Courts Building in Downtown Los Angeles. The decision, commonly attributed to the District Attorney, was actually the decision of the Los Angeles Superior Court, which cited damage to the Santa Monica Courthouse from the 1994 Northridge earthquake and security concerns for moving the trial downtown. The decision would prove critical because a jury pool selected Downtown would have more Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and blue-collar workers than a jury pool from Santa Monica.
Leading the murder investigation was veteran LAPD detective Tom Lange. In 1995, the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson took place through 134 days of televised testimony. The prosecution elected not to ask for the death penalty, and instead it sought a life in prison sentence. The TV exposure made celebrities of many of the figures in the trial, including Judge Lance Ito.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark, a 40-year-old Deputy District Attorney, was designated as the lead prosecutor, which was to be her twenty-first murder trial during her 13 years with the D.A.’s office. Deputy District Attorney Christopher A. Darden, an African-American prosecutor widely experienced in murder trials, became Clark’s co-counsel.
Since Simpson wanted a speedy trial, the defense and prosecuting attorneys worked around the clock for several months to prepare their case. In October 1994, Judge Ito started interviewing 304 prospective jurors, each of whom had to fill out a 75-page questionnaire. On November 3, 12 jurors were seated with 12 alternates.
Covered and televised by Court TV, and in part by other cable and network news outlets, the trial began on January 25, 1995. Los Angeles County prosecutor Christopher Darden argued that Simpson killed his ex-wife in a jealous rage. The prosecution opened its case by playing a 9-1-1 call that Nicole Brown Simpson had made on January 1, 1989. She expressed fear that Simpson would physically harm her, and he could be heard yelling at her in the background. The prosecution also presented dozens of expert witnesses, on subjects ranging from DNA fingerprinting to blood and shoeprint analysis, to place Simpson at the scene of the crime.
The prosecution spent the opening weeks of the trial presenting evidence that Simpson had a history of physically abusing Nicole. Simpson’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz argued that only a tiny fraction of women who are abused by their mates are murdered.
Within days after the start of the trial, lawyers and persons viewing the trial from a single closed-circuited TV camera in the courtroom saw an emerging pattern: Continual and countless interruptions with objections from both sides of the courtroom, as well as one “sidebar” conference after another with the judge beyond earshot of the unseen jury located just below and out of the camera’s frame.
Simpson had hired a team of high-profile lawyers, including F. Lee Bailey, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, Robert Kardashian, Gerald Uelmen (the dean of law at Santa Clara University), Carl E. Douglas and Johnnie Cochran. Attorneys specializing in DNA evidence, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, were hired to attempt to discredit the prosecution’s DNA evidence, and they argued that Simpson was the victim of police fraud and what they termed as sloppy internal procedures that contaminated the DNA evidence.
Simpson’s defense was said to cost between US$3 million and $6 million. Simpson’s defense team, dubbed the “Dream Team” by reporters, argued that LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman had planted evidence at the crime scene. LAPD Criminalist Dennis Fung also faced heavy scrutiny. In all, 150 witnesses gave testimony during the trial.
Even with no murder weapon, no good fingerprints, and no witnesses to the murders, the prosecution presented a very strong case. Supported by DNA evidence, they fully expected a conviction. From the physical evidence collected, the prosecution speculated that Simpson drove over to Nicole Brown’s house on the evening of June 12 with the intention of killing her. They speculated that Nicole, after putting her two children to bed and while getting ready to go to bed herself, opened the front door of her house after either responding to a knock on the front door or after hearing a noise outside, where Simpson grabbed her before she could scream and attacked her with a knife. Forensic evidence from the Los Angeles County coroner suggested that Ron Goldman arrived at the front gate to the townhouse sometime during the assault where the assailant apparently attacked him and stabbed him repeatedly in the neck and chest with one hand while restraining him with an arm choke-hold. According to the prosecution’s account, as Nicole Brown was found lying face down, the assailant, after finished with Goldman, pulled her head back using her hair, put his foot on her back, and slit her throat with the knife, severing her carotid artery. They then argued that Simpson left a “trail of blood” from the condo to the alley behind it; there was also testimony that three drops of Simpson’s blood were found on the driveway near the gate to his house on Rockingham Drive.
