O. J. Simpson murder case

People v. O. J. Simpson
Court Los Angeles County Superior Court
Full case name People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson
Decided October 3, 1995 (1995-10-03)
Verdict Not Guilty in violation of Penal Code Section 187-A, a felony upon Nicole Brown Simpson, a human being. Not Guilty in violation of Penal Code Section 187-A, a felony upon Ronald Lyle Goldman, a human being.
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lance Ito

The O. J. Simpson murder case (officially the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson) was a criminal trial held at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, in which former National Football League star and actor O. J. Simpson was tried on two counts of murder for the June 12, 1994, deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and a friend of hers, a restaurant waiter, Ron Goldman. The trial spanned from the jury's swearing-in on November 9, 1994,[1] to opening statements on January 24, 1995,[2] to a verdict on October 3, 1995, when Simpson was acquitted.[3][4] The case has been described as the most publicized criminal trial in American history.[5]

Simpson hired a high-profile defense team, also referred to as the "Dream Team" which was initially led by Robert Shapiro[6][7][8] and subsequently led by Johnnie Cochran, and that also included F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, Robert Kardashian, Shawn Holley, Carl E. Douglas and Gerald Uelmen, with two more attorneys specializing in DNA evidence: Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. Los Angeles County believed it had a strong prosecution case, but Cochran was able to persuade the jurors that there was reasonable doubt about the DNA evidence (a relatively new form of evidence in trials at the time)[9] – including that the blood-sample evidence had allegedly been mishandled by lab scientists and technicians – and about the circumstances surrounding other court exhibits.[10] 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 in the assessment of Simpson's guilt or innocence between black and white Americans.[11]

The Brown and Goldman families subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against Simpson, and on February 4, 1997, the jury found Simpson "responsible" for the two deaths.[12] The families were awarded compensatory and punitive damages totaling $33.5 million.


Brown–Simpson marriage

Nicole Brown and O. J. Simpson were married on February 2, 1985, five years after his retirement from professional football.[13][14] The couple had two children, Sydney Brooke Simpson (born October 17, 1985) and Justin Ryan Simpson (born August 6, 1988).[15] The marriage lasted seven years, during which Simpson was investigated by police for domestic violence multiple times and pleaded no contest to spousal abuse in 1989.[16] Brown filed for divorce on February 25, 1992, citing "irreconcilable differences".[17]


At 12:10 a.m.[18] on June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were found murdered outside of Nicole's Bundy Drive condominium in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Brown had been stabbed multiple times in the head and neck, and had defensive wounds on her hands. Through the gaping wound in her neck, the larynx could be seen, and vertebra C3 was incised.[19] Both victims had been dead for several hours prior to their discovery. Among other evidence, one of the first two officers on the scene, Robert Riske, discovered a single bloody glove.

Detectives went to Simpson's Rockingham estate to inform him that his ex-wife had been murdered. In the back of his home, they discovered a white Ford Bronco with blood in and on it. Detective Mark Fuhrman then climbed over an external wall and unlocked the gate to allow the other three detectives to enter the estate. The detectives argued that they entered without a search warrant because of exigent circumstances—specifically, a fear that Simpson may also have been injured. Simpson was not present when detectives arrived in the early morning; he had taken a flight to Chicago late the previous night. Detectives briefly interviewed Kato Kaelin, who was staying in Simpson's guest house. A walk-around of the premises by Fuhrman discovered a second bloody glove that was later determined to be the mate of the glove found at the murder scene. Through DNA testing, the blood on the glove was later determined to have come from both victims. This—together with other evidence collected at both scenes—was determined to be adequate evidence to issue an arrest warrant for Simpson.

