A guest post by Australian true crime writer Stephen Karadjis.
On the night of Sunday, June 12, 1994, between 10:00 pm and 10:30 pm, Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman were murdered at 875 S. Bundy Drive, in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California. On Monday, June 13, O.J. Simpson, the estranged ex-husband of the deceased woman was arrested on suspicion. He was questioned by detectives at the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters – Parker Centre and released. On Friday, June 17, police informed Simpson’s lawyer, Robert Shapiro that they intended to charge his client with two counts of first-degree murder.
Simpson’s DNA was found in blood samples collected from multiple locations within hours of the crime – at the Bundy Drive murder scene, on the driver’s door and interior of his Ford Bronco and inside his home on Rockingham Avenue.
Despite overwhelming evidence of guilt, Simpson was acquitted following the longest and most televised criminal trial in United States legal history.
The Defence played the “race card” to their advantage throughout the trial, with noticeable misuse by lead defence counsel, Jonnie Cochran in closing arguments. The jury itself should have comprised a broader demographic cross-section of people for justice to be served. Black jurors counted for 75%.
Nevertheless, the evidence presented here points to Simpson as the killer in the murder of Ronald Goldman in the second degree, and the murder of Nicole Brown (Simpson) in the first degree.
Orenthal James Simpson, “O.J.” was born in San Francisco on July 9, 1947. He was the third child of Jimmy Lee Simpson and Eunice Durden. Simpson has an elder sister and brother and a younger sister, now deceased. Simpson’s parents divorced when he was a child and his mother raised the family. They lived in the low socio-economic housing tract of Potrero Hill in San Francisco.
The young Simpson contracted rickets and wore leg-braces until the age of 5-years. However, O.J. went on to develop a unique and powerful running style, seen as a fast cycling and low elevation of the feet.
The net of circumstance led to a troubled teen life. He was recruited by a local gang, the Persian Warriors, and spent time in a juvenile correctional facility. It was then that he met Willie Mays, Jr. a baseball player of legendary status. Simpson listened and looked to this man as a role model and mentor. His thinking about the world changed and an interest in sports took hold.
He played football in school, and while attending the City College of San Francisco was enlisted as a running back and defensive back. His precocious abilities led to selection to the Junior All-American team. In the Prune Bowl, City College defeated Long Beach State, and college coaches eyed the rising athletic star eagerly.
He accepted an invitation to the University of Southern California (USC) to play football under coach, John McKay. In the 1967 Victory Bell game between UCLA and USC with minutes remaining and the team behind in points, Simpson made a 64-yard run and touch down. This move sealed a team victory, and the match is now hailed as one of the greatest football games of the 20th century.
O.J. Simpson married Marguerite Whitley in 1967. They had 3-children – a daughter, Arnelle born in 1968, a son, Jason born in 1970, and a daughter, Aaren born in 1977, who died just two years later in 1979.
In 1977, Simpson met Nicole Brown who was born May 19, 1959. They were married on February 5, 1985, and divorced on February 25, 1992. There are 2-children, Sydney Brooke born in 1985, and Justin Ryan born in 1988.
Simpson’s professional football career began when he was selected to play for the Buffalo Bills in New York State in 1969. Successive coaches relegated Simpson to defensive positions, and progress was delayed. In 1972, new coach Lou Saban moved Simpson to the offensive, and he was the first person to break the coveted 2000-yard rushing mark and surpassed Jim Brown’s single-season rushing mark.
Simpson left the Buffalo Bills at the end of the 1977 season. He finished football playing the 1978-79 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. During his career, Simpson set many records and received a plethora of awards and accolades.
The sportsman took up a new career as a movie actor and television commentator. He appeared in films including The Towering Inferno, Cassandra’s Crossing, and A Killing Affair with Elizabeth Montgomery of television’s Bewitched, though is best remembered in the Naked Gun trilogy. In 1994, shortly before the murders, he had completed a pilot for a television series, Frogmen. Warner Brothers Pictures was put in a difficult position, and the series was shelved, and the pilot never aired.
A History of Spousal Abuse
Simpson’s history of spousal abuse toward his wife and later ex-wife, Nicole Brown, is well documented. The couple met in 1977 and began dating. Nicole was working as a hostess at a club when Simpson noticed her. He was 30-years and she 18-years. A friend and colleague who was visiting Nicole one day saw a pair of jeans ripped and asked how the damage had occurred. Nicole said that Simpson had torn them off her on their first night together.
Denise Brown, one of Nicole’s sisters, told the court that she knew of numerous incidents of spousal abuse during the 1980s. She said that on one occasion while at the Rockingham residence, Simpson had picked up Nicole and thrown her against a wall and then manhandled her further, eventually grabbing her and tossing her out of the house.
In 1985, Detective Mark Fuhrman was sent to Simpson’s home on a domestic dispute. Nicole was in tears. Simpson had wielded a baseball bat smashing the front windshield of her car. Fuhrman instructed Simpson several times to put down the weapon. He finally yielded when the detective took out his police baton.
On January 1, 1989, Nicole phoned police in fear of her life. Simpson was heard by the police dispatcher, ranting and angry. It was obviously a domestic dispute. (See testimony below).
On September 30, 1990, Nicole Brown Simpson paid for a safety deposit box. She secured letters written to her by Simpson apologizing for his domestic violence and photographs of her bruised and swollen face. She also deposited a will, that read in part, “in case I should die…”.