According to the prosecution, Simpson was last seen in public at 9:36 pm that evening when he returned to the front gate of his house with Brian ‘Kato’ Kaelin, a bit-part actor and family friend who lived with Nicole until he was given the use of a guest house on Simpson’s estate. Simpson was not seen again until 10:54 pm, an hour and 18 minutes later, when he came out of the front door of his house to a waiting limousine hired to take him to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to fly to a Hertz convention in Chicago. Both the defense and prosecution agreed that the murders took place between 10:15 and 10:40 pm, with the prosecution saying that Simpson drove his white Bronco the five minutes to and from the murder scene. They presented a witness in the area of Bundy Drive who saw a car similar to Simpson’s Bronco speeding away from the area at 10:35 pm
According to his testimony, limousine driver Allan Park arrived at Simpson’s estate at 10:25 pm Driving past the Rockingham gate, he did not see Simpson’s white Bronco parked at the curb. Park testified that he had been looking for and had seen the house number, and the prosecution presented exhibits to show that the position in which the Bronco was found the next morning was right next to the house number (implying that Park would surely have noticed the Bronco if it had been there at that time). According to Simpson’s version of events, the Bronco had been parked in that position for several hours. Meanwhile, Kato Kaelin was on the phone to his friend, Rachel Ferrara. Park parked opposite the Ashford gate, then drove back to the Rockingham gate to check which driveway would have the best access for the limo. Deciding that the Rockingham entrance was too tight, he returned to the Ashford gate and began to buzz the intercom at 10:40, getting no response. After looking though the gate and seeing the house dark with no lights on, save for a dim light coming from one of the second floor windows, which was Simpson’s bedroom, Park then made a series of phone calls from his cellular to his boss’s (Dale St. John) pager and then to his home, trying to get St. John’s home number from his mother to try to get the phone number for Simpson’s house. At approximately 10:50, Kato Kaelin (who was still on the phone to Rachel Ferrara) heard three thumps against the outside wall of his guest house. Kaelin hung up the phone and ventured outside to investigate but decided not to venture directly down the dark south pathway where the thumps came from. Instead, he walked to the front of the property where he saw Allan Park’s limousine outside the Ashford gate.
At the same time Park saw Kaelin come from the back of the property to the front, Park testified that he saw “a tall black man” of Simpson’s height and build enter the front door of the house from the driveway area, after which lights went on and Simpson finally answered Park’s call, explaining that he had overslept and would be at the front gate soon. Kaelin opened the front gate to let Park onto the estate grounds, and Simpson came out of his house through the front door a few minutes later. Both Kaelin and Park helped Simpson put his belongings (which were already outside the front door when Park drove up to the front of Simpson’s house) in the trunk of the limo for the ride to the airport. Both Kaelin and Park remarked in their testimony that Simpson looked agitated. But other witnesses, such as the ticket clerk at Los Angeles International Airport who checked Simpson onto the plane and a few others, including a flight attendant who was also called to testify, said that Simpson looked and acted perfectly normal. Conflicting testimony such as this was to be a recurring theme throughout the trial.
Simpson’s initial claim that he was asleep at the time of the murders was replaced by a series of different stories. According to the defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran, Simpson had never left his house that night and that he was alone in his house packing to travel to Chicago. Cochran claims that Simpson went outside through the back door to hit a few golf balls into the children’s sandbox in the front garden, one or more of which made the three loud thumps on the wall of Kaelin’s bungalow. Cochran produced a potential alibi witness, Rosa Lopez, a neighbor’s Spanish-speaking housekeeper who testified that she had seen Simpson’s car parked outside his house at the time of the murders. But Lopez’s testimony, which was not presented to the jury, was pulled apart under intense cross-examination by Marcia Clark, when Ms. Lopez was forced to admit that she could not be sure of the precise time she saw Simpson’s white Bronco outside his house. Ms. Lopez was interviewed in English, without an interpreter present.
Later, the defense tried to claim that Simpson could not be physically capable of carrying out the murders, for Ronald Goldman was a fit young man who put up a fierce struggle against his assailant. O.J. Simpson was a 46-year-old former football player with chronic arthritis, which had left him with scars on his knees from old football injuries. But Marcia Clark produced into evidence an exercise video that Simpson made two years earlier which showed that, despite some physical conditions, Simpson was anything but frail.
The prosecution also called Nicole’s sister, Denise, to the witness stand where she tearfully testified that on many occasions in the 1980s, she witnessed Simpson pick up his wife and hurl her against a wall, then physically throw her out of their house after an argument. Her testimony was punctuated by a barrage of defense objections and sidebar conferences with the judge.
Then the prosecution turned to the events of the evening of June 12, 1994, where Karen Lee Crawford, who was the manager of the Mezzaluna restaurant where Nicole ate that Sunday night, was called to testify where she recounted that Mrs. Simpson’s mother phoned the restaurant at 9:37 pm about her daughter’s lost eyeglasses, and how Ms. Crawford found them, put them in a white envelope, and how waiter Ron Goldman departed from the restaurant after his shift was over to drop them off at Nicole’s house at 9:50 pm. Nicole’s neighbor, Pablo Fenives, testified about hearing a “very distinctive barking” and “plaintive wail” of a dog at around 10 to 15 minutes after 10 pm while he was at home watching the 10 o’clock news on his TV set. Eva Stein, another neighbor, testified about a very loud and persistent barking sound also at around 10:15 pm that kept her from going back to sleep. Neighbor Steven Schwab testified that while he was walking his dog in the area near Nicole’s house at around 10:30 pm, he noticed a wandering and agitated Akita dog trailing its leash with bloody paws, which after examining, found the dog uninjured. Schwab told about taking the dog to another neighbor friend of his, Sukru Boztepe, who testified that he took the Akita dog into his home where the dog became more agitated. Boztepe took the dog for a walk at approximately 11:00 pm and testified that the dog tugged on its leash and led him to Nicole’s house. There he discovered Nicole Simpson’s dead body. Minutes later, Boztepe flagged down a passing patrol car.
