|Judge(s) sitting Lance Ito|
Prosecutor Marcia Clark
|Dates 25 Jan 1995 – 2 Oct 1995|
Defense lead attorney Johnnie Cochran
|Full case name People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson|
Decided October 3, 1995; 21 years ago (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 Los Angeles County Superior Court
Location Los Angeles, California, United States
Defense attorneys Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro
Similar Death of Caylee Anthony, Murder of Travis Alexander, O J Simpson robbery c, Trial of Michael Jackson, Trial of George Zimmerman
The O. J. Simpson murder case (officially titled People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, or People v. O. J. Simpson) was a criminal trial held at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, in which former National Football League (NFL) player and actor O. J. Simpson was tried on two counts of murder for the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend and restaurant waiter, Ron Goldman, that occurred on June 12, 1994. The trial spanned eleven months, from the jury's swearing-in on November 9, 1994. Opening statements were made on January 24, 1995, and the verdict was announced on October 3, 1995, when Simpson was found not guilty of murder on both counts. The case has been described as the most publicized criminal trial in history.
- BrownSimpson marriage
- Arrest of Simpson
- Prosecution case
- Evidence presented to the jury
- Evidence not presented to the jury
- DNA evidence
- Mark Fuhrman
- The glove
- Racial issues
- Defense case
- Reaction to the verdict
- Media coverage
- Quasi confessions
- Civil trial
- If I Did It
- Later developments
- Other theories
- In Popular culture
- In music
- On tv
- Media adaptations
Simpson was represented by a high-profile defense team (also referred to as the "Dream Team"), which was initially led by Robert Shapiro and subsequently led by Johnnie Cochran. The team also included F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, Robert Kardashian, Shawn Holley, Carl E. Douglas, and Gerald Uelmen. Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld were two additional attorneys who specialized in DNA evidence.
Deputy District Attorneys Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden believed they had a strong case against Simpson, but Cochran was able to convince the jurors that there was reasonable doubt about the DNA evidence (a relatively new form of evidence in trials at the time), including that the blood sample evidence had allegedly been mishandled by lab scientists and technicians, and about the circumstances surrounding other court exhibits. Cochran and the defense team also alleged other misconduct by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), related to systemic racism. Simpson's celebrity status, racial issues, 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.
After the criminal trial, the Brown and Goldman families filed a civil lawsuit against Simpson. On February 4, 1997, the jury found Simpson responsible for the two deaths. The families were awarded compensatory and punitive damages totaling $33.5 million, but have received only a small portion of that.
Nicole Brown and O. J. Simpson were married on February 2, 1985, five years after his retirement from professional football. The couple had two children, Sydney Brooke Simpson (b. 1985) and Justin Ryan Simpson (b. 1988). The marriage lasted seven years, during which time Simpson was investigated by police for domestic violence multiple times and pleaded no contest to spousal abuse in 1989. Brown filed for divorce on February 25, 1992, citing "irreconcilable differences".
At 12:10 a.m. on June 13, 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. The larynx could be seen through the gaping wound in her neck, and vertebra C3 was incised. Both victims had been dead for about 2 hours prior to being discovered by police. Robert Riske, one of the first two officers on the scene, found a single bloody glove, among other evidence.
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 on it. Detective Mark Fuhrman 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. In a walk-around of the premises, Fuhrman discovered a second bloody glove; it was later determined to be the match of the glove found at the murder scene. Through DNA testing, the blood on the glove was determined to have come from both victims. This—together with other evidence collected at both scenes—was determined to be probable cause to issue an arrest warrant for Simpson.
Simpson, while waiting in his bedroom, invited longtime friend and police officer Ron Shipp for a private discussion; Simpson jokingly told him, "To be honest, Shipp, I've had some dreams about killing her."
Arrest of Simpson
Lawyers convinced LAPD to allow Simpson to turn himself in at 11 a.m. on June 17, 1994, although the double murder charge meant that no bail would be set and a first-degree murder conviction could result in a death sentence. More than 1,000 reporters waited for Simpson at the police station, but he failed to appear. At 2 p.m., LAPD 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. 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." To many, this sounded like a suicide note, and the reporters joined the search for Simpson. Simpson's lawyer Robert Shapiro was present at Kardashian's press conference and said that Simpson's psychiatrists agreed with the suicide note interpretation. Over the television, Shapiro appealed to Simpson to surrender.