On February 25, 1992, Brown filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences.” However, they did reconcile, but on October 25, 1993, Nicole again called police. By this time, the couple were estranged and living separately. Her statements to police were documented. She said, “My ex-husband has just broken into my house, and he’s ranting and raving outside in the front yard.” After 10-minutes, she called again stating, “He is going to beat the shit out of me. He’s going nuts.” She requested police assistance. Following this incident, she left him for good.
Several weeks before her murder, Nicole had reported a missing set of house keys. They were found in Simpson’s possession following his arrest.
On or around June 7, 1994, just 5-days before she was slain, Nicole had placed a call to the Sojourn Women’s Shelter in Los Angeles and spoke to a staff member. She did not give her last name but said she was the ex-wife of a “high profile” public figure and said she was in fear of her life, that her ex-husband was stalking her and had threatened to kill her. The respondent, Nancy Ney, testified at Simpson’s later civil suit. She was not permitted to speak at the criminal trial as her testimony was ruled to be hearsay.
In the early morning hours of June 13, 1994, when police called to advise the Brown family that Nicole had been murdered, Denise Brown was heard on the other end to say – “I knew he was going to do this,” referring to Simpson. She was said to have been hysterical upon receiving the devastating news.
Sharon Gilbert was called as a prosecution witness. On January 1, 1989, she had received a call (9-1-1). A taped telephone recording was replayed for the jurors. Nicole Brown Simpson could be heard pleading with the dispatcher to send help as she was in fear of being beaten severely. Gilbert could hear Simpson yelling and other noise, which she interpreted as a husband beating his wife.
John Edwards, the officer who came to help, testified that a distraught and frightened Nicole had come running out from a hiding place in the garden. She had shouted, “He’s going to kill me. He’s going to kill me.” Nicole was driven to the police station, and photographs were taken of her bruised face. Simpson subsequently pleaded no contest and was charged with one count of domestic abuse. He received a probationary sentence.
During the trial, the prosecution intended presenting 62 separate incidents of domestic violence to the jurors. Nicole also wrote letters about the incidents and had secured these journals in a safety deposit box. As stated above, in the vault was also a will she had made, and letters of apology from Simpson along with photographs of her bruised and swollen face. Judge Lance Ito ruled that the witnessed incidents could be heard but not the letters as this was unlawful in terms of the defendant’s sixth amendment rights (in-part the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses). This was not possible as the witness was deceased.
At this juncture, Jeanette Harris, a member of the jury was dismissed. She had previously been a victim of domestic violence. She had not disclosed this during jury selection. Harris afterward alleged that the 3-jurors elected as deputies were turning the daily juror deliberations into a racial cause. Judge Ito then dismissed the 3-deputies. The following day, 13 jurors refused to come into court until they spoke to Judge Ito. He agreed and listened to their protests that the deputies were dismissed. Ito, however, refused to reinstate. When the court resumed, the 13-jurors walked in dressed entirely in black clothing as a sign of solidarity.
It is the opinion of the author, that in the name of justice it would have been prudent of Judge Ito to have then summarily discharged all the jurors and selected a new jury panel representing a greater cross-section of the community.
Jeanette Harris also made other statements to the media. She said that Simpson’s physical abuse of Nicole was, “a whole lot of nothing” and “that doesn’t mean he is guilty of murder.” Once the trial was concluded the jurors said that the domestic violence issue was, “a waste of time.”
On June 20, 1995, the prosecution dropped the D.V. aspect in their case. Harris’s statements led them to form the view that the jury were not sympathetic to the domestic violence argument – on racial lines (where a black husband is accused of murdering his wife – a white woman). 75% of the jurors were black.
It should be remembered that at the time Simpson and Brown began dating, Nicole was 18. She was barely an adult and working as a waitress. Simpson was 12-years older and a world figure and very influential with a career as a professional sportsman and a film star.
Sunday, June 12, 1994 – Timeline: Domestic Violence to Murder
At 5:00 pm, O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown attend a dance recital at Paul Revere Middle School in Topanga, Los Angeles, where their daughter Sydney is to take part. Simpson and Brown are estranged and living separately. Their two children, Sydney Brooke, 8-years and Justin Ryan, 5-years reside with their mother. Nicole’s sisters and parents also attend the school performance.
At 6:30 pm, Nicole and family dine at the Mezzaluna Restaurant on San Vincente Boulevard, a short distance away. O.J. is not invited to the dinner. Nicole’s family then head home while she and the children finish the evening at Ben and Jerry’s, a popular ice-cream parlor.
Following the school recital, O.J Simpson. and a friend, Kato Kaelin decide to go to McDonalds. The friends then drive back to 360 N. Rockingham Ave. in Brentwood, Simpson’s home. Kaelin retires to a bungalow that sits about half-way down the right side of the residence. He is staying as Simpson’s guest. Kaelin notices the time is 9:36 pm.
At 9:37 pm, Nicole’s mother, Judy Brown telephones the Mezzaluna to report leaving her glasses behind in the restaurant. Staff search and locate the glasses.
At 9:50 pm, Ron Goldman, a waiter, and friend of Nicole finishes his shift at the Mezzaluna and drives to her condominium at 875 S. Bundy Drive in Brentwood to return the glasses in a gesture of goodwill.
Los Angeles Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, who sees the bodies first-hand and undertakes the autopsies, estimates the time of death for Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman to be between 10:00 pm and 10:30 pm.