The police officer, Robert Riske, was the first officer at the crime scene. He testified that he found a woman in a black dress, barefoot, and lying face down in a puddle of blood on the walkway that led to the front door of her house. Then he saw Goldman’s body lying on its side beside a tree a short distance away off the walkway. Riske also described seeing a white envelope, which was later proven to contain Nicole’s glasses that had been left at the restaurant. He also saw Goldman’s beeper, a black leather glove, and a dark blue knit ski cap on the ground near the bodies.
On Sunday, February 12, 1995, a long motorcade traveled into Brentwood where the judge, jurors, prosecutors, and defense lawyers made a two-hour inspection of the crime scene, and then a three-hour tour of O.J. Simpson’s Rockingham estate. Simpson, under guard by several officers but not wearing handcuffs, waited outside the crime scene in an unmarked police car, but was permitted to enter his Rockingham house.
Detective Ron Phillips testified that when he called Simpson in Chicago to tell him of his ex-wife’s murder that Simpson sounded shocked and upset, but was oddly unconcerned about how she died. Detective Tom Lange testified that Nicole was probably killed first because the bottoms of her bare feet were clean, implying that she was struck before any blood flowed. This was a key point that Simpson might have set out to kill Nicole; whereas Goldman inadvertently stumbled upon the scene and prompted Simpson to kill him too. In cross-examining Detective Lange, Cochran proposed two hypotheses for what happened at the murder scene. First, he suggested that one, or more, drug dealers encountered Nicole Simpson while looking for her friend and house guest, Faye Resnick, an admitted cocaine abuser. In the second hypothesis, Cochran suggested that “an assassin, or assassins,” followed Goldman to the South Bundy house to kill him.
Samples from bloody footprints leading away from the bodies and from the back gate of the condominium were tested for DNA matches. Initial polymerase chain reaction testing did not rule out Simpson as a suspect. In more precise restriction fragment length polymorphism tests matches were found between Simpson’s blood and blood samples taken from the crime scene (both the footprints and the gate samples).
Police criminalist Dennis Fung testified that this DNA evidence put Simpson at Nicole Brown’s townhouse at the time of the murders. But in cross-examination by Barry Scheck, which lasted eight full days, most of the DNA evidence was questioned. Dr. Robin Cotton, of Cellmark Diagnostics, testified for six days. Blood evidence had been tested at two separate laboratories, each conducting different tests.
Despite that safeguard, it emerged during the cross-examination of Fung and the other laboratory scientists that the police scientist Andrea Mazzola (who collected blood samples from Simpson to compare with evidence from the crime scene) was a trainee who carried the vial of Simpson’s blood around in her lab coat pocket for nearly a day before handing it over as an exhibit. While two errors had been found in the history of DNA testing at Cellmark, one of the testing laboratories, in 1988 and 1989, the errors were found during quality control tests and had not occurred since. In the 1988 test, one of the companies hired for DNA consulting by Simpson’s defense also made the same error. What should have been the prosecution’s strong point became their weak link amid accusations that bungling police technicians handled the blood samples with such a degree of incompetence as to render the delivery of accurate and reliable DNA results almost impossible. The prosecution argued that they had made the DNA evidence available to the defense for its own testing, and if the defense attorneys disagreed with the prosecution’s tests they could have conducted their own testing on the same samples. The defense had chosen not to accept the prosecution’s offer.
On May 16, Gary Sims, a California Department of Justice criminalist who helped establish the Department of Justice’s DNA laboratory, testified that a glove found at Simpson’s house tested positive for a match of Goldman’s blood.
In 1983, LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman was interviewed by Dr. Ira Brent in relation to a disability claim for work-related stress. Mark Fuhrman confided to Brent that he beat up suspects, and that he blacked out and became a wild man. In 1984, Fuhrman stopped a young black man named Jarvis Bowers for jaywalking, put him in a choke hold and threatened his life. This happened in front of a movie theater in a predominately white area with several witnesses. This incident cost Fuhrman a day’s pay.