At around 6:20 p.m., a motorist in Orange County notified police after seeing Simpson riding in a white Ford Bronco that was being driven by longtime friend Al Cowlings. The police tracked calls placed from Simpson on his cell phone. At 6:45 p.m., a police officer named Ruth Dixon 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. The officer backed off, but followed the vehicle at 35 miles per hour (56 km/h), with up to 20 police cars participating in the chase.
More than nine helicopters eventually joined the chase; the high degree of media participation caused camera signals to appear on incorrect television channels. Radio station KNX also provided live coverage of the 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. 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. 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.
All Big Three television networks and CNN as well as local news outlets interrupted regular programming to cover the incident, with an estimated 95 million viewers nationwide. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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."
Simpson reportedly demanded that he be allowed to speak to his mother before he would surrender. 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." After remaining in the Bronco for about 45 minutes, Simpson was allowed to go inside for about an hour; a police spokesman stated that he spoke to his mother and drank a glass of orange juice. 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." Neither the footage of the Bronco chase nor the items found in the Bronco were shown to the jury as evidence in the trial.
As Simpson was driven away, he saw the crowds, many of whom were African americans, cheering him; Simpson said, "What are all these niggers doing in Brentwood?"
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, told the grand jury that the Bronco almost collided with a Nissan at the intersection of Bundy and San Vicente Boulevard. Another grand jury witness, Jose Camacho, was a knife salesman at Ross Cutlery. He said he had sold Simpson a 15-inch (380 mm) German-made knife, similar to the murder weapon, three weeks before the killings. Shively and Camacho were not presented by the prosecution at the criminal trial because they had sold their stories to the tabloid press. Shively had talked to the television show Hard Copy for $5,000, and Camacho sold his story to the National Enquirer for $12,500.
Rather than a grand jury hearing, authorities held a probable cause hearing to determine whether or not to bring Simpson to trial. This was a minor victory for Simpson's lawyers, because it would give them access to evidence as it was being presented by the prosecution in contrast to procedure in 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 took place. The decision would prove to be highly controversial, especially after Simpson was acquitted. 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.
Veteran LAPD detective Tom Lange led the murder investigation. The prosecution decided not to seek the death penalty and instead sought a life sentence. The TV exposure made celebrities of many of the figures in the trial, including the presiding judge, Lance Ito.
Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark was designated as the lead prosecutor. Deputy District Attorney Christopher A. Darden became Clark's co-counsel.
Simpson wanted a speedy trial, and 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.
The trial began on January 24, 1995 and was televised by Court TV and in part by other cable and network news outlets for 134 days. 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 from Nicole Brown Simpson on January 1, 1989. She expressed fear that Simpson would physically harm her, and he could be heard yelling at her in the background. Other material related to domestic violence was presented. The prosecution also presented dozens of expert witnesses to place Simpson at the scene of the crime, on subjects ranging from DNA profiling to blood and shoeprint analysis.
During the opening weeks of the trial, the prosecution presented 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, and 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, who was white, because of tensions about interracial marriages. 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 blacks, two whites, and one Hispanic.
At the start of trial, 12 jurors and 12 alternates were selected from a pool of 250 potential jurors. Over the course of the trial 10 were dismissed for a wide variety of reasons. Only four of the original jurors remained on the final panel.
During the middle of the trial a number of the jurors staged what the media called a "revolt." After being sequestered for 101 days, 13 of the 18 jurors refused to enter the courtroom until they were granted a meeting with Judge Ito. Eventually, the jury returned with 13 members wearing black or dark-colored clothing in what was described as a "funeral procession."