Arrest of Simpson

O. J. Simpson in 1990

Lawyers convinced them to allow Simpson to turn himself in at 11 a.m. on June 17, 1994,[20] even though the double murder charge meant no bail would be set and a possible death penalty verdict if convicted.[21] Over 1,000 reporters waited for Simpson at the police station, but he failed to appear. At 2 p.m., the Los Angeles Police Department issued an all-points bulletin. At 5 p.m., Robert Kardashian, a friend of Simpson and one of his defense lawyers, read a letter by Simpson to the media.[22] In the letter Simpson sent greetings to 24 friends and wrote, "First everyone understand I had nothing to do with Nicole's murder ... Don't feel sorry for me. I've had a great life."[22][20][23] To many, this sounded like a suicide note, and the reporters joined the search for Simpson. According to Simpson's lawyer, Robert Shapiro, also present at Kardashian's press conference, Simpson's psychiatrists agreed with the suicide note interpretation. Over the television, Shapiro appealed to Simpson to surrender.[24]

At around 6:20 p.m., a motorist in Orange County saw Simpson riding in a white Ford Bronco, driven by longtime friend Al Cowlings, and notified police. The police then tracked calls placed from Simpson on his cellular telephone. At 6:45 p.m., a police officer saw the Bronco going north on Interstate 405. When the officer approached the Bronco with sirens blaring, Cowlings yelled that Simpson was in the back seat of the vehicle and had a gun to his own head.[24] The officer backed off, but followed the vehicle[25] at 35 miles per hour (56 km/h),[26] with up to 20 police cars participating in the chase.[27]

Eventually over 9 helicopters joined the chase; the high degree of media participation caused camera signals to appear on incorrect television channels.[24] Radio station KNX also provided live coverage of the low-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.[28] LAPD detective Tom Lange, who had previously interviewed Simpson about the murders on June 13, realized that he had Simpson's cellular phone number and called him repeatedly. A colleague hooked a tape recorder up to Lange's phone and captured a conversation between Lange and Simpson in which Lange repeatedly pleaded with Simpson to "throw the gun out the window" for the sake of his mother and his children. Simpson apologized for not turning himself in earlier in the day and responded that he was "the only one who deserved to get hurt" and was "just gonna go with Nicole." Al Cowlings can be overheard on the recording (after the Bronco had arrived at Simpson's home surrounded by police) pleading with Simpson to surrender and end the chase peacefully.[29] During the pursuit and without having a chance to hear the taped phone conversation, Simpson's friend Al Michaels interpreted his actions as an admission of guilt.[24]

All Big Three television networks and CNN as well as local news outlets interrupted regular programming, with 95 million viewers nationwide.[30][31][24][32] While NBC continued coverage of Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden, the game appeared in a small box in the corner while Tom Brokaw as anchorman covered the chase.[30][24] 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.[32] Benefiting from the event occurring in the evening, Domino's Pizza stated that its pizza delivery sales during the televised chase were as large as on Super Bowl Sunday.[33]

Thousands of spectators and on-lookers packed overpasses along the procession's journey waiting for the white Bronco. In a festival-like atmosphere, many had signs urging Simpson to flee.[28][27] They and the millions watching the chase on television felt part of a "common emotional experience", one author wrote, as they "wonder[ed] if O. J. Simpson would commit suicide, escape, 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."[30]

O. J. Simpson on the cover of Newsweek and Time. Time darkened the image, leading to controversy.

Simpson reportedly demanded that he be allowed to speak to his mother before he would surrender.[27] The chase ended at 8:00 p.m. at his Brentwood home, 50 miles (80 km) later, where his son, Jason, ran out of the house, "gesturing wildly."[27] After remaining in the Bronco for about 45 minutes,[28] 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.[24] Shapiro arrived, and Simpson surrendered to authorities a few minutes later. 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."[28] Neither the footage of the Bronco chase nor the items found in the Bronco were shown to the jury as evidence in the trial.[34]


On June 20, Simpson was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to both murders. As expected, the presiding judge ordered that Simpson be held without bail. 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 could have influenced its 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.[3] 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.[3] Shively and Camacho were not presented by the prosecution at the criminal trial after they sold their stories to the tabloid press.[32] Shively had talked to the television show Hard Copy for $5,000,[32] and Camacho sold his story to the National Enquirer for $12,500.