In March 1995, Fuhrman testified to driving over to Simpson’s house to question him on the night of the two murders and, after getting no response after buzzing the intercom of the house which was empty, scaled one of the walls and found blood marks on the driveway of Simpson’s home, as well as a black leather glove on the premises near the location of Kailen’s bungalow, which had blood of both murder victims on it as well as Simpson’s. Despite an aggressive cross-examination by F. Lee Bailey, Fuhrman denied on the stand that he was racist or had used the word “nigger” to describe black people in the 10 years prior to his testimony. But a few months later, the defense played audio tapes of Fuhrman repeatedly using the word – 41 times, in total. The tape had been made in 1986 by a young North Carolina screenwriter named Laura McKinny. She had interviewed Fuhrman for a screenplay she was developing on police officers. The Fuhrman tapes became one of the cornerstones of the defense’s case that Fuhrman’s testimony lacked credibility.
In September, Fuhrman was called back to the witness stand by the defense to answer more questions about the discovery of the blood marks and leather glove that he supposedly found on Simpson’s property hours after the murders took place. When questioned by Simpson attorney Gerald Uelmen, Fuhrman, with his lawyer standing by his side, pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination to avoid further questioning after his integrity was challenged at this point.
The prosecution told the jury in closing arguments that Fuhrman was indeed a racist, but that this should not detract from the evidence showing Simpson’s guilt. Fuhrman’s testimony resulted in his indictment on one count of perjury, to which he later pled no contest.
One dark leather glove was found at the crime scene, its match found near Kato Kaelin’s guest house behind Simpson’s Rockingham Drive estate. Kaelin testified that he had heard “thumps in the night” in the same area around the guest house the night of the murder. Brown had bought Simpson two pairs of this type of glove in 1990. Both gloves, according to the prosecution, contained DNA evidence from Simpson, Brown and Goldman, with the glove at Simpson’s house also containing a long strand of blonde hair similar to Brown’s.
On June 15, 1995, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran goaded assistant prosecutor Christopher Darden into asking Simpson to put on the leather glove that was found at the scene of the crime. The prosecution had earlier decided against asking Simpson to try on the gloves because the glove had been soaked in blood (according to prosecutors) from Simpson, Brown and Goldman, and frozen and unfrozen several times. Darden was advised by Clark and other prosecutors not to ask Simpson to try on the glove, but to argue through experts that in better condition, the glove would fit. Instead, Darden decided to have Simpson try on the glove.
The leather glove seemed too tight for Simpson to put on easily, especially over the latex gloves he wore underneath. Uelmen came up with and Cochran repeated a quip he had used several times in relation to other points in his closing arguments, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” On June 22, 1995, assistant prosecutor Christopher Darden told Judge Lance Ito of his concerns that Simpson “has arthritis and we looked at the medication he takes and some of it is anti-inflammatory and we are told he has not taken the stuff for a day and it caused swelling in the joints and inflammation in his hands.” The prosecution also stated their belief that the glove shrank from having been soaked in blood and later testing. A photo was presented during the trial showing Simpson wearing the same type of glove that was found at the crime scene.
Prosecutors contended that the presence of O. J. Simpson’s blood at the crime scene was the result of blood dripping from cuts on the middle finger of his left hand. Police noted his wounds on June 13, 1994, and asserted that these were suffered during the fatal attack on Ronald Goldman. However, the defense noted that none of the gloves found had any cuts. Plus, both prosecution and defense witnesses testified to not seeing any cuts or wounds of any kind on Simpson’s hands in the hours after the murders took place. The defense also alleged that Fuhrman may have planted the glove at Simpson’s house after taking it from the crime scene, and that the analysis finding that the hair could be Brown’s could not be reliable. The prosecution contended that this was not the case, pointing out that by the time Fuhrman had arrived at the Simpson home after leaving the Nicole Brown’s home, the crime scene had already been combed over by several officers for almost two hours, and none had noticed a second glove at the scene. In his first round of testimony, Fuhrman answered “no” when asked by F. Lee Bailey if he had planted any evidence at Simpson’s house. In his second round of testimony, Fuhrman took the Fifth Amendment when asked the same question.] Racial Differences
In closing arguments, Darden ridiculed the notion that police officers might have wanted to frame Simpson. He questioned why, if the LAPD was against Simpson, they went to his house eight times on domestic violence calls without arresting him before eventually citing him for abuse in 1989, and why they then waited five days to arrest him for the 1994 murders.
Cochran’s jury summation compared Fuhrman—proven to have repeatedly referred to African-Americans as “niggers” and to have boasted of beating young African-Americans in his role as a police officer—to Adolf Hitler, a technique which was later criticized by Robert Shapiro and by at least one juror, as well as Ron Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman. Cochran called Fuhrman “a genocidal racist, a perjurer, America’s worst nightmare and the personification of evil.” Fuhrman later pleaded Nolo contendere to felony charges of perjury, arising from his testimony in Simpson’s trial.