The prosecution believed it had a strong case despite the lack of known witnesses to the crime and the failure to recover the murder weapon. Clark's case was supported by DNA evidence, and she expected a conviction. From the physical evidence that was 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 had put their two children to bed and was getting ready to go to bed herself when she opened the front door of her house after either responding to a knock on the front door or hearing a noise outside. Simpson allegedly grabbed her before she could scream and attacked her with a knife. Forensic evidence from the Los Angeles County coroner alleged that Ron Goldman arrived at the front gate to the townhouse sometime during the assault, and the assailant apparently attacked him and stabbed him repeatedly in the neck and chest with one hand while restraining him with an arm choke-hold. Brown was found lying face down when authorities arrived at the crime scene. According to the prosecution's account, after Simpson had finished with Goldman, he pulled Brown's head back using her hair, put his foot on her back, and slit her throat with the knife, severing her carotid artery. They argued further that Simpson left a "trail of blood" from the condo to the alley behind it; there was also testimony that three drops of Simpson's blood were found on the driveway near the gate to his house on Rockingham Drive.
According to the prosecution, Simpson was last seen in public at 9:36 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 had boarded 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 he had hired to take him to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to fly to a Hertz convention in Chicago. The defense and prosecution both agreed that the murders took place between 10:15 and 10:40 p.m., with the prosecution alleging that Simpson had driven his white Bronco during the required five minutes to and from the murder scene. They presented a witness in the vicinity of Bundy Drive who saw a car similar to Simpson's Bronco speeding away from the area at 10:35 p.m.
Limousine driver Allan Park testified that he 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). 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 that the house was 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 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 had originated. 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 were turned 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, 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 refuted by several different accounts. According to defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran, Simpson had never left his house that night, and he was alone as he packed his belongings 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 tried to convince the jury that Simpson was not physically capable of carrying out the murders, saying that Goldman was a fit young man who put up a fierce struggle against his assailant. Simpson was a 46-year-old former professional football player with chronic arthritis. He had 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 titled O.J. Simpson Minimum Maintenance: Fitness For Men, which showed that, despite some physical conditions and limitations, Simpson was anything but frail.
The prosecution called Brown's sister, Denise, to the witness stand. She tearfully testified to many episodes of domestic violence in the 1980s, when she saw Simpson pick up his wife and hurl her against a wall, then physically throw her out of their house during an argument. Her testimony was punctuated by a barrage of defense objections and sidebar conferences with the judge.
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 Brown's mother phoned the restaurant at 9:37 p.m. about a pair of lost eyeglasses. Crawford found them and put them in a white envelope. Waiter Goldman left the restaurant at 9:50 p.m. after his shift, taking the glasses to drop them off at Brown's house.
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 television. Eva Stein, another neighbor, testified about very loud and persistent barking, 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. He saw that it had 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. He 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 next saw Goldman's body a short distance away, lying on its side beside a tree and off the walkway. Riske said he saw a white envelope, which was later found to contain the glasses left at the restaurant by Brown's mother. 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. Nothing inside was out of the ordinary.
On Sunday, February 12, 1995, a long motorcade traveled to Brentwood and the judge, jurors, prosecutors, and defense lawyers made a two-hour inspection of the crime scene. It was followed by a three-hour tour of O. J. Simpson's Rockingham estate. Simpson was under guard by several officers but did not wear handcuffs; he waited outside the crime scene in and around an unmarked police car and 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 did not ask 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 appeared to have 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.
Evidence not presented to the jury
Samples from bloody shoe prints leading away from the bodies and from the back gate of the condominium were tested for DNA matches. Initial polymerase chain reaction testing did not rule out Simpson as a suspect. In more precise restriction fragment length polymorphism tests, matches were found between Simpson's blood and blood samples taken from the crime scene (both the shoe prints in blood and the gate samples). Police criminalist Dennis Fung testified that this DNA evidence put Simpson at Brown's townhouse at the time of the murders. But defense expert Barry Scheck conducted an eight-day cross-examination, questioning most of the DNA evidence. Dr. Robin Cotton, of Cellmark Diagnostics, testified for six days. Blood evidence had been tested at two separate laboratories, each conducting different tests. At this time, the general population was still unfamiliar with the precision and significance of DNA matching.