Rather than a grand jury hearing, a probable cause hearing was held to determine whether or not to bring Simpson to trial, which was a minor victory for Simpson's lawyers who would now have access to evidence as it was being presented by the prosecution in contrast to a grand jury hearing. 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 arraignment on July 22, when asked how he pleaded to the murders, Simpson, breaking a courtroom practice that says the accused may plead using only the words "guilty" or "not guilty," firmly stated: "Absolutely, one hundred percent, not guilty."

District Attorney Gil Garcetti elected to file charges in downtown Los Angeles, as opposed to Santa Monica, where the crime occurred.[35] The decision would prove to be highly controversial.[35] It likely resulted in a jury pool with more Latinos, blacks, Asian-Americans, and blue-collar workers than would have been found from Santa Monica.[36]

Leading the murder investigation was veteran LAPD detective Tom Lange. In 1995, the criminal trial of O. J. Simpson was televised for 134 days. The prosecution elected not to ask for the death penalty and instead it sought a life sentence. The TV exposure made celebrities of many of the figures in the trial, including the presiding judge, Lance Ito.

Prosecutor Marcia Clark, a Deputy District Attorney, was designated as the lead prosecutor. Deputy District Attorney Christopher A. Darden 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 cases. 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.

Televised by Court TV, and in part by other cable and network news outlets, the trial began on January 24, 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 those viewing the trial from a single closed-circuit 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.


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, that jurors did not respond well to Clark's combative style of litigation. The defense also speculated that black women would not be as sympathetic as white women to the victim. Both sides accepted a disproportionate number of female jurors. From an original jury pool of 40% white, 28% black, 17% Hispanic, and 15% Asian, the final jury for the trial had 10 women and two men, of which there were nine black people, two white people, and one Hispanic person.[11][37]

Prosecution case

Even with no murder weapon and no witnesses to the murders, the prosecution felt it had a strong case.[38] Supported by DNA evidence, it expected a conviction. From the physical evidence collected, the prosecution claimed that Simpson drove to Nicole Brown's house on the evening of June 12 with the intention of killing her. They maintained that Brown, 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 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, stabbing 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 Brown was found lying face down, the assailant, after finishing 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.[19] 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.[39]

According to the prosecution, Simpson was last seen in public at 9:36 p.m. 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 p.m., 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 p.m., with the prosecution saying that Simpson drove his white Bronco the five minutes to and from the murder scene.[10] 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 p.m.[10]

According to his testimony, limousine driver Allan Park arrived at Simpson's estate at 10:24 p.m. 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).[40] According to Simpson's version of events, the Bronco had been parked in that position for several hours. Meanwhile, Kaelin was in his guest house and on the telephone to his friend, Rachel Ferrara. Park parked opposite the Ashford street gate, then drove back to the Rockingham street 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. Park got out of the limousine and looked through the Ashford gate and saw 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. While smoking a cigarette, Park then made a series of phone calls from his cellular to the pager of his boss, Dale St. John, and then to Park's home, trying to get St. John's home phone number from his mother in an attempt to get the phone number for Simpson's house. At approximately 10:50, Kaelin (who was still on the phone to Ferrara) heard three thumps against the outside wall of his guest house. Kaelin hung up the phone and ventured outside to investigate the noises but decided not to venture directly down the dark south pathway from which the thumps came. Instead, he walked to the front of the property where he saw 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. Simpson explained that he had overslept and would be at the front gate soon. Kaelin opened the Ashford gate to let Park drive the limo 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) into 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, including the ticket clerk at Los Angeles International Airport who checked Simpson onto the plane and 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 defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran, Simpson had never left his house that night and he was alone in his house packing to travel to Chicago. Cochran claimed 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 Clark, when Lopez was forced to admit that she could not be sure of the precise time she saw Simpson's white Bronco outside his house.