Fears grew that race riots would erupt all over Los Angeles and the rest of the country if Simpson were convicted of the murders, similar to the 1992 riots following the acquittal of four police officers for beating black motorist Rodney King three years earlier. As a result, all L.A. police officers were put on 12-hour shifts, and a line of over 100 police officers on horseback surrounded the L.A. county courthouse on the day of the verdict, in case of rioting by the crowd.
At 10 am on October 3, 1995, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. It had arrived at the verdict by 3 pm the previous day, after only four hours of deliberation, but Judge Ito postponed the announcement.
The prosecution used several tactics to show Simpson’s culpability.
DNA analysis of blood found on a pair of Simpson’s socks found in his bedroom identified it as Nicole Brown’s. The blood had DNA characteristics matched by approximately only one in 9.7 billion, with odds rising to one out of 21 billion when compiling results of testing done at the two separate DNA laboratories. Both socks had about 20 stains of blood.
DNA analysis of the blood found in, on, and near Simpson’s Bronco revealed traces of Simpson’s, Brown’s, and Goldman’s blood.
DNA analysis of bloody socks found in Simpson’s bedroom proved this was Brown’s blood. The blood made a similar pattern on both sides of the socks. Defense medical expert Dr. Henry Lee of the Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Laboratory testified that the only way such a pattern could appear was if Simpson had a “hole” in his ankle, or a drop of blood was placed on the sock while it was not being worn. Lee testified the collection procedure of the socks could have caused contamination.
African-American hair was found on Goldman’s shirt.
Several coins were found along with fresh blood drops behind Nicole’s condo, in the area where the cars were parked.
DNA analysis of blood on the left-hand glove, found outside Brown’s home, was proven to be a mixture of Simpson’s, Brown’s, and Goldman’s. Although the glove was soaked in blood, there were no blood drops leading up to, or away from the glove. No other blood was found in the area of the glove except on the glove.
The gloves contained particles of hair consistent with Goldman’s hair and a cap contained carpet fibers consistent with fibers from Simpson’s Bronco. A knit cap at the crime scene contained African-American hair. Dark blue cotton fibers were found on Goldman, and the prosecution presented a witness who said Simpson wore a similarly-colored sweat suit that night.
The left-hand glove found at Nicole Brown’s home and the right-hand glove found at Simpson’s home proved to be a match.
The LA County District Attorney’s Office and the Medical Examiner’s Office could not explain why 1.5 cm³ of blood were missing from the original 8 cm³ taken from Simpson and placed into evidence.
Officers found arrest records indicating that Simpson was charged with the beating of his wife Nicole Brown. Photos of Brown’s bruised and battered face from that attack were shown.
Much of the incriminating evidence: bloody glove, bloody socks, blood in and on the Bronco, was discovered by Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman. He was later charged with perjury for falsely claiming during the trial that he had not used the word “nigger” within ten years of the trial. During the trial he pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination to avoid further questioning after his integrity was challenged on this point.
The bloody footprints were identified by FBI shoe expert William Bodziak as having been made by a pair of extremely rare Bruno Magli shoes, of which it has been reported that only 299 pairs were sold in the US. The large size 12 (305 mm) prints matched Simpson’s shoe size. In the criminal trial, Simpson defense attorneys had said the prosecution had no proof Simpson had ever bought such shoes, however then free-lance photographer E.J. Flammer claimed to have found a photograph he had taken of Simpson in 1993 that appeared to show him wearing a pair of the shoes at a public event, which was later published in the National Enquirer. Simpson’s defense team claimed the photograph was doctored, although other pre-1994 photos appearing to show Simpson wearing Bruno Magli shoes were since discovered and published.
Evidence collected by LAPD criminalist Dennis Fung came under criticism. He admitted to “having missed a few drops of blood on a fence near the bodies,” but on the stand he said that he “returned several weeks afterwards to collect them.”
Fung admitted that he had not used rubber gloves when collecting some of the evidence.
LA Police Detective Phillip Vanatter testified that he saw photographs of press personnel leaning on Simpson’s Bronco before evidence was collected.
Evidence Not Presented At Trial
Ross Cutlery provided store receipts indicating that Simpson had purchased a 12-inch (300 mm) stiletto knife six weeks before the murders. The knife was determined to be similar to the one the coroner said caused the stab wounds. The prosecution did not present this evidence at trial after discovering that store employees had sold their story to The National Enquirer for $12,500. The knife was later collected from Simpson’s residence by a court-appointed special master, who took control of the knife. It turned out not to be the murder weapon because prosecution tests on the knife determined that an oil used on new cutlery was still present on the knife, thus, the knife had never been used.
Jill Shively saw a white Ford Bronco speeding away from Bundy Drive, in such a hurry that it almost collided with another car at an intersection. She talked to the television show Hard Copy for $5,000, after which prosecutors declined to use her testimony at trial.