It emerged during the cross-examination of Fung and the other laboratory scientists that the police scientist Andrea Mazzola (who collected blood samples from Simpson to compare with evidence from the crime scene) was a trainee who carried the vial of Simpson's blood around in her lab coat pocket for nearly a day before handing it over as an exhibit. While two errors had been found in the history of DNA testing at Cellmark, one of the testing laboratories, in 1988 and 1989, the errors were found during quality control tests and had not occurred since. One of the companies hired for DNA consulting by Simpson's defense had made the same error as found in 1988. What should have been the prosecution's strong point became their weak link, amid defense accusations that police technicians handled the blood samples with such a degree of incompetence as to render the delivery of accurate and reliable DNA results almost impossible. The prosecution argued that they had made the DNA evidence available to the defense for its own testing, and if the defense attorneys disagreed with the prosecution's tests, they could have conducted their own testing on the same samples. The defense had chosen not to accept the prosecution's offer.
On May 16, Gary Sims, a California Department of Justice criminalist who helped establish the Department of Justice's DNA laboratory, testified that a glove found at Simpson's house tested positive for a match of Goldman's blood.
In March 1995, Detective Mark Fuhrman testified to driving over to Simpson's house to question him on the night of the murders. After getting no response when buzzing the intercom of the house, which appeared empty, he scaled one of the outer walls to enter the property. 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. It was later found to have the blood of both murder victims on it, as well as Simpson's, matched through DNA analysis. Despite an aggressive cross-examination by F. Lee Bailey, Fuhrman denied on the stand that he was racist or had used the word "nigger" to describe black people in the 10 years prior to his testimony. But a few months later, the defense played audio tapes of Fuhrman repeatedly using the word – 41 times, in total. The tapes had been made between 1985 and 1994 by a young North Carolina screenwriter named Laura McKinney. She had interviewed Fuhrman at length for a screenplay she was writing 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. 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.
The prosecution told the jury in closing arguments that Fuhrman was a racist, but said that this should not detract from the factual evidence that showed Simpson's guilt. Fuhrman's testimony resulted in his indictment on one count of perjury; he later pleaded no contest.
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. Kaelin testified that he had heard "thumps in the night" in the same area around the guest house the night of the murder. Brown had bought Simpson two pairs of this type of glove in 1990. Both gloves, according to the prosecution, contained DNA evidence from Simpson, Brown and Goldman. The glove at Simpson's house also contained a long strand of blonde hair similar to Brown's.
On June 15, 1995, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran goaded assistant prosecutor Christopher Darden into asking Simpson to put on the leather glove that was found at the scene of the crime. The prosecution had earlier decided against asking Simpson to try on the gloves because (according to prosecutors) the glove had been soaked in blood from Simpson, Brown and Goldman, 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. 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. The prosecution presented a photo during the trial of Simpson earlier 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. 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 that they did not see cuts or wounds of any kind on Simpson's hands in the hours after the murders took place. The defense alleged that Fuhrman may have planted the glove at Simpson's house after taking it from the crime scene. The analysis that found that the hair could be Brown's was not reliable. The prosecution contended that the glove had not been moved. They noted 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 after the tapes had been revealed, 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. 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."
In closing arguments, Darden ridiculed the notion that police officers might have wanted to frame Simpson. He questioned why, if the LAPD was against Simpson, they went to his house eight times on domestic violence calls against Brown between 1986 and 1988 but did not arrest him. They arrested him on charges of abuse in January 1989 (when photos of Brown's face were entered into the record). Darden noted the police did not arrest Simpson for five days after the 1994 murders.
In Cochran's summation to the jury, he emphasized that Fuhrman was proved to have repeatedly referred to African Americans as "niggers" and also to have boasted of beating young African Americans in his role as a police officer. Fuhrman's technique was later criticized by Robert Shapiro and by at least one juror, 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". Fuhrman later pleaded Nolo contendere to a felony charge of perjury, which had arisen from his testimony in Simpson's trial.
Fears grew that race riots would erupt again across Los Angeles and the rest of the country if Simpson was convicted of the murders. There were riots in 1992 after the acquittal of four police officers for the beating of black motorist Rodney King three years earlier (King's beating was captured on amateur video that went viral). As a result, all L.A. police officers were put on 12-hour shifts. The police arranged for more than 100 police officers on horseback to surround the L.A. county courthouse on the day the verdict was announced, in case of rioting by the crowd.