The defense later tried to claim that Simpson was not physically capable of carrying out the murders, as Goldman was a fit young man who put up a fierce struggle against his assailant. 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 Clark produced into evidence an exercise video that Simpson made a few months before the murders which was titled O.J. Simpson Minimum Maintenance: Fitness For Men which showed that, despite some physical conditions and limitations, Simpson was anything but frail.[41]

The prosecution also called Brown'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, the manager of the Mezzaluna restaurant where Brown ate that Sunday night, was called to testify. She recounted that Nicole's mother phoned the restaurant at 9:37 p.m. about her lost eyeglasses, and how Crawford found them and put them in a white envelope, and that waiter Goldman departed from the restaurant after his shift was over. He left the restaurant at 9:50 p.m., to drop them off at Brown's house.[42]

Brown's neighbor, Pablo Fenjves, testified about hearing a "very distinctive barking" and "plaintive wail" of a dog at around 10 to 15 minutes after 10:00 p.m. while he was at home watching the 10 o'clock news on his television set. Eva Stein, another neighbor, testified about a very loud and persistent barking sound also at around 10:15 p.m. that kept her from going back to sleep. Neighbor Steven Schwab testified that while he was walking his dog in the area near Brown's house at around 11:30 p.m., he noticed a wandering and agitated Akita dog (Brown's) trailing its leash with bloody paws, but after examining it, he found the dog uninjured. Schwab said he took the dog to another neighbor friend of his, Sukru Boztepe, who testified that he took the dog into his home where it became more agitated. Boztepe took the dog for a walk at approximately 12:00 midnight 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.

Police officer Robert Riske was the first officer at the crime scene. He testified that he found a barefoot woman in a black dress lying face down in a puddle of blood on the walkway that led to the front door of her house. He then 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 Brown's mother'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. The front door of Brown's house was wide open, but there were no signs of forced entry nor any evidence that anyone had entered the premises and nothing inside was out of the ordinary.

On Sunday, February 12, 1995, a long motorcade traveled into Brentwood and 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 and around 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, Simpson sounded shocked and upset, but was oddly unconcerned about how she died. Detective Tom Lange testified that Brown was probably killed first because the soles of her bare feet were clean, implying that she was struck down to the ground before any blood flowed. This was a key point that suggested Simpson might have set out to kill Brown, whereas Goldman inadvertently stumbled upon the scene, prompting Simpson to kill him as well. 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 Brown 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.

Evidence presented to the jury

The prosecution offered circumstantial evidence to show Simpson's guilt.[43]

Evidence not presented to the jury

DNA evidence

Samples from bloody shoe prints leading away from the bodies and from the back gate of the condominium were tested for DNA matches.[10] 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 shoe prints in blood and the gate samples).[9][10] Police criminalist Dennis Fung testified that this DNA evidence put Simpson at Brown's townhouse at the time of the murders. But in cross-examination by defense expert Barry Scheck, which lasted eight full days, most of the DNA evidence was questioned. Dr. Robin Cotton, of Cellmark Diagnostics, testified for six days.[19] Blood evidence had been tested at two separate laboratories, each conducting different tests.[19]

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.[55][56] 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.[19] In the 1988 test, one of the companies hired for DNA consulting by Simpson's defense also made the same error.[9] 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.[19] The defense had chosen not to accept the prosecution's offer.[19]

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.[19]

Mark Fuhrman

Main article: Mark Fuhrman
Mark Fuhrman in 2008

In March 1995, Detective Mark Fuhrman testified to driving over to Simpson's house to question him on the night of the murders and, after getting no response after buzzing the intercom of the house, which was empty, scaling one of the walls. He found blood marks on the driveway of Simpson's home, as well as a black leather glove on the premises near the location of Kaelin's bungalow, which had the blood of both murder victims on it as well as Simpson's.[10] Despite an aggressive cross-examination by F. Lee Bailey,[57] 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.[57] But a few months later, the defense played audio tapes of Fuhrman repeatedly using the word – 41 times, in total. The tapes had been made between 1985 and 1994 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.