A women’s shelter, Sojourn, received a call from Nicole Brown four days prior to the murders saying that she was scared of her ex-husband, who she felt was stalking her. The prosecution thought that Judge Ito would rule the evidence to be hearsay. In addition, friends and family indicated that Nicole Brown had consistently said that Simpson had been stalking her. She claimed that everywhere she went, she noticed Simpson would be there, watching her. Her friends Faye Resnick and Cynthia Shahian said she was afraid because Simpson had told her he would kill her if he ever found her with another man
Former NFL player and pastor Rosey Grier visited Simpson at the Los Angeles County Jail in the days following the murders. A jailhouse guard, Jeff Stuart, testified to Judge Ito that at one point Simpson yelled that he didn’t mean to do it, after which Grier had urged him to come clean. Ito ruled that the evidence was hearsay and could not be allowed in court
The murders and trial—”the biggest story I have ever seen”, said one television news producer—received extensive media coverage from the very beginning; at least one nonfiction “instant book” was proposed two hours after the bodies were found, and was published only a few weeks later. The Los Angeles Times alone covered the case on its front page for more than 300 days after the murders, and the Big Three networks’ nightly news broadcasts gave more air time to the case than to the Bosnian War and the Oklahoma City bombing combined. The media outlets served an enthusiastic audience; one company put the loss of national productivity from employees following the case instead of working at $40 billion, and an estimated 100 million people worldwide stopped what they were doing to watch or listen to the verdict announcement. Simpson—who, besides his acting career, had worked as a sports reporter for both NBC and ABC—had many friends and relationships in the media world, causing most networks to be reluctant to air a television movie dramatization of the case. Fox was an exception, airing one in 1995, and CBS followed several years later.
The media coverage was itself at times controversial; the issue of whether or not to allow any video cameras into the courtroom was among the first issues Judge Ito had to decide, ultimately ruling that live camera coverage was warranted. Ito would be later criticized for this decision by other legal professionals, and Ito himself, along with others related to the case (Marcia Clark, Mark Fuhrman, Kato Kaelin) were said to have been influenced to some degree by the media presence, and the publicity that came with it. The trial was covered in 2,237 news segments from 1994 through 1997.
Time Magazine Cover
On June 27, 1994, Time published a cover story “An American Tragedy” with a mugshot image of O. J. Simpson on the cover.[ The image was darker than a typical magazine image, and the Time photo was darker than the original, as shown on a Newsweek cover released at the same time. Time itself then became the object of a media scandal, and it was found it had employed photo manipulation to darken the photo, for the purpose of, as commentators have claimed, making Simpson appear more “menacing.” The publication of the cover photo drew widespread criticism of racist editorializing, and yellow journalism. Time publicly apologized.
One part of the murder case that was never brought up was the broadcast of the two hour-long film pilot for Frogmen, an The A-Team-like adventure series starring Simpson, that Warner Bros. Television completed in 1994, a few months before the murders. NBC had not yet decided on whether to order the series when Simpson’s arrest canceled the project. While searching his home the police obtained a videotaped copy of the pilot as well as the script and dailies. Although the prosecution investigated reports that Simpson, who played the leader of a group of former United States Navy SEALs, received “a fair amount of” military training—including use of a knife—for Frogmen, and there is a scene in which he holds a knife to the throat of a woman, it was not introduced as evidence during the trial.
Most pilots that are two hours long (including commercials) are aired as TV movies whether or not they are ordered as series. Because “the appetite for all things O.J. appeared insatiable” during the trial, Warner Bros. and NBC estimated that a gigantic, Super Bowl-like television audience would have watched the Frogmen film. One of Simpson’s co-stars observed that their decision to not air it and forego an estimated $14 million in profits was “about the only proof you have that there is some dignity in the advertising and television business”.
Reaction to Verdict
In post-trial interviews with the jurors, a few said that they believed Simpson probably did commit the murders, but that the prosecution failed to prove their case. Three jurors published a book called Madam Foreman, in which they described how police errors, not race, led to their verdict, and that they considered prosecutor Darden to be a token black assigned to the case by the prosecutor’s office.
Critics of the not-guilty verdict contend that the deliberation time was unduly short compared to the length of the trial, and that the jurors, most of whom did not have any kind of college education, did not understand the scientific evidence.
Defense attorney Robert Shapiro wrote a book, The Search for Justice, in which he criticizes F. Lee Bailey as a “loose cannon” and Johnnie Cochran for bringing race into the trial. He didn’t believe Simpson was framed by the LAPD for racial reasons, but believed the verdict was correct due to reasonable doubt.
Former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi (who had handled the Manson trial) wrote a book called Outrage: The Five Reasons O.J. Simpson Got Away With Murder. Bugliosi was very critical of Clark and Darden, faulting them, among other reasons, for not introducing the note that Simpson had written before trying to flee. Bugliosi contended that the note “reeked” of guilt and that the jury should have been allowed to see it. He also pointed out that the jury was never informed about items found in the Bronco: a change of clothing, a large amount of cash, a passport and a disguise kit. The prosecution explained that they felt these items of evidence would bring up emotional issues on Simpson’s part that could harm their case, despite the fact that the items seemed as though they could be used for fleeing.
