Born Orenthal James Simpson, also called “O.J.” was born July 9, 1947. He is a former NFL football superstar, actor, broadcaster and convicted armed robber and kidnapper. He is known for being acquitted of the murders of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson was a college football stud at USC, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1968. He later had a record-setting career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills and became one of, if not the most famous athlete in America. Amid a moderately successful post-playing career as an actor and broadcaster, Simpson was charged with murder of his former wife and Goldman in 1994. He was acquitted in a high-profile criminal trial, though he was found liable for their deaths in civil court. In 2008, Simpson was sentenced to up to 33 years in prison in for kidnapping and armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2007. Shortly after being granted parole, he was released from prison on October 1, 2017. O.J. Simpson currently lives in the Las Vegas area, where he is on parole after serving nine years for armed robbery.
O.J. Simpson was born on July 9, 1947, in Putrero Hill, California, in the family of Eunice and Jimmy Lee Simpson. His father was a chef and bank custodian and his mother was an hospital administrator. Soon after his birth he developed rickets and had to wear braces on his legs until he was five. In 1952, his father left the family when he was still very young, and his mother had to take responsibility of raising the four children. He joined the “Persian Warriors”, a street gang in his early teens and was confined at the San Francisco Youth Guidance Center for a short while. He played football for his team the ‘Galileo Lions’ at the Galileo High School (now known as Galileo Academy of Science and Technology) in San Francisco.
On June 12, 1994, the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and a friend, Ronald Goldman, were found stabbed to death outside of her condominium in the Los Angeles Brentwood area. Evidence led police to suspect O.J. Simpson of the murders of Brown and Goldman.
Simpson was ordered to turn himself in by 11 a.m. on June 17 and instead vanished. After failing to turn himself in for questioning five days later, Simpson got in the back of his friend Al Cowlings’ 1993 white Ford Bronco and the two led police on a car chase that captivated the nation. Simpson was eventually arrested and put on trial. What was originally considered an open and shut case for the prosecution turned into an internationally televised media circus. Simpson then introduced his “dream team” of lawyers defending him, including Robert Shapiro, Robert Kardashian, and Johnny Cochran, who heavily played on Simpson’s beloved celebrity status to gain public sympathy. At that time those lawyers were each high-profile defense attorneys, who had a very high success rate. They also ruthlessly scrutinized the investigators for their procedural ineptitude and failure to properly handle evidence. The climax of their defense came when Simpson tried on a bloody glove from the crime scene, leading Cochran to declare the iconic and well-known phrase, “If it doesn’t fit you must acquit!”
Applied Criminal Theories:
- All human beings are by nature rule breakers
- The motivations for delinquent/criminal behavior is part of human nature
- All individuals would naturally commit crimes if left to their own devices
If we compare OJ Simpson’s behavior to the self-control theory, then we can match a few of his past criminal behaviors, parallel to the ideology and explanations of the theory. (1) Since OJ Simpson acquired fame and success, there is a possibility that OJ may have begun to think that he was above the law because of who he was. Typically, celebrities who commit the same criminal acts/behaviors as a normal civilian in society, tend to get away with their charges more compared to the regular individual. Many factors may come into play such as law enforcement cutting better deals depending on the severity, giving more lenient warnings that they normally would not, turning the other cheek, or just having the financial means to basically buy themselves out of trouble. (2) OJ also had delinquent behavior while growing up in his childhood. After his father left his mother with four kids, including OJ, OJ turned to the street life to fill some sort of void that was left within him. He joined the local gang called the “Persian Warriors”, which enabled him to conduct criminal behavior as an adolescent, in order to fit in with the gang members, as well as stay in it. (3) Most of the criminal activities that OJ Simpson has committed or accused of being committed, were all in environments outside of the public eye. For example: The murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson was inside of his home in a private setting. Therefore, if OJ actually did commit the double homicide, or had someone else do it for him, it took place in a location where there could not be any eyewitnesses; compared to an individual who performs a crime in a public vicinity.