With the jury absent, 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 found on Simpson's property hours after the murders took place. When questioned by attorney Gerald Uelmen, Fuhrman, with his lawyer standing by his side, pleaded the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination and 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 said that this should not detract from the evidence showing Simpson's guilt.[3] Fuhrman's testimony resulted in his indictment on one count of perjury, to which he later pleaded no contest.

The glove

One dark leather glove was found at the crime scene, with its match found near Kato Kaelin's guest house behind Simpson's Rockingham Drive estate.[10] Kaelin testified that he had heard "thumps in the night" in the same area around the guest house the night of the murder.[10] Brown had bought Simpson two pairs of this type of glove in 1990.[10] 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.[10]

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 (according to prosecutors) the glove had been soaked in blood from Simpson, Brown and Goldman,[19] and frozen and unfrozen several times. The leather glove seemed too tight for Simpson to put on easily, especially over the sanitary gloves he wore underneath.[10] 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, 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.[10] A photo was presented during the trial showing Simpson wearing the same type of glove that was found at the crime scene.

Prosecutors claimed that the presence of Simpson's blood at the crime scene was the result of blood dripping from cuts on the middle finger of his left hand.[10] Police had noted his wounds and asserted that these were suffered during the fatal attack on Goldman. However, the defense showed that none of the gloves retrieved at the crime scene had any cuts in them. Plus, both prosecution and defense witnesses testified to not seeing 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 the analysis that found that the hair could be Brown's was not reliable.[10] The prosecution contended that this was not the case, pointing out that by the time Fuhrman had arrived at the Simpson home, the crime scene at Brown's home 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 by Uelmen.

On September 8, 2012, Darden accused Cochran of tampering with the glove before the trial.[58] Alan Dershowitz, a member of the Simpson defense team, refuted the claim, stating "the defense doesn't get access to evidence except under controlled circumstances"[59]

Racial differences

In closing arguments, Darden ridiculed the notion that police officers might have wanted to frame Simpson.[3] He questioned why, if the LAPD was against Simpson, they went to his house eight times on domestic violence calls against Brown between 1986 and 1988 without arresting him before eventually arresting and citing him for abuse in January 1989, and why they then waited five days to arrest him for the 1994 murders.[3]

Cochran's jury summation mentioned 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, a technique which was later criticized by Robert Shapiro and by at least one juror,[3] as well as Goldman's father, Fred Goldman. Cochran called Fuhrman "a genocidal racist, a perjurer, America's worst nightmare and the personification of evil".[3] Fuhrman later pleaded Nolo contendere to a felony charge 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 was 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.

Defense case

Simpson hired a team of high-profile lawyers, including F. Lee Bailey, Robert Kardashian, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, Johnnie Cochran, Gerald Uelmen (then the dean of law at Santa Clara University), Carl E. Douglas and Shawn Holley. Two attorneys specializing in DNA evidence, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, were hired to attempt to discredit the prosecution's DNA evidence,[9] and they argued that Simpson was the victim of police fraud and what they termed as sloppy internal procedures that contaminated the DNA evidence.[19]

Simpson's defense was said to have cost between US$3 million and $6 million.[60] Simpson's defense team, dubbed the "Dream Team" by reporters, argued that LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman had planted evidence at the crime scene. LAPD Criminalists Dennis Fung and Andrea Mazzola also faced heavy scrutiny. In all, 150 witnesses gave testimony during the trial.

Simpson's defense sought to show that one or more hit men hired by drug dealers had murdered Brown and Goldman—giving both "Colombian neckties"—because they were looking for Brown's friend, Faye Resnick, a known cocaine user who had failed to pay for her drugs. However, Judge Ito barred testimony about Resnick's drug use. She had stayed for several days at Brown's condominium until entering drug rehabilitation four days before the killings. Ito stated that the defense had failed to provide sufficient direct or circumstantial evidence that the scenario was possible, indicating: "I find that the offer of proof regarding motive to be highly speculative." Consequently, he prohibited Christian Reichardt from testifying about the drug problem of his former girlfriend, Resnick.[61][62]