Simpson made an incriminating statement to police about cutting his finger the night the murders took place first by claiming to have accidentally cut his finger with a shard of broken glass in his Chicago hotel room, then changing his story minutes later that it was the tip of a knife, and later claiming not to remember at all how he received the cut on his left middle finger. Bugliosi took Clark and Darden to task for not allowing the jury to hear the police audio tape of this statement. Bugliosi also said the prosecutors should have gone into more detail about Simpson’s abuse of his wife. He said it should have been made clear to the mostly African-American jury that Simpson had little impact in the black community and had done nothing to help blacks less fortunate than he was. Bugliosi pointed out that, although the prosecutors obviously understood that Simpson’s race had nothing to do with the murders, once the defense “opened the door” by trying to paint Simpson falsely as a leader in the black community and that he might have been framed by the overzealous prosecution looking for a suspect, the evidence to the contrary should have been presented, to prevent the jury from allowing it to bias their verdict. Bugliosi also criticized the prosecution’s closing statements as inadequate.
Rather than try the crime in mostly white Santa Monica, California, where murders occurring in Brentwood would normally have been held, Bugliosi claimed that the prosecution made a big mistake by deciding to have the trial in mostly nonwhite Los Angeles. During the jury selection process, the defense made it difficult for the prosecution to challenge potential black jurors on the grounds that it is illegal to dismiss someone from the jury for racially motivated reasons (California courts barred peremptory challenges to jurors based on race in People v. Wheeler, years before the U.S. Supreme Court would do so in Batson v. Kentucky.).
District Attorney Garcetti’s supporters noted that the decision to move the trial was actually that of the Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge, and not that of the District Attorney. The trial was moved due to security concerns and the poor condition of the Santa Monica Courthouse.
Another common criticism was that Garcetti was “micromanaging” the trial, and made the decision to have Simpson try the bloody leather gloves recovered at the scene of the murder and at Simpson’s estate in open court. Simpson’s hands appeared unable to fit into those gloves which was highly damaging to the prosecution’s case. In fact, the decision to have Simpson try on the gloves was made by both Darden and Clark. Also, pundits criticized the prosecution for calling Mark Fuhrman to the witness stand in the first place and stated that the prosecution failed to do due diligence on his previous racist statements. The D.A.’s office argued that the defense would have called Fuhrman anyway and that no one knew of the existence of the McKinney tapes until after the trial actually started.
According to media reports, prosecutor Marcia Clark thought that women, regardless of race, would sympathize with the domestic violence aspect of the case and connect with her personally. On the other hand, the defense’s research suggested that women generally were more likely to acquit than men. Also, the jurors did not respond well to Clark’s combative style of litigation, and the defense also correctly speculated that black women would not be as sympathetic to a white woman as the victim. Both sides accepted a disproportionate number of female jurors. From an original jury pool of 40% white, 28% black, 17% Latino, and 15% Asian, the final jury for the trial had 10 women and two men, of which there were nine blacks, two whites, and one Latino.
Discussion of the racial elements of the case continued long after the trial’s end. Some polls and some commentators have concluded that many blacks, while having their doubts as to Simpson’s innocence, were nonetheless more inclined to be suspicious of the credibility and fairness of the police and the courts, and thus more likely to question the evidence. After the civil trial verdict against Simpson, most whites believed justice had been served and most blacks (75%) disagreed with the verdict and believed the verdict to be racially motivated. An NBC poll taken in 2004 reported that, although 77% of 1,186 people sampled thought Simpson was guilty, only 27% of blacks in the sample believed so, compared to 87% of whites. Whatever the exact nature of the “racial divide,” to this very day, the Simpson case continues to be assessed through the lens of race with most white people believing Simpson to have committed the two murders, while most black people believe the opposite.
Judge Lance Ito was also criticized for allowing the trial to become a media circus and not doing enough to regulate the court proceedings as much as he could have. Many law critics claim that Ito allowed the courtroom proceedings to drag on needlessly, as well as allowed both prosecution and defense lawyers to get out of control with arguing with one another over presentation of the evidence. However, Ito and others present in the courtroom dispute this characterization, challenging critics to identify a proceeding that was not under anyone’s control. Because the jury was sequestered, an attorney gag order would not have been supported by any appellate court, leading to often chaotic scenes outside the courthouse. Ito also allowed a jury field trip through O.J. Simpson’s home after it had been supposedly stage dressed by the defense team, in one case replacing an artistic nude painting of Simpson’s then-current girlfriend with a reproduction of Norman Rockwell’s painting of Ruby Bridges being escorted to school in the Little Rock desegregation struggle. Ito was also criticized for the way that the jury was handled, bowing to defense team pressure to dismiss various jurors including Francine Florio-Bunten late in the trial.