At 10:25 pm, Allan Park, a chauffeur, arrives at Simpson’s Rockingham address to drive the former NFL star to Los Angeles International Airport. Simpson’s flight to Chicago departs at 11:45 pm. Park peers out the front windshield and driver’s window to locate the number of the property. Due to the late hour, it is dark. Rockingham Avenue and Ashford Street intersect at approximately 135 degrees giving a wide-arc view of the property from either street. He looks about and sees the number 360 and knows he has the correct address. Park does not see Simpson’s white Ford Bronco SUV at the Rockingham gate. He is early and wants to source the most accessible entry point to the property. He is driving a stretch limousine. He makes his way to the Ashford Street gate and decides it is easier to navigate.
At 10:40 pm, Park walks up to the gate and presses the intercom, but no one answers. There is a clear view of the front door of the property from the Ashford gate. He can see no lights on in the house.
(Back on Bundy Drive, between 10:40 pm and 10:45 pm a neighbour of Nicole Brown hears her Akita dog barking and notices the animal has bloody paws).
At 10:50 pm, Park sees a dark figure approaching the front door before this person turns around and disappears down the far side of the house, along the southern pathway which leads to the rear of the property. Kaelin’s bungalow is about half-way along. At about this time, Kaelin hears a series of thumping sounds on the exterior of the bungalow. His initial thought is that it is an earthquake. (Police later surmise that someone (Simpson), rushing along the pathway had mis-stepped or stumbled and slammed into the bungalow wall).
Park notices the white Ford Bronco is now parked in a misaligned manner on Rockingham Avenue outside the front entrance. Minutes pass, and Park sees the shadowy figure re-emerge and enter through the front door of the home.
In the meantime, Kaelin leaves the bungalow to investigate the noise and decides to make his way to the front of the property where he sees Park’s limousine at the Ashford entrance. Kaelin opens the gate for Park to enter.
Simpson then emerges through the front door. Simpson states to Park that there is no one else at home. It is 10:54 pm.
Simpson’s luggage consists of four bags, one of which is a knapsack. Park loads the bags into the trunk of the limousine. Simpson insists that he will load the knapsack. It is approximately 11:00 pm. Park drives Simpson to LAX.
(At LAX, only three bags are checked. An airport worker sees Simpson disposing unidentified items in a trash can. N.B. – Detectives believe Simpson discarded the clothes and shoes he had been wearing that night along with the knife used in the slayings). Note – this is only speculation. His blood-soaked socks are later found in his bedroom.
At 11:30 pm, Steven Schwab is walking his dog in the vicinity of Bundy Drive, Nicole Brown’s neighborhood. He comes upon another dog, an Akita, and recognizes the animal as belonging to Nicole. Schwab sees the dog has bloody paws but no signs of injury. He takes the dog to the home of a nearby friend.
At 11:45 pm Simpson’s flight to Chicago departs.
At 12:00 midnight, the neighbour takes the dog left in his care on a walk. The animal tugs on the leash leading the person in the direction of Nicole’s residence. The neighbour sees Nicole’s body and the horrific scene and stops a passing police patrol.
It is 12:10 am, Monday, June 13.
The Crime Scene
At 12:10 am, Monday, June 13, the first police officers arrive at the Bundy Drive condo and come upon a confronting scene. It is a crime of sheer violence and rage. It appears that whoever committed the murders was in a frenzy and on a rampage and there is no telling whether the killer or perpetrators are still lurking in the shadows, lying in wait.
The front door is wide-open. Inside, music is playing, and candles are lit. The television is also on and a full bath is waiting.
An attractive, young woman is lying on her left side, face down in a large pool of blood at the bottom of the stone stairs near the front entrance. She has multiple stab wounds to the head and neck. Her throat is slashed so severely it has severed the carotid artery, jugular vein, and cut through part of the vertebrae. The gaping wound has drained much of her body and the blood is tracked over the length of the tiled pathway leading to the victim. The scene is ghastly. There is no blood on the soles of Nicole’s feet indicating the struggle was brief and that she was set upon first.
Under her body a restaurant menu is located, and a tub of ice-cream is lying on the veranda. It appears that she is holding both items when she is attacked. It also seems she was unwinding and relaxing when her attacker came upon her by surprise.
The slain woman is identified as Nicole Brown (Simpson). It is quickly established that this Ms Simpson is the estranged ex-wife of O.J. Simpson. There is a history of spousal abuse. Their two young children are discovered to be asleep and undisturbed in the house.
The male victim, Ronald Goldman is found murdered a short distance away. It appears that in a bid to out-run the assailant he has inadvertently been cornered in an area of the garden with no escape route. He has sustained multiple stab wounds to his neck and chest. The direction of thrusts indicates the attacker is standing behind using a choke hold. A bloody glove fitting the left hand is found near his body.
There are bloody shoeprints found near both victims and a trail of these imprints lead away from Nicole’s body to the rear gate. There is also blood on the gate. To the left of the shoeprints is a trail of blood drops. It appears the assailant has been injured and bleeding from the left side, possibly the left hand. The brand and size of shoes are later identified. There are no other shoeprints other than the victims and those of a single assailant.
A death notification is to be made to Simpson, as the next of kin. LAPD Commander, Keith Bushy directs detectives Lange, Vannatter, Philips and Fuhrman to proceed to Simpson’s address, several blocks away, and advise him that his wife has been murdered and that his children are with police. Detective Mark Fuhrman has been to the property on a previous occasion, answering a domestic dispute. His commander asks him to accompany the other detectives to Simpson’s home.
In the meantime, detectives inform the Brown and Goldman families. They speak with Lou Brown, Nicole’s father, and Fred Goldman, Ron’s father.