At 10 a.m. on October 3, 1995, O. J. Simpson was found not guilty. The only testimony reviewed was that of limo driver Alan Park who stated that he did not see Simpson's Bronco outside of the Rockingham estate after the murders occurred. The jury arrived at the verdict by 3 p.m. the previous day, after only four hours of deliberation, but Judge Ito postponed the announcement.[63]

Before the verdict, President Bill Clinton was briefed on security measures if rioting occurred nationwide due to the verdict. An estimated 100 million people worldwide watched or listened to the verdict announcement. Long telephone call volume declined by 58%, and trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange decreased by 41%. Water usage decreased as people avoided using bathrooms. So much work stopped that the verdict cost an estimated $480 million in lost productivity.[63]

The United States Supreme Court received a message on the verdict during oral arguments, with the justices quietly passing the note to each other while listening to the attorney's presentation. Congressmen canceled press conferences, with one telling reporters "Not only would you not be here, but I wouldn't be here, either".[64]

Reaction to the verdict

In post-trial interviews with the jurors, a few said that they believed Simpson probably did commit the murders,[65] but that the prosecution failed to prove their case. Three jurors published a book called Madam Foreman,[66] 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.[57]

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.[67]

After the verdict was read, juror number six, 44-year-old Lionel Cryer, gave Simpson a Black power raised fist salute.[68]

In 1996, Simpson's defense attorney Johnnie Cochran wrote and published a book about the trial which was titled Journey to Justice which describes his involvement in the case.[69]

That same year, fellow defense attorney Robert Shapiro also wrote a book about the trial which is titled The Search for Justice, in which he criticizes F. Lee Bailey as a "loose cannon" and Johnnie Cochran for bringing race into the trial.[70] In contrast to Cochran's book, Shapiro stated in his book that he does not believe that Simpson was framed by the LAPD for racial reasons, but believed the verdict was correct due to reasonable doubt.[57]

Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark also wrote a book in 1998 about the case titled Without a Doubt.[71] Her book recounts the trial proceedings, from jury selection to final summation, and concludes that nothing could have saved her case, given the prominent role of race in the defense's strategy and the black jury who heard it. In Clark's opinion, the prosecution's evidence should have easily convicted Simpson. That it did not, she says, attests to a judicial system compromised by issues of race and celebrity.

Former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi wrote a book titled Outrage: The Five Reasons Why 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.[3][72]

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 by saying he cut his finger in Los Angeles and then corrected himself that the cut re-opened while he was in Chicago, 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.[72]

Rather than try the crime in Santa Monica, California, where murders occurring in Brentwood would normally have been tried, Bugliosi claimed that the prosecution made a big mistake by deciding to have the trial in 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,[73] years before the U.S. Supreme Court would do so in Batson v. Kentucky).[74]

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.[75]

Another common criticism was that Garcetti was "micromanaging" the trial, and made the decision to have Simpson try on 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 McKinny tapes until after the trial actually started.[76]

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.[11] 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," the Simpson case continues to be assessed through the lens of race.

Media coverage

The murders and trial—"the biggest story I have ever seen", said the producer of NBC's Today—received extensive media coverage from the very beginning; at least one nonfiction "instant book" was proposed two hours after the bodies were found, and scheduled to publish only a few weeks later.[32] The Los Angeles Times alone covered the case on its front page for more than 300 days after the murders, and the Big Three television 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.[77] The Tonight Show with Jay Leno aired many skits on the trial, and the Dancing Itos—a troupe of dancers dressed as the judge—was a popular recurring segment.[78] 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.[32] Fox was an exception, airing one in 1995, and CBS followed several years later.[54] In 2016, FX aired a mini-series (about which, see below).