Social Disorganization Theory:
Definition: The macro level theory of neighborhoods, schools, cities, counties, states, and countries, deviance flourish in some spaces; some spaces control deviance and crime.
Shaw and McKay were able to collect data showing that crime was distributed across neighborhoods in a pattern consistent with social disorganization theory
- Structural causes of social disorganization—poverty, racial and ethnic heterogeneity, residential mobility, urbanism/structural density, family disruption, and so on.
- Includes three measures of whether a locality was socially organized or disorganized: the strength of local friendship networks, residents’ participation in community organizations, and the extent to which the neighborhood had unsupervised teenage peer groups.
- Explains why certain neighborhoods control deviance and why others are unable to minimize or eliminate it.
- Delinquency does not appear to be randomly distributed across Chicago neighborhoods, rates of delinquency appear to cluster in certain neighborhoods, delinquency rates are highest closest to the central business district; especially industry/commerce areas, delinquency declines as you move away from CBD.
OJ Simpson, like most famous athletes’ time and time again, grew up in a low economic household in which he felt like that was how things were supposed to be. His father was a chef and a bank custodian, while his mother did admin work at a nearby hospital. After his father left his family’s life during his youth, OJ was left with just his siblings and his mother. With his mom working hard to feed her four kids and keep a roof over their heads, this required her to take more hours. With no guidance from a father figure, as well as an always busy mother, OJ was bound to slip into the gang life. On top of that, in black neighborhoods single households are frequently common, which can also be an explanation as to why someone would become a part of a gang. The purpose of a gang is to survive and to become a part of a family, regardless of the activities that may come about. Some gangs are more violent than others, but the main premise seems to be consistent.
Rational Choice Theory:
When criminal acts are based on rational decision making then the illegal act is a rational choice; law violating behavior is the product of careful thought and planning. Offenders choose crime after considering both personal and situational factors.
Cost Benefit Analysis: Criminals behave in a predictable or rational way when deciding to commit crime based on a cost benefit analysis and is reduced by increasing the costs and reducing the potential for gain.
Another plausible reason why OJ Simpson (if he committed the crime) may have wanted his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson dead, because of the cost benefit analysis aspect of this theory. Since the divorce, some of OJ’s assets were being taken away from him, and at the same time his yearly salary was being divided from the divorce settlement. This can trigger any man to begin to wonder the “What if” of ideas. “What if Nicole was out of the picture, what would the positives be, compared to the negatives”? Another instance this ideology could be attributed to, is the incident in 2007, in which OJ committed kidnapping and armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room. The benefit in both outcomes outweigh the cost, and OJ thought that his decision making was rational for himself.
Definition: Society is divided into groups with different resources, that often exploit and struggle with one another.
Symbolic Interactionism: Society is viewed as composed of symbols that people use to establish meaning, develop their views of the world, and communicate with one another.
Conflict theory assumption: Political and social elites exploit the less powerful and use the criminal justice system to maintain power and privileges.
In regard to OJ Simpson’s various encounters with the law, it is evident that he has many privileges that your average Joe does not. Whether that is because he has the financial means, which puts him in a higher social economic class, or simply because he can afford one of the nation’s best well-known defense attorneys. Putting him in this economically elite stratosphere, gives him more reasons to think that he is above the law and can get away with it, with suffering little to no consequences.
Denial of responsibility
Forces beyond my control made me break the law (e.g., my friends pressured me; my parents abused me).
“I didn’t mean it.”
Denial of injury
My delinquent act did not injure anyone (e.g., it was just a prank; I was just borrowing the money I took and was going to put it back).
“I didn’t really hurt anybody.”
Denial of the victim
The victimization was deserved; thus, it was not wrong given the circumstances (e.g., I cheated because the teacher gives unfair tests; we beat up the kid because he knows he has no right to be on our turf).
“They had it coming to them.”
Condemnation of the condemners
It is okay to break the law because those running society are all corrupt and on the take. They are just hypocrites to criticize what I do (e.g., look at all the “respectable” people committing white-collar frauds).