Once at Simpson’s address, Detective Phil Vannatter attempts to contact Simpson using the intercom system at the Ashford Street entrance, to no avail. At the same time, Detective Fuhrman wanders down the street to the Rockingham gate. He notices a white Ford Bronco is parked haphazardly on the street near the entrance. He looks and sees blood on the driver’s side door. The likelihood that someone is injured on the property leads to a decision to gain access without a search warrant. Detective Mark Fuhrman then scales the fence of Simpson’s property. Once on the other side he opens the Rockingham gate to enable the other detectives to enter.
They find a trail of blood that leads from the Ford Bronco all the way to the front door of the property.
Fuhrman makes his way down the southern pathway with the house on his left and the neighbor’s fence to his right side. Fuhrman knocks on the bungalow door and speaks to Kato Kaelin, who tells him that his friend O.J. Simpson has flown to Chicago. When Fuhrman asks him about hearing any disturbance, he tells of earlier hearing thumping sounds thinking initially it is an earthquake. Fuhrman then goes outside and searches along the southern pathway. He sees a glistening substance on the walkway and shines his torch on the area. He knows it is blood. He also sees a glove. It belongs to the right hand and is later determined to be the matching glove to the one found at the Bundy Drive crime scene.
Later, Detective Phil Vannatter calls Deputy District Attorney, Marcia Clark and requests a search warrant to enter the home. Blood is later found tracked inside and up the staircase to the bedroom where they discover a pair of blood-soaked socks.
The addresses are sealed off and evidence is gathered in a painstaking manner. This includes blood samples, hair fibres, shoe prints and gloves as well as the bodies and clothing of the victims. The crime scene is photographed and documented in a professional manner.
(Homicide detectives establish the chronology of events on the night of the murders after speaking with family members and other witnesses including neighbours, airport staff and house guest, Kato Kaelin). See timeline above.
O.J. Simpson: Arrest, Release and Re-Arrest
Following his return from Chicago on Monday afternoon, with enough probable cause, Simpson is handcuffed and driven to LAPD headquarters. He is questioned by detectives.
He is asked how he has injured his middle finger of his left-hand. His first response is – “I don’t know”. He then gives a plausible answer – “I broke it on a glass in the hotel in Chicago.” They check out his story. There is broken glass and blood and Simpson did ask for a band-aid. Detectives advise Simpson there is a problem because blood has been found on his Ford Bronco and in his home. The blood was there before the flight to Chicago. Detectives do not press Simpson with any direct questions. They do gain his permission to collect a sample of his blood and take photographs of his badly cut finger. Simpson is then released.
(In the intervening years, Detective Mark Fuhrman in an interview states, “You have one opportunity to talk to him – forever!” He is critical of detectives’ interview of the suspect. Deputy District Attorney, Marcia Clark is also critical that Simpson is not questioned more thoroughly with direct questions).
Ron Shipp, a close friend is with Simpson at his home after police release him. He later recounts, “When we went out to Rockingham, he has like 3-TVs on.” Shipp has noticed the injured hand and asks how it came to be cut. Simpson replies that he has cut it on a glass. He then mentions that he has refused to undergo a lie-detector test stating – “I’ve had a lot of dreams about killing her. I really don’t know about taking that thing.”
When other friends arrive, two of them also ask Simpson how he cut his finger. Ron Shipp hears Simpson give a different explanation to each. In one case he tells of cutting it while getting his cell phone out of the car, and the other while hitting golf balls. Shipp later refuses to be a witness for the defence stating – “I’m not on board. O.J. did it.” Instead, he testifies for the prosecution, stating – “I won’t have Nicole’s blood on my hands.” He has seen photos of Nicole lying dead at the crime scene.
The following day, June 14, Simpson hires a prominent lawyer, Robert Shapiro who is not known as a criminal defence advocate but rather – “a mister fix-it” who is capable of “cutting a deal.” The assumption here is that Simpson will plead guilty to a lesser charge, perhaps manslaughter.
On the morning of June 17, detectives inform Robert Shapiro that they intend to charge his client with two counts of first-degree murder and he will need to surrender. Simpson agrees but stipulates that he wants to turn himself in rather than be placed under arrest. A time of 11:00 am is set and this is extended to 12:00 midday. (The DNA results have come in and Simpson’s DNA is found in all the locations where blood has been collected in the early hours after the murders). In the meantime, Simpson makes out a new will, writes three letters, one to his children and one to his mother and a third to the public. He also calls his mother and children.
Police wait and the deadline passes. A press conference is held. LAPD Commander David Gascon informs millions of viewers that Simpson has not surrendered as agreed and that a warrant has been issued to arrest him for murder. Gascon states – “The Los Angeles Police Department is right now actively searching for Mr. Simpson. We will continue our pursuit of Mr. Simpson and hopefully, we will have him in custody – soon.” He warns the public not to aid or abet the fugitive.
Los Angeles District Attorney, Gil Garcetti also speaks to the Press. He states – “If you in any way are assisting Mr. Simpson… Mr. Simpson is a fugitive of justice…you are committing a felony.”
Not long afterward, a television crew working from a helicopter spots Simpson’s white Ford Bronco on Freeway 5. A close friend, Al Cowlings is driving with Simpson the passenger.
The slow-paced police pursuit is watched by an estimated 95 million viewers world-wide. Crowds gather on the freeway overpasses and converge in large numbers in Simpson’s residential neighbourhood.
