Although the 1995 criminal trial of O. J. Simpson for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman has been called “a great trash novel come to life,” no one can deny the pull it had on the American public. The 133 days of televised courtroom testimony turned countless viewers into Simpson trial junkies. Even foreign leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Boris Yeltsin eagerly gossiped about the trial. When Yeltsin stepped off his plane to meet President Clinton, the first question he asked was, “Do you think O. J. did it?” When, at 10 a.m. PST on October 3, Judge Ito’s clerk read the jury’s verdict of “Not Guilty,” 91% of all persons viewing television were glued to the unfolding scene in the Los Angeles courtroom.
Exactly what happened sometime after ten o’clock on the Sunday night of June 12, 1994 is still disputed, but most likely a single male came through the back entrance of Nicole Brown Simpson’s condominium on Bundy Drive in the prestigious Brentwood area of Los Angeles. In a small, nearly enclosed area near the front gate, the man brutally slashed Nicole, almost severing her neck from her body. He stabbed Ronald Goldman who was a 24 year old acquaintance of Nicole. Just after midnight, Nicole howled Akita, with blood on its belly and legs led to a neighbor discovering the two bodies. Police called Simpson early Monday morning and he boarded the next flight to Los Angeles.
Police asked Simpson about the deep cut in his hand to which he suggested to have cut when he reached into his bronco, on the night of the murders and reopened his cut when a broke a glass in his hotel room in Chicago.
The interview was remarkably inept. Eventually however when the police gathered enough evidence of his guilt in the murders and arrested him. But, Simpson had disappeared leaving behind a letter “To whom it may concern,” it had all the markings of a suicide letter. It ended: “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve had a great life, great friends. Please think of the real O. J. and not this lost person. Thanks for making my life special. I hope I helped yours. Peace and love, O. J.” The slow-motion chase would finally end with Simpson’s arrest in his own driveway. After making the arrest, police discovered $8,750 in cash, a false beard and mustache, a loaded gun, and a passport in Cowlings’ vehicle.
The Trial Begins
The super bowl of murder trials began with LANCE ITO in his opening remarks told to see some fabulous lawyering skills. Christopher Darden led off the prosecutor’s opening statement claiming OJ to be an abusive husband, Darden told jurors, “If he couldn’t have her, he didn’t want anybody else to have her.” the next day, Johnny Cochran gave an opening statement for the defense proposed that OJ was so crippled by arthritis that he couldn’t have possibly pulled off a double murder.
Over the next 99 days of the trial, the prosecution put out 72 witnesses. The first set of witnesses proposed that Simpson killed his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman including relatives and friends of Nicole, friends of OJ and a 911 dispatcher. Ron Shipp, a friend of O.J.’s, testified that Simpson told him, “I’ve had some dreams of killing Nicole.” A 9-1-1 dispatcher took the stand so that the prosecution might play for the jury a terrifying 9-1-1 call from Nicole describing an ongoing assault by Simpson.
The prosecution put forward witnesses directly tying Simpson to the murders. The most compelling testimony if one assumed the accuracy of the testing concerned RFLP tests. The LAPD officer found a bloody glove outside of the bedroom turns to be a god saving defense. The officer Mark Furhman testified for the prosecution. In his book Robert Shapiro wrote “A suddenly charming Marcia Clark treated him like he was a poster boy for apple pie and American values.”
Prosecutor Christopher thought that bloody gloves belonged to OJ asked him to try em on. Darden instructed Simpson, “Pull them on, pull them on.” Simpson seemed to struggle with the gloves, then said, “They don’t fit. See? They don’t fit.”Later, it would turn out that there were good reasons why they didn’t fit–the gloves may have shrunk because of the blood, photos would turn up showing Simpson wearing ill-fitting gloves–but the damage had been done. Later, Cochran would offer the memorable refrain, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
A field trip that included the judge, the jury, lawyers for both sides, the defendant, and a bevy of trailing media types illustrates how the defense early on in the trial saw the race issue as playing to its advantage on a jury that included nine African- Americans. The defense saw this as an opportunity to put an uneventful spin on his life.
The Dream Team Takes Center Stage
The strategy of OJ Simpson’s defense team was to discard the prosecutions evidence by telling the jury that OJ was incapable of murder. Simpson’s daughter Arnelle took the stand as the defense witness showing more empathy for Simpson’s family. The most talked-about aspect of the defense case undoubtedly concerned Mark Fuhrman, the LAPD officer who had found the bloody glove and who, as a prosecution witness, denied using the word “nigger.” It turned out that Fuhrman had used “the n word”–many times–and it was on tape.
The prejudicial value of the testimony would exceed its probative value. Jury forewoman, Amanda Cooley, called Lee “a very impressive gentleman.” Another juror agreed, describing Lee as “the most credible witness,” a person who “had a lot of impact on a lot of people.”
The trial of the century
By the time closing arguments started, the trial broke the record for the longest trial in history, clark denounced furman as the worst type of cops. But, she told the jury, that doesn’t mean there was a frame-up. She took the jury again through the prosecution’s “mountain of evidence” as puzzle pieces on a video screen accumulated to reveal the face of O. J. Simpson. Christopher Darden followed Clark, telling the jury that Simpson could be “a great football player” and “a murderer” as well.
Johnny cochran summation for the defense for playing the race card and also playing it from the bottom of the deck. Cochran compared the prosecution case to Hitler’s campaign against the Jews:
“There was another man not too long ago in this world who had those same views, who wanted to burn people, who had racist views, and ultimately had power over people in his country. People didn’t care. People said he’s crazy. He’s just a half-baked painter. And they didn’t do anything about it. This man, this scourge, became one of the worst people in the world, Adolf Hitler, because people didn’t care, didn’t stop him. He had the power over his racism and his anti-religionism. Nobody wanted to stop him….And so Fuhrman. Fuhrman wants to take all black people now and burn them or bomb them. That’s genocidal racism. Is that ethnic purity? We’re paying this man’s salary to espouse these views…”
The jury spent only 4 hours deciding the case that took 140 within 140 days, Ito’s clerk, Deidre Robertson, announced the jury’s verdict: “We the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder.” The jury ordered Simpson to pay compensatory damages of $4.8 million and punitive damages of $24 million.
In 2006, a publisher announced a book written by O. J. Simpson called “If I Did It.” The publisher told the Associated Press, “This is an historic case, and I consider this his confession.” In the book, Simpson describes angrily confronting Nicole and Ronald Goldman at Nicole’s condo on the night of the murder, knife in his hand. Then he writes, “Something went horribly wrong, and I know what happened, but I can’t tell you exactly how.” He continues, “The whole front of me was covered in blood, but it didn’t compute.” Interestingly, in Simpson’s account of the murder, he describes himself as having been accompanied to the condo by a friend named “Charlie,” who was shocked by the bloody turn of events. On the way back to Simpson’s home, Charlie said, “Jesus Christ, O.J., Jesus Christ,” and buried his face in his hands.
The Simpson trial had profound effects by portraying awareness to domestic violence and polarization of racial attitudes on issues such as law enforcement and legal traumas.
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