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. They argued that Simpson was the victim of police fraud and what they termed as sloppy internal procedures, which had contaminated the DNA evidence.
Simpson's defense was said to have cost between US$3 million and $6 million. Simpson's defense team, dubbed the "Dream Team" by reporters, argued that LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman had planted evidence at the crime scene. LAPD criminalists Dennis Fung and Andrea Mazzola were subject to strong scrutiny.
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 Resnick, his former girlfriend.
At 10:07 a.m. PDT on October 3, 1995, O. J. Simpson was found not guilty of murder on both counts. The only testimony reviewed was that of limo driver Alan Park, who had said that he did not see Simpson's Bronco outside of the Rockingham estate when he arrived to pick him up (after the murders occurred). The jury arrived at the verdict by 3:00 p.m. on October 2, after only four hours of deliberation, but Judge Ito postponed the announcement.
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.
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".
Reaction to the verdict
In post-trial interviews, a few of the jurors said that they believed Simpson probably did commit the murders, but that the prosecution had failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Three jurors together wrote and published a book called Madam Foreman, in which they described how their perception of police errors, not race, led to their verdict. They said that they considered prosecutor Darden to be a token black assigned to the case by the prosecutor's office.
Critics of the jury's not-guilty verdict contended that the deliberation time was unduly short in comparison to the length of the trial. Some said that the jurors, most of whom did not have any college education, did not understand the forensic evidence.
After the verdict was read, juror number six, 44-year-old Lionel Cryer, gave Simpson a Black power raised fist salute.
In 1996, Simpson's defense attorney Johnnie Cochran wrote and published a book about the trial. It was titled Journey to Justice, and described his involvement in the case.
That same year, fellow defense attorney Robert Shapiro also published a book about the trial, entitled The Search for Justice. He criticized F. Lee Bailey as a "loose cannon" and Johnnie Cochran for bringing race into the trial. In contrast to Cochran's book, Shapiro said 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.
Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark published a book about the case titled Without a Doubt (1998). Her book recounts the trial proceedings, from jury selection to final summation. She concluded that nothing could have saved her case, given the defense's strategy of highlighting racial issues related to Simpson and the LAPD, and the predominance of blacks on the jury. In Clark's opinion, the prosecution's factual evidence, particularly the DNA, 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 (1997). 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 noted that the jury was never informed about items found in the Bronco: a change of clothing for Simpson, a large amount of cash, his passport, and a disguise kit. The prosecution said that they felt these items of evidence would bring up emotional issues on Simpson's part that could harm their case, despite the fact that the items seemed as though they could be used for fleeing.
Simpson made an incriminating statement to police about cutting his finger the night of the murders. First he said that he had accidentally cut his finger with a shard of broken glass in his Chicago hotel room, then changed his story minutes later. He said he cut his finger in Los Angeles, then said that the cut re-opened while he was in Chicago. Later he claimed 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 influence in the black community. Unlike some other prominent athletes, he had done nothing to help blacks less fortunate than he. Bugliosi pointed out that, although the prosecutors 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 who might have been framed by an overzealous prosecution looking for a suspect, the prosecution should have presented the evidence to the contrary. This might have influenced the jury's verdict. Bugliosi also criticized the prosecution's closing statements as inadequate.
Bugliosi criticized the prosecution for trying the murder in Los Angeles rather than Santa Monica. During the jury selection process, the defense made it difficult for the prosecution to challenge potential black jurors, on the grounds that it is illegal to dismiss someone from the jury for racially motivated reasons. (California courts barred peremptory challenges to jurors based on race in People v. Wheeler, years before the U.S. Supreme Court would do so in Batson v. Kentucky).
District Attorney Garcetti's supporters noted that the decision to move the trial was made by the Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge, and not by the District Attorney. The trial was moved due to security concerns at the smaller facility and the poor physical condition of the Santa Monica Courthouse.