During negotiations on the freeway with the suspect, Simpson is heard to say – “I’m the only one that deserves this…I just loved Nicole…” Simpson says that he wishes to commit suicide but not on the freeway or in the Bronco and pleads to be allowed to continue to his home. Simpson has a gun to his head. Police agree to his terms and allow driver and passenger to drive home. It will take 40-minutes.
Once the Ford Bronco turns into the driveway and pulls to a stop, the SWAT team, already in position on neighbouring rooftops take aim. Normally, in situations of a police pursuit, where a suspect has a gun and will not relinquish their weapon, police are required to subdue the fugitive. If Simpson were not a public figure, the Bronco would be stopped on the freeway and police would ask him to throw out the gun or be shot.
The SWAT commander is Mike Albanese. He asks SWAT team member, Peter Wiereter to take charge of the negotiations. – Someone is heard to say, “Are you in a position to take him down.” They also direct Simpson – “toss out your weapon.” However, negotiations continue, and they ask him not to shoot himself. “Your children don’t need to see anyone.” Simpson then changes the subject and starts to talk about himself and the SWAT negotiator, Wiereter realizes the way to talk Simpson down is – “to appeal to his ego”. “I knew what this person was all about. His home was full of memorabilia about himself.”
It is nightfall when Simpson agrees to surrender peacefully. The SWAT team instructs him to get out of the Bronco with a framed picture in each of his hands (he has taken these on the drive) raised overhead. This done, Simpson is handcuffed and taken to police headquarters to be charged with murder.
Los Angeles District Attorney, Gil Garcetti, is later quoted, “Anytime you have a pursuit it shows a conscience of guilt.”
(Simpson cannot account for his whereabouts from 9:36 pm to 10:54 pm. He claims to have been home alone during this period. He has no witnesses. There is a witness to refute his assertion of being home the entire time).
Simpson enters plea of – Not Guilty
On June 20, 1994, Simpson is arraigned and pleads not guilty to two counts of murder. On June 21, a grand jury is to determine whether to indict the defendant, but this meeting does not proceed due to media hysteria. On July 7, a probable cause hearing determines there is enough evidence to go to trial, and on July 22, Simpson is arraigned a second time and pleads – “Absolutely, one-hundred percent, not guilty.”
The most noteworthy members of Simpson’s defence are, Robert Shapiro, F. Lee Bailey, Jonnie Cochran, Alan Dershowitz and Robert Kardashian. Shapiro and Bailey cannot agree on a defence strategy and Jonnie Cochran assumes the role of lead defence counsel.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney is Gil Garcetti. His office and the State of California are represented by Deputy District Attorneys, Marcia Clark – the lead prosecutor, Christopher Darden as prosecutor co-counsel, along with Hank Goldberg and William Hodgman. Both teams hire their own DNA experts.
District Attorney, Garcetti chooses to file the charges in downtown L.A. and this in turn leads the Los Angeles Superior Court to have the case tried in Downtown Los Angeles. The crime has occurred in Santa Monica, but due to racial tensions and safety issues, the trial will pass to the County Court House in Downtown Los Angeles.
The change of location is considered a defining factor, leading to Simpson’s acquittal. The 12-member jury consists of (10-women and 2-men) of which 9 are Black (75%). The argument is that a larger proportion of black residents attain less formal education and lower incomes and thus are less likely to accept the validity of DNA evidence (in 1994 DNA is in its early years and is not widely understood) or that domestic violence is a precursor to murder. Due also to the anticipated length of the trial and the Downtown location the prosecution is not able to attract a more educated cross-section of black and white jurors. Research at the time also shows that due to interracial tensions, black women are unlikely to sympathise in cases of domestic violence where a white woman (wife) has been murdered by a black man (husband).
Another factor is that the 1992 L.A. riots are still very raw at the time of the trial. Rodney King had been bashed (hit with police batons and kicked by a mob of white police) and the perpetrators were acquitted despite the incident being filmed for the world to see). The O.J. Simpson trial becomes a cause-celeb and Americans are divided on racial lines. Whether he is guilty of double homicide, is of little concern to a lot of black Americans, who simply want the legal system, (which has a history so weighted against them in terms of discrimination and prejudice), to exonerate a black person.
During these proceedings, the prosecution decides not to call several witnesses as they have gone public and sold their stories to the media. An alleged confession by Simpson to a member of the clergy is also ruled as hearsay.
The State’s case is based on DNA evidence and Simpson’s escalating history of domestic violence toward his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, leading ultimately to her murder. Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor, tells the court, “We have a trail of blood from the crime scene through Simpson’s Ford Bronco and into his house in Rockingham.” There is no question it is Simpson’s blood.
There is also the chauffer driver, Alan Park, who will testify to seeing a person enter the house that night although when Simpson answers the door minutes later, he states to Park that he is home alone.
There are prosecution witnesses who will say that Simpson is angry with Nicole on the evening of the dance recital in relation to a black dress she is wearing. Simpson does not invite his girlfriend, Paula Barbieri to the recital and afterward calls her but she does not answer and instead leaves a message ending the relationship. The prosecution will allege Simpson then drives to Nicole’s Bundy Drive condo and confronts his ex-wife to reconcile. When she refuses, he becomes angry and kills her in a “final act of control.”
The Defence’s initial strategy is to introduce an alternative scenario and fictionalised set of suspects to throw doubt on Simpson’s guilt. The plot involves Faye Resnick who is Nicole’s friend. She stays as a house guest leaving to enter a drug rehab centre just 4-days before the murders. The defence intends to imply that Resnick owes money to a Columbian drug cartel and reneges on her debt and henchmen are dispatched to the condo and kill Nicole instead, inflicting a “Columbian necktie” (slit throat). However, there is no evidence to support the claim and this line of defence is ruled – “highly speculative” and disallowed.