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.[79] 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), was 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.[63]

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.[80]

On June 27, 1994, Time published a cover story "An American Tragedy" with a mugshot image of O. J. Simpson on the cover.[81] 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.[82]


Civil trial

In 1997, 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,[60] 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).[80][83] The Goldman family was represented by Daniel Petrocelli, with Simpson represented by Bob Baker.[83] Attorneys for both sides were given high marks by observing lawyers.[83] 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.[60]

Mark Fuhrman was not called to testify, and Simpson was subpoenaed to testify on his own behalf.[5][11] In addition, a photo of Simpson, taken while he was attending a Buffalo Bills game in 1993, was produced and showed him wearing Bruno Magli shoes,[84] the same type of shoes which investigators stated the killer of Goldman and Brown was wearing when the murders were committed.[85] The photo was then presented as evidence against him,[85] as Simpson had previously denied ever wearing such shoes.[85] The jury in the civil trial awarded Brown and Simpson's children, Sydney and Justin, $12.6 million from their father as recipients of their mother's estate.[5] The victims' families were awarded $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, thereby finding Simpson "responsible" for the respective murders.[86]

Four years after the trial, at an auction to pay some of the money in the compensation order, Bob Enyart, a conservative Christian radio host, paid $16,000 for some of Simpson's memorabilia, including his Hall of Fame induction certificate, two jerseys and two trophies he was given for charity work. He then took them outside the courthouse where the auction was held, burned the certificate and jerseys, and with calm deliberation smashed the trophies with a sledgehammer.[87][88]

In 2008, a Los Angeles superior court approved the plaintiffs' renewal application on the civil court judgment against Simpson.[89]

If I Did It

Main article: If I Did It

In November 2006, ReganBooks announced a book by Simpson, titled If I Did It, an account that the publisher pronounced a hypothetical confession. The book's release was planned to coincide with a Fox Television special featuring Simpson. "This is a historic case, and I consider this his confession", publisher Judith Regan told The Associated Press.[90] On November 20, News Corporation, parent company of ReganBooks and Fox, 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."[91]

Later, the Goldman family was awarded rights to the book to partially satisfy the civil judgment against Simpson. The title of the book was changed to If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. On the front cover of the book, the title was stylized with the word "If" to appear much smaller than those of "I Did It", and hidden inside the "I", so unless looked at very closely, the title of the book reads "I Did It: Confessions of the Killer".


On September 6, 2012, former Los Angeles deputy district attorney Christopher Darden accused the late Johnnie Cochran of "manipulating" one of the gloves that the prosecution said linked Simpson to the murders,[92] a statement which Simpson attorney Alan Dershowitz has called "a total fabrication".[93]

In 2007, as a result of an incident in Las Vegas, regarding an attempt to reacquire materials Simpson claimed were stolen from him, Simpson was convicted of multiple felonies including use of a deadly weapon to commit kidnapping, burglary and armed robbery, and sentenced to 33 years in prison. As of November 2015, his attempts to appeal that sentence have been unsuccessful and he currently resides at Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada. He will be eligible for parole in October 2017.

Simpson has participated in two high profile interviews regarding the case – one in 1996 with Ross Becker,[94] which outlines Simpson's side of the story, as well as a guided tour of his Rockingham estate where evidence used in the trial was found. The second took place in 2004, on the 10 year anniversary of the murders, with Katie Couric for NBC (Simpson's previous employer as a sports commentator).[95]

In March 2016, the LAPD announced a knife had been found buried at Simpson's estate in 1998, when the buildings were razed. A construction worker had handed over the knife to a police officer, who, believing the case had been closed, did not submit it as evidence at the time. Forensic tests demonstrated that the knife was not related to the murder.[96]

Media adaptions

In 1995, Fox premiered the TV movie The O.J. Simpson Story (1995).[97]

In 2000, 20th Century Fox produced An American Tragedy, starring Ving Rhames as Johnnie Cochran, Christopher Plummer as F. Lee Bailey, Ron Silver as Robert Shapiro, and Raymond Forchion as O. J. Simpson.

On February 2, 2016, FX premiered the first season of the anthology series, American Crime Story, titled, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. The cast included Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance, John Travolta, and David Schwimmer.[98] It received critical acclaim.[99]

In June 2016, ESPN premiered O.J.: Made in America, a 5-part, 8 hour documentary by Ezra Edelman on the trial.

See also


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Further reading

External links

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