In a 2010 review, the Metropolitan News said that Garcetti had "micromanaged" the trial, and that he had decided to have Simpson try on the bloody leather gloves in open court that had been recovered at the murder scene and at Simpson's estate. Simpson's apparent difficulty in getting the gloves on was highly damaging to the prosecution's case. Both Darden and Clark decided to let Simpson try on the gloves. Also, pundits criticized the prosecution for calling Mark Fuhrman to the witness stand in the first place; they criticized the prosecution for lack of due diligence, which should have discovered his earlier 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 started.
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 more inclined to be suspicious of the credibility and fairness of the police and the courts, and thus more likely to question the evidence. The LAPD had a history of abusing African Americans in the city, which was emphasized in the Rodney King case. After the civil trial verdict against Simpson, most whites surveyed said they believed justice had been served. Most blacks (75%) disagreed with the verdict and believed that it was racially motivated. An NBC poll taken in 2004 reported that, although 77% of 1,186 people sampled thought Simpson was guilty, only 27% of blacks in the sample believed so, compared to 87% of whites. The Simpson case continues to be assessed through the lens of race. In 2016, FiveThirtyEight reported that most black people now think O.J. was guilty.
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. The Los Angeles Times covered the case on its front page for more than 300 days after the murders. 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. 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.
The media coverage generated controversy. The issue of whether or not to allow any video cameras into the courtroom was among the first issues Judge Ito had to decide, ultimately ruling that live camera coverage was warranted. Ito would be later criticized for this decision by other legal professionals. Dershowitz said that he believed that Ito, along with others related to the case (Marcia Clark, Mark Fuhrman, Kato Kaelin), was influenced to some degree by the media presence, and the related publicity. The trial was covered in 2,237 news segments from 1994 through 1997.
Charles Ogletree, a former criminal defense attorney, and professor at Harvard Law School, said on a 2005 Frontline program that the best investigative reporting around the events and facts of the murder, and the evidence of the trial, was by the National Enquirer.
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 well as he could have.
On June 27, 1994, Time published a cover story, "An American Tragedy," with a photo of O. J. Simpson on the cover. The image was darker than a typical magazine image, and the Time photo was darker than the original, as shown on a Newsweek cover released at the same time. Time became the subject of a media scandal. Commentators found that its staff had used photo manipulation to darken the photo, and speculated it was to make Simpson appear more menacing. The publication of the cover photo drew widespread criticism of racist editorializing and yellow journalism. Time publicly apologized.
In May 2008, Mike Gilbert released his book How I Helped O.J. Get Away with Murder which details O.J. confessing to the killings to Gilbert. Gilbert, a memorabilia dealer, is a former agent and friend of Simpson. He states that Simpson had smoked marijuana, taken a sleeping pill and was drinking beer when he confided at his Brentwood home weeks after his trial what happened the night of the murders. Simpson allegedly said, "If she hadn't opened that door with a knife in her hand... she'd still be alive." This, Gilbert said, confirmed his belief that Simpson had confessed. Simpson has denied ever having said this. Simpson's current lawyer Yale Galanter has said that none of Gilbert's claims are true, and that Gilbert is "a delusional drug addict who needs money. He has fallen on very hard times. He is in trouble with the IRS."
In 1997, the parents of Ron Goldman, Fred Goldman and Sharon Rufo, filed a civil suit against Simpson for wrongful death, and Brown's estate, represented by her father Lou Brown, brought suit against Simpson in a "survivor suit." The trial took place over four months in Santa Monica and, by judge's order, was not televised. The Goldman family was represented by Daniel Petrocelli, with Simpson represented by Bob Baker. Attorneys for both sides were given high marks by observing lawyers. Simpson's defense in the trial was estimated to cost $1 million and was paid for by an insurance policy on his company, Orenthal Enterprises.
Mark Fuhrman was not called to testify, and Simpson was subpoenaed to testify on his own behalf. In addition, a photo of Simpson, taken while he was attending a Buffalo Bills game in 1993, was presented at trial that showed him wearing Bruno Magli shoes, the same type of shoes which investigators said the killer of Goldman and Brown was wearing when the murders were committed. The photo was presented as evidence against him, as Simpson had previously denied ever wearing such shoes. 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. The victims' families were awarded $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, thereby finding Simpson "responsible" for the respective murders.