The Defence will then make their case on discrediting the validity of the State’s DNA evidence, alleging mishandling of the blood samples at the hands of laboratory scientists and technicians, and misconduct by the LAPD, pointing the finger at Detective Mark Fuhrman. They intend to frame the policeman with planting evidence. They will also allege a history of systemic racism within the ranks, and lastly appeal to the black jurors that the O.J. Simpson trial is all about corrupt police lynching another black man, i.e. introducing the “race card.”
The Trial of O.J. Simpson
The trial of O.J. Simpson began on January 24, 1995 with opening arguments and testimony and would run for 134-court days. It was to be the longest and most publicized trial in United States legal history.
The D.V. portion of the trial has been detailed in the previous section. Most of the other important evidence will now be outlined.
Simpson’s DNA was found in the blood at multiple locations at both the Bundy Drive, Brentwood crime scene and at his Rockingham Ave., Brentwood residence.
The locations were – (in a trail of blood drops leading away from both victims along a pathway to the rear gate and on the gate itself. More was discovered in blood next to the bloody footprints near both victims. Other DNA was located on the outside door of the Ford Bronco and inside the vehicle. DNA from the blood of both Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were also found at these locations. There were other samples of Simpson’s blood in the trail of drops leading from the Ford Bronco all the way to the front door of Simpson’s Rockingham property. More again on a bloody glove located on the southern pathway of Simpson’s home. Nicole Brown Simpson’s DNA and Ron Goldman’s DNA were also found on blood on the glove. Lastly, on a pair of socks found in Simpson’s bedroom. Nicole Brown Simpson’s DNA was also found in blood on the socks).
The chances of an error from the serology testing is 1 in 200 or 0.5%. The chances the blood found near the shoeprints is not Simpson’s is 1 in 9.7 billion. The chances the blood found on the socks in Simpson’s bedroom is not Nicole Brown Simpson’s is 1 in 6.8 billion. Those responsible for the testing were – Renee Montgomery, Criminalist, California State Department of Justice Crime Laboratory. Gregory Matheson, Chief Forensic Chemist, Los Angeles Police Crime Laboratory. Dr. Robin Cotton, Laboratory Director, Cellmark Diagnostics.
The defence began by claiming that criminalists, Dennis Fung and Andrea Mazzola had compromised the blood samples by making mistakes during the collecting and preserving phases. This included packaging and storing items in plastic bags rather the recommended paper bags and leaving the samples in a police van without refrigeration for up to 7-hours in the summer heat. They alleged that this would enable bacteria to fester and completely degrade the samples, rendering them useless.
The prosecution’s experts, Rockne Harmon and George Clarke maintained that such a degrading of DNA was not credible. It should be noted that DNA can be obtained from bones.
The defence challenged, that the evidence was further contaminated in the LAPD crime laboratory by criminalist, Collin Yamauchi.
But the prosecution hit back that most of the DNA testing was done at the two consulting laboratories and not the crime lab., and that all the samples received were testable.
The defence also introduced their theory, that Simpson’s blood taken at the time of his arrest on June 13, 1994 and secured in a police reference vial, was later removed by corrupt police, and transferred to 105 out of the 108 exhibits and that this destroyed the “real killer’s” blood.
The prosecution countered showing that if police had planted Simpson’s blood, then the result would be a mixture of both blood types, but only Simpson’ DNA was present. The defence had declined to have the blood samples tested themselves.
The defence then called microbiologist, Dr. John Gerdes to testify. Gerdes said that the LAPD had a history of contamination and therefore their testing and subsequent results could not be relied upon.
Under cross-examination however, Gerdes admitted there was no evidence of cross-contamination, that the victim’s blood was in the Ford Bronco, Simpson’s at the crime scene and that neither was present due to contamination. He further conceded that nothing had occurred during the packaging and shipping phases, that could affect the validity of the consulting laboratories’ results. Dr. Gerdes was also discredited for other reasons. He had no forensic experience, had never collected evidence nor carried out DNA tests. He had also testified in 23-trials for the defence where suspects were either charged with rape or murder or both rape and murder and in all cases maintained that contamination had occurred and were unreliable.
Dr. Henry Lee, a renowned forensic DNA expert also testified for the defence. He was made to admit that Dr. Gerdes’s claim of contamination was “highly improbable.”
Afterwards, Howard Coleman, president of Seattle-based forensic DNA laboratory (GeneLex), stated, “What contamination and degradation will lead you to is an inconclusive result. It doesn’t lead you to a false-positive.”
The defence said that 105 of the 108 exhibits were contaminated. (They suggested that the remaining 3-exhibits were planted by corrupt police to frame Simpson). Two of these exhibits included Simpson’s blood found on the Bundy Drive rear gate and Nicole’s blood found on a pair of socks in Simpson’s bedroom. The defence called in Dr. Frederic Rieders, a forensic toxicologist. He testified that the preservative, EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) had been detected in the 2-exhibits at levels higher than was normally found in blood. Rieders pointed out that EDTA is found in the purple coloured collection tubes used as reference vials by police. That the higher levels indicated police had transferred Simpson’s blood to the rear gate and to Nicole’s socks using the vial.
However, the prosecution presented Dr. Rieders with a scientific paper with the levels of EDTA found in blood, and he was asked to read it out loud for jurors. The levels discovered in the evidence samples on the gate and socks were consistent with the levels found in blood and which had not been preserved in a reference vial.