The parents of Ron Goldman, Fred Goldman and Sharon Rufo, brought suit against Simpson for wrongful death, and Brown’s estate, represented by her father Lou Brown, brought suit against Simpson in a “survivor suit”, in a trial that took place over four months in Santa Monica and was not televised (by judge’s order). The Goldman family was represented by Daniel Petrocelli, with Simpson represented by Bob Baker. Attorneys for both sides were given high marks by observing lawyers. Simpson’s defense in the trial was estimated to cost $1 million and was paid for by an insurance policy on his company, Orenthal Enterprises.
At one point, Baker made a mistake that allowed Petrocelli to introduce evidence regarding Simpson’s failure of a lie detector test about the murders. Fuhrman was not called to testify, and Simpson was subpoenaed to testify on his own behalf. In addition, a photo of O.J., taken while he was attending a Buffalo Bills game in 1993 was produced and showed him wearing Bruno Magli shoes, the same type of shoes which investigators stated the killer of Goldman and Smith was wearing when the murders were committed. The photo was then presented as evidence against him, as O.J. had previously denied ever wearing such shoes. The jury in the civil trial awarded Brown and Simpson’s children, Sydney and Justin, $12.5 million from their father as recipients of their mother’s estate. The victims’ families were awarded $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Simpson came under fire following the civil verdict for “dodging” the jury’s award against him by allegedly hiding assets from the Goldman family.
Aftermath of Trials
Some of Simpson’s supporters changed their minds in the years following his trials as to his innocence, as he seemed to dodge the civil jury’s verdict for the victims’ families and appeared not to search for the “real killer” as he had promised to do.
In September 2004, Jennifer Peace, an adult actress who performed under the name “Devon Shire”, came forward claiming that she was Al Cowlings’ girlfriend, and that Cowlings had told her that Simpson had confessed his guilt. Peace was subpoenaed to testify before a Grand Jury by Clark and Hodgman, and later said that Cowlings had told her that Simpson was guilty of both murders, and that the weapon “sleeps with the fishes.” Peace sold her story to Star Magazine and American Journal for a reported mid six-figure sum, an action that discredited her and led to her not being called as a witness during the larger trial. Speculation at the time was that the prosecution was using Peace to try to put pressure on Cowlings to “flip” on Simpson and testify against him. When that strategy failed to work, the Grand Jury was dismissed and the case proceeded to trial.
In the February 1998 issue of Esquire, Simpson was quoted as saying, “Let’s say I committed this crime… Even if I did this, it would have to have been because I loved her very much, right?” Simpson said that he would look for the real murderer, who he said he believed was a hitman.
In November 2006, ReganBooks announced a book by O. J. Simpson, as well as a TV interview, titled If I Did It, an account that the publisher pronounced a hypothetical confession. “This is a historic case, and I consider this his confession,” publisher Judith Regan told The Associated Press. On November 20, News Corporation, parent company of ReganBooks, canceled both the book and the TV interview due to a high level of public criticism. CEO Rupert Murdoch, speaking at a press conference, stated: “I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project.” Regan was fired in December 2006 for apparently unrelated reasons.
In June 2007, a federal judge ruled that Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman’s father, could pursue the publishing rights to Simpson’s book. In July 2007, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the rights to the book to the Goldman family to help satisfy the $38 million wrongful death civil suit judgment against Simpson. After Goldman had won the rights to the book, he arranged to publish it under the new title If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.
The book was ghostwritten by Pablo Fenjves. Fenjves stated in interviews that Simpson actively collaborated on the book, and that he “knew” him to be the murderer.
Fox Television was to air a related interview with Simpson in late November 2006, in which Simpson would allegedly describe how he would have committed the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, “if he were the one responsible.”
In May 2008, Mike Gilbert released his book How I Helped O.J. Get Away with Murder, which details O. J. confessing to the killings to Gilbert. Gilbert, a memorabilia dealer, is a former agent and friend of Simpson. He states that Simpson had smoked marijuana, taken a sleeping pill and was drinking beer when he confided at his Brentwood home weeks after his trial what happened the night of the murders. Simpson allegedly said, “If she hadn’t opened that door with a knife in her hand… she’d still be alive.” This, Gilbert said, confirmed his belief that Simpson had confessed. Simpson has denied ever having said this.
Alternative Murderer Theory
An alternative theory is that Simpson’s son, Jason Simpson, committed the murders. This is the central theory of a book by private investigator William Dear titled O.J. is Guilty, But Not of Murder. Published in 2000, the book was the result of a six-year investigation by Dear. He attempted to explain Simpson’s incriminating behavior and the incriminating evidence. In the book, Dear claimed numerous elements to support his theory.