“Everyone’s picking on me.”
Appeal to higher loyalties
I was obligated to break the law, or I would lose my integrity and morality (e.g., I jumped into the fight to protect my friend; I lied to the police because it is wrong to snitch).
“I didn’t do it for myself.”
If we take a look at each category of the neutralization theory, the two categories that jump out the most are (Denial of responsibility) and (Denial of the victim), in regard to OJ Simpson’s past criminal behavior, during his trial over the kidnapping and armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room, in 2007. He claimed that he did not intend on committing the crime and that things just got blown out of proportion. It was evident that this incident wasn’t “blown out of proportion”, but actually a serious case. OJ had denial of both responsibility and the victim, because the sports memorabilia inside of the Las Vegas hotel room belonged to him. His mindset during the altercation was simply that he was going to take back what belonged to him, no matter how much force or threat that he needed to apply. After conviction and serving a total of 9 years out of his 33-year sentence, OJ was placed on parole and currently lives in the Vegas area. In a recent interview of the altercation with The Guardian, OJ was recorded saying “I am sorry the things turned out the way they did,” and “I had no intention to commit a crime.” After 9 years of reflection OJ seems to have accepted that he made an awful mistake and that there could have been nonviolent and legal ways, to get back what he believed belonged to him.
Routine Activities Theory:
Definition: Recurrent & prevalent activities that provide for basic population and individual needs...formalized work as well as the provision of standard food, shelter, sexual outlet, leisure, social interactions and childbearing. Cohen & Felson (1979)
Popular due to its connection with victimology & ecological crime prevention approach- 1980's and resurgence of assumptions of the nature of human beings.
- Criminal motivation & supply of potential offenders are constant.
- Never ending supply of persons ready, willing and able to engage in predatory crimes.
- Volume of criminal offenses is related to the nature of everyday patters of social interactions.
The logic of routine activity theory suggests two possibilities for actions that so-called good people might take. One is to engage in daily routines that minimize their contact with those motivated to commit crimes. The other is that, when in a situation where a “motivated offender” is present, to remove one of the elements needed for a crime to be possible.
Routine activities theory in effect embeds the concept of opportunity within the routine parameters of the day-to-day lives of ordinary people.
During OJ Simpson’s time with the “Persian Warriors”, this theory could apply during his reign inside the gang. The gang activities his peers and himself were involved in, could have been a routine day in and day out, in order to prove their worth. For instance, minor crimes such as shoplifting were probably the more common sorts of criminal activities that were being done, because if he/she was caught in the act, the punishment would not have been as severe as if they were doing more serious criminal offenses like robbery, battery, aggravated assault, and so on. Also, majority if not all of the gang members were adolescent minors, who just wanted to feel appreciated.
American Dream/Institutional Anomie Theory:
Definition: The American dream as “a commitment to the goal of material success, to be pursued by everyone in society under conditions of open, individual competition”.
The most efficient means to monetary gain often is to break the law, to rob with a gun, or to defraud the stock market through insider trading. Thus, anomie is criminogenic, and widespread anomie—as exists in American society—creates widespread lawlessness.
Social institutions link culture and social structure together in the context of the basic social functions any society must carry out in order to survive, including adaptation to the environment (economy), collective goal attainment (polity), social integration (legal system), and the maintenance of the society’s fundamental normative patterns (family, religion).
Although OJ Simpson legally gained the “American Dream” lifestyle, through his athletic and business successes, the robbery incident could correlate in a sense, because the robbery of memorabilia altercation could have been done for monetary gain. OJ Simpson’s finances were not as high as what they once were, since the famous trial over the homicide of his ex-wife and her friend post-trial. The lack of financial success that he once had, could have led to him wanting to somehow makeup for what he thought was taken away from him, as well as the memorabilia that he felt belonged to him as well. The kidnapping and robbery that took place, was to achieve monetary gain, which is an illegal act. OJ’s version of the American Dream, could have been a different interpretation compared to your average individual, which is why he indeed committed the crime.