Dr. Roger Martz dealt the defence a blow even though he was their witness. He had tested the samples and said they, “responded like EDTA responded” but that the identification test for EDTA was inconclusive. He had also tested his own unpreserved blood which returned the same EDTA levels as Simpson’s evidence samples. He said also that the defence had misinterpreted the findings.
The last of the 3-exhibits the defence claimed was planted was the matching glove found on the southern pathway at Simpson’s Rockingham residence. It was the matching glove to the one found at the Bundy Drive crime scene. It was suggested by defence counsel, F. Lee Bailey that Detective Fuhrman, while at the crime scene, had picked up the glove with a stick and placed it in a plastic bag and then concealed it in his sock and later planted it on the pathway at Simpson’s home. Bailey speculated further that Fuhrman had wiped it on the door and inside the Ford Bronco.
The prosecution challenged Bailey’s allegations, pointing to a few facts. Detective Tom Lange testified that 14-detectives had already arrived at Bundy Drive before Detective Mark Fuhrman and all had combed the crime scene and found only one glove. Lt. Frank Spangler testified that he was among the first of 3-officers on the scene and that once Detective Fuhrman arrived, he had been with him the entire time.
Lead prosecutor, Marcia Clark consolidated by suggesting, that Fuhrman did not know if there were any witnesses to the murders, whose blood was on the glove, who owned the Bronco, whether Simpson had an alibi and lastly whether Kato Kaelin, a guest in the bungalow, had already searched the area where the glove was later found.
Following the trial, defence counsel, Robert Shapiro went public with a revelation. He said that before the trial the defence team had discussed the strategy of framing Detective Mark Fuhrman with planting evidence. Shapiro said that he had gone to New York Times legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin and leaked this information asking that he not be named as the source. Toobin then wrote an article which was published in the Times.
To paint Fuhrman as a villain, the defence had uncovered documents from his past that amounted to racial slurring toward black Americans, although this behaviour occurred many years earlier. In the intervening years and by his own admission, he had changed and overcome this prejudice. He was also well-regarded by his colleagues who considered him a highly professional police officer.
At trial though, defence counsel Bailey used this deception. To cast the detective as a racist, Bailey asked Fuhrman if he had ever used the word “nigger” in the previous 10-years. Fuhrman said he had not. Bailey then introduced an audiotape. Fuhrman could be heard using the word 41-times.
Detective Fuhrman then asked lead prosecutor, Marcia Clark to allow him to be redirected. He wanted a chance to explain the context of the tape. Clark, however, refused. Fuhrman then invoked his fifth- amendment rights and refused to answer any more questions.
In fact, a North Carolina screenwriter, Laura McKinny was making a screenplay. She had asked Fuhrman to play-act and to be “as dramatic as possible”. McKinny implied good remuneration if the screenplay was used. Fuhrman was merely acting.
Jonnie Cochran, lead counsel for the defence, asked Judge Ito to suppress Detective Fuhrman’s evidence, alleging a cover-up by the LAPD. Ito declined to do so, stating that invoking one’s fifth-amendment rights did not imply guilt. Ito also stated that there was no evidence of fraud on Fuhrman’s part. Ito was particularly critical of the defence’s allegations that Fuhrman had planted the glove. He said, “It would strain logic to believe that.”
One event of court dramatics involved prosecutor Christopher Darden asking Simpson to try on the gloves. Simpson tried on the gloves and it appeared to the court that they were too tight. In fact, the gloves had been soaked in blood, frozen and unfrozen several times. Richard Rubin, a former vice-president of Aris Isotoner Incorporated, the manufacturer, testified that the glove in question had indeed shrunk from the original size and that someone with hands the size of Simpson would have no problem fitting them on. They were extra-large and could also stretch to fit the largest hands. Prosecutor Darden then presented Simpson with a new pair of the gloves which fitted easily over his hands.
There was also hair and fibre and shoeprint evidence from the crime scene along with the gloves.
Shoe Print Evidence:
On June 19, 1995, FBI shoeprint analyst, William Bodziak testified that the bloody prints left behind at the crime scene and inside the Ford Bronco, were a Bruno Magli. The brand was rare. Bloomingdales Department Store was the sole trader and only 29 pairs had been sold in the United States. Bodziak confirmed the bloody imprints were all a size 12, indicating there was only one assailant. Simpson wore a size 12. He denied ever owning a pair of what he termed, “ugly ass shoes.” No evidence at the time was presented to show otherwise.
In 1996, the Goldman and Brown families brought civil suits against Simpson. He was found liable in 1997 in the “wrongful deaths” of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman and ordered by the court to pay compensation to both plaintiffs.
During the civil trial, the prosecution presented a pre-dated photograph of Simpson wearing the Bruno Magli shoes. The shot was taken in 1993, prior to the murders. Simpson again denied having owned a pair and suggested the photograph had been “doctored”. However, the photographer, E. J. Flammer brought the originals to court. Other photos of Simpson wearing the shoes were then discovered.
At Simpson’s trial for murder, the defence once again attempted to implicate Detective Fuhrman. They showed a photograph of him walking through a patch of blood at the crime scene and suggested the shoeprint found inside the Ford Bronco was in fact his. William Bodziak was not able to say the print in the Bronco was a Bruno Magli but said none of Fuhrman’s shoeprints were found at the crime scene.
Hair and Fibre Evidence:
In June 1995, the defence called LAPD criminalist, Susan Brockbank and Doug Deedrick to give evidence of findings.