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. Enyart took the items outside the courthouse where the auction was held, burned the certificate and jerseys, and with calm deliberation smashed the trophies with a sledgehammer.
In 2008, a Los Angeles superior court approved the plaintiffs' renewal application on the civil court judgment against Simpson.
If I Did It
In November 2006, ReganBooks announced a book by Simpson, titled If I Did It, an account which the publisher said was 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. 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."
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".
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 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, 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 speaking to Simpson. He had worked for that network as a sports commentator.
In March 2016, the LAPD announced a knife had been found in 1998 buried at Simpson's estate, when the buildings were razed. A construction worker had given 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.
Although no one else was charged, and evidence points to Simpson's guilt, the murders continue to be the subject of research and speculation. For example, Detective William Dear conducted a lengthy investigation, and his evidence and conclusions, among those of other experts (e.g., Dr. Henry Lee) who have reviewed the crime, trial, and evidence, were addressed in the BBC documentary, OJ: The True Untold Story (2000). The documentary claims that the police and prosecution had contaminated or planted evidence pointing to Simpson as the killer, and ignored exculpatory evidence. Furthermore, it asserts that the state eliminated too hastily other possible suspects, including Simpson's elder son, Jason Simpson, and individuals linked to the drug trade, in which Brown, Goldman, and Faye Resnick participated. BBC TV's documentary, O.J. Simpson: The Untold Story (2000), produced by Malcolm Brinkworth, "reveals that clues that some believe pointed away from Simpson as the killer were dismissed or ignored and highlights two other leads which could shed new light on the case."
In 2012, several links between convicted murderer Glen Edward Rogers, and the killings of Nicole and Goldman were revealed to the public in the documentary film My Brother the Serial Killer. Clay, Glen's brother, says Glen was talking about how he had met Nicole and was "going to take her down" a few days before the murders happened in 1994. When the murder case was under process, Deputy AD of Van Nuys Lea D'Argostino came to know about a letter Glen had written revealing he had met Nicole. The information was forwarded to O.J. Simpson's prosecutors, but it was ignored. Much later, in his years long correspondence (beginning in 2009) with criminal profiler Anthony Meolis, Glen also wrote about and created paintings pointing towards his involvement with the murders. During a personal prison meeting between the two, Glen said he was hired by O.J. Simpson to break into Nicole's house and steal some expensive jewelry, and that O.J. had told him: "you may have to kill the bitch".
In Popular culture
There have been numerous references in popular culture in relation to both the crime and the trial.
The song "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous", by American punk-pop band Good Charlotte includes the lyrics, "You know if you're famous you can kill your wife? There's no such thing as 25 to life, as long as you have the cash to pay for Cochran", in reference to the "Not Guilty" verdict which, many believe, wouldn't have been the case if Simpson hadn't appointed Johnnie Cochran as his lead attorney.
Episodes of sitcoms, such as Family Guy and Seinfeld, have mocked the case, or more specifically, Simpson himself.
In 1995, Fox premiered the TV movie The O.J. Simpson Story. Simpson is portrayed by Bobby Hosea.
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.
The 2014 Investigation Discovery TV movie documentary, OJ: Trial of the Century, begins on the day of the murders, ends on the reading of the verdict, and comprises actual media footage of events and reactions, as they unfolded.
The 2016 Investigation Discovery TV movie documentary, O.J. Simpson Trial: The Real Story, entirely comprises archival news footage of the murder case, the Bronco chase, the trial, the verdict, and reactions.
In February 2016, FX premiered the anthology series American Crime Story. The self-contained first season, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, was adapted from the book The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson (1997), by Jeffrey Toobin, who had also served as a legal analyst for the New Yorker on the trial. The cast included Sarah Paulson as Clark, Courtney B. Vance as Cochran, John Travolta as Shapiro, David Schwimmer as Kardashian, Sterling K. Brown as Darden, and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson. It received critical acclaim and several Emmy awards.
In June 2016, ESPN premiered O.J.: Made in America, a 5-part, 8-hour documentary by Ezra Edelman on the trial. The documentary has received widespread acclaim and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.