Among their discoveries, hair consistent with samples taken from Simpson’s hair were found on both Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, on both gloves, and on a blue-knit cap worn by the killer and left behind at the crime scene.
Hair and clothing fibre consistent with Simpson, Brown and Goldman were found on the glove discovered at Simpson’s address.
Hair from Nicole’s Akita dog and fibres from a 1993-94 Ford Bronco were found on the glove discovered at Simpson’s address.
Fibres from both gloves were found to be microscopically indistinguishable, meaning the gloves were a pair.
The prosecution asked the jurors to base their decision on the factual evidence, which clearly pointed to a verdict of guilty. They said that the notion of police planting evidence to frame Simpson was disingenuous and not credible. They also declared that Detective Fuhrman was a racist but discouraged the jurors from allowing their feelings to play a role in deciding whether Simpson was innocent or guilty.
Jonnie Cochran spoke for the prosecution. Instead of basing his closing argument on evidence presented over the course of nearly a year, he raised the issue of race and used this to incite tensions within the largely black jury panel. Cochran used his time to slur the reputation of one police officer. He compared Mark Fuhrman to Adolf Hitler as if the detective were on trial and responsible for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman.
On the morning of Tuesday, October 3, 1995, Simpson was acquitted on two counts of murder. The jury had deliberated for only 3.5 hours.
In the case of O.J. Simpson, there is ample evidence of his guilt in the murders.
Once the trial was concluded, defence counsel, Robert Shapiro admitted that the team had intended to frame detective, Mark Fuhrman with planting evidence, including the glove at Simpson’s home. Shapiro disclosed that they had indeed discussed this underhanded tactic months prior to trial. In the end, they falsely accused Fuhrman, in a move to shift blame and cast doubt.
The defence DNA experts admitted on cross-examination, that contamination, and degradation of DNA cannot extinguish another’s (“the real killer’s”) DNA. Such a suggestion holds no scientific credibility.
Forensic DNA expert and defence witness, Dr. Henry Lee, testified that the contamination theory was, “highly improbable” and Seattle based forensic DNA laboratory (GeneLex) president, Dr. Howard Coleman stated – “What contamination and degradation will lead you to is an inconclusive result. It doesn’t lead you to a false positive.” Microbiologist, Dr. John Gerdes, under cross-examination admitted that Simpson’ DNA was indeed at the crime scene, the victims’ blood inside the Ford Bronco and that neither result was present due to contamination.
Simpson denied ever owning a pair of Bruno Magli shoes which left the bloody imprints at the murder scene. Photographs of Simpson wearing the shoe brand in 1993 (the year before the murders) were presented at the 1997 civil trial. The photographer produced the original negatives as proof. Only 29-pairs had been sold in the United States.
Lastly, Simpson had a history of domestic violence toward his ex-wife.
Sadly, the trial was transformed into a racial platform, and justice for the victims (Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman) was forgotten.
Murder in the first degree
It will never be known why O.J. Simpson murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown. He is the only person who truly has all the facts. The murder of Ron Goldman was incidental and unplanned. He had likely arrived at the worst time and Simpson would have been startled and panicked, and adrenaline took over.
Simpson has hypothesised that Nicole met him wielding the knife. If she were holding it pointed outwards, he could have wrenched it from her hand and cut himself badly in the process by grabbing the blade. This is one way he could have cut his hand. He may then have become incensed through the pain and reacted with hostility turning the knife on her and stabbing her over and over.
It seems difficult to fathom he would have taken a knife with him to kill her. But if he was at home and angry enough and could no longer think rationally or process his perceptions of his ex-wife, then in a moment of madness he may have made up his mind to kill her.
On the other hand, it appears Nicole may have been holding a menu from the Mezzaluna and a tub of ice-cream from Ben and Jerry’s. The menu was found underneath her and the tub of ice-cream on the veranda.
Regardless of the circumstances, what happened next is chilling. Nicole had been stabbed many times in the head and neck. She was now lying on the ground alive but likely unconscious and dying. Fate being what it is, Ron Goldman came upon the scene. It appears that he was killed quickly.
It is possible that, up to this point, there may have been no premeditation.
God knows what possessed Simpson next, for he turned back and walked over to Nicole. He stepped on her back (the resulting bruise was inflicted prior to death) and wrenched her head back by the hair and cut her throat.
This last action changed things forever and can only mean that Nicole Brown (Simpson) was murdered in the first degree.
Simpson then walked out of the property by the rear gate. The front door was still open, and his two children were inside alone and asleep.
- Clark, Marcia. Without a Doubt? New York: Penguin Publishing, 1998
- Lange, Tom., Vannatter, Philip., Moldea, Dan E. Evidence Dismissed: The Inside Story of the Police Investigation of O.J. Simpson. New York: Pocket Books, 1997
- O.J.: Made in America. Directed and produced by Ezra Edelman. ESPN Films. 4 August 2016.
- O.J.Simpson. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O._J._Simpson
- Shapiro, Robert, with Larkin Warren. The Search for Justice: A Defense Attorney’s Brief of the O.J. Simpson Case. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 1996
- Simpson, O.J. with Pablo Fenjves. IF I DID IT: Confessions of the Killer. New York: Beaufort Books, 2007
Karadjis. S. (May 24, 2020) O. J. Simpson: Murder in the First Degree. Crime Traveller. Retrieved from https://www.crimetraveller.org/2020/05/oj-simpson-murder-in-the-first-degree/