“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” was a statement made famous by Johnnie Cochran. This quote is from America’s first medialized criminal cases in court, The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson. O.J. Simpson wasn’t the only one on trial. The Los Angeles Police Department and forensic science itself was also on trial for mishandling, racism as a key factor, cross contamination and placement of evidence and the lack of knowledge of DNA testing. The case captured the attention of millions of people nationwide. A case that is known to today’s society as the O.J. Simpson case.
Orenthal James Simpson was a wealthy African-American man that was a retired college and professional football hero, actor and he was also a commentator for Monday night live football. O.J. met Nicole Brown while she was working in a nightclub in 1977. They got married on February 2, 1985, they had two kids together, Sydney Brooke Simpson and Justin Ryan Simpson. They were married for 7 years before Nicole filed for divorced in December of 1992. Nearly 2 years after divorced, On June 12, 1994, the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were found at her home in Brentwood, CA, with two children in the home. O.J. Simpson was notified of their deaths while in Chicago where he was supposed to attend a golf tournament. He caught the next flight back to Los Angeles and was taken into custody for questions.
During questioning, they discovered he had a cut on his left hand and his statement about the cut wasn’t adding up to investigators. There was difficulty with the investigation as there was no eyewitnesses and no murder weapon found at the first crime scene however, there was a lot of evidence found at the home of O.J. Simpson like a bloody sock and glove that matched the DNA at the crime scene along with a shoe print that matches the same size as O.J. Simpson. There were also hair samples that were found on Ronald Goldman’s body and a forensic geneticists matched the DNA to O.J. Simpson. While gathering numerous pieces of evidence from the multiple crime scenes, on June 17, Simpson was apprehended of the double murder of Nichole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. They called loudly for him to appear at 11:00 that day, but he never did. Around 7pm, Simpson was seen riding with someone, later identified has A.C. Cowlings in his white bronco on interstate 405, which lead to the infamous chase of the century. It was medialized and viewed by millions. While riding in the bronco, Simpson had a gun to his head threatening to kill himself. The chase ended at Simpson’s house in Brentwood and surrendered to the police after speaking with his mother. After the chase, police found wads of cash, a change of clothes, a passport belonging to O.J. Simpson, family pictures, a fake mustache and goatee and a loaded .357 Magnum.
The trial began January 11, 1995. Simpson hired famous Los Angeles lawyer, Robert Shapiro, who hired what is known now as the ‘Dream Team’ of lawyers that consisted of F. Lee, Gerald Uelmen, Alan Pershowitz, Dr. Henry Lee, Johnnie Cochran, Barry Scheck and Robert Kardashian. Two of these lawyers were brought on for forensic science specifically. The trial went on for a year and caused public attention internationally.
The prosecution mainly relied on three differences of proof during the trial. The first proof was the behavior and motivation that would have made Simpson murder Nicole. He became furious that he had been abandoned by his ex-wife They had divorced; then she had tried conciliation more than a year before. He had gone for it, but by returning his birthday gift and excluding him from the family circle at the dance recital and the dinner afterwards, she abandoned him again a month before the killings. Second was the physical evidence. On the murder scene, a left-handed blood-soaked glove and ski cap were discovered, and what looked to be the right-hand blood-soaked companion to that glove was located behind Simpson’s house on the outside walkway. Fibers on the ski cap mirrored fibers on the Bronco’s interior, and identical fibers were identified on the gloves and on the shirt of Ron Goldman. The scientific evidence was the third proof to be used in trial. DNA tests for blood samples contained within the Bronco fit O.J. Simpson, Ron Goldman, Nicole Brown Simpson. A relatively clear triple blood match was found on the glove located at the Simpson house. A sock discovered on Simpson’s bedroom floor had a blood stain that created a match to Nicole Brown Simpson’s DNA. So, did the drops on Bundy’s (The Murder Scene) pavement and on the walkway and hallway at Rockingham matched O.J. Simpson. The prosecution had multiple witnesses on stand trial against Simpson. On June 30th, Allen Wattenberg, a knife store owner, testified during the preliminary hearing that Simpson bought a 14-inch Stiletto knife from his store. During the preliminary hearing, Allen Wattenberg, a knife store owner, claimed that Simpson had ordered from his store a 14-inch Stiletto blade. The limo driver to drive Simpson to the airport came on June 12, He saw a black man at Simpson’s estate with the same profile as Simpson sprint through the grass But, when Simpson answered, he said that he was napping. Simpson acted guilty: he composed a suicide note and led police around L.A. on a huge chase that ended with his arrest and incarceration at his Brentwood estate. After much evidence presented at trial and numerous expert witness testimony, the prosecution finally rested on that side of the case.
The defense claimed that the evidence had been planted, tempered with immensely and that racism played a huge factor in the trial. First, the evidence such as blood drawn the day after the incident during questioning from O.J., it was not put into evidence immediately and was not handled the way it should have been, there was time when the blood was in polices possession that would have given them plenty of time to go to O.J.’s estate and spread it around his property and all over the driveway. Some of the blood found at O.J.s had a preservative in it that is added by police and is not in a person’s blood. That shows that the blood had to have gone through the police before it got on O.J.’s property, leaving doubt that they planted it there.
Next, Detective Lange was a lead detective. He harbored shoes that belonged O.J Simpson from one of the scenes and placed them in his car’s trunk. He held the boots in his possession for six hours. It raised the question of why he had taken evidence from a crime scene. The evidence was not properly stored and was not taken into custody of the forensic team. There is also video evidence of Dennis Fung, a lead criminalist, putting a blanket that was brought from inside the home, then placed on the body in Nicole, mishandling the evidence during collection that could have led to inaccurate DNA test results.
Finally, the main officer helping out the prosecution Mark Fuhrman was accused of being racist and of planting evidence to frame O.J. He denied being racist under oath and he was later in the trial found to be lying, he was heard on a tape saying the word ‘nigger’ and other racist things. He was also accused of planting a bloody glove at the Simpson home and planting bloody socks in O.J.s room. The blood splatter patterns on the socks were not consistent to what it should look like if they got blood on them when they were being worn, it was more like they were splattered with blood when they were off the defendant. The conclusion of Simpson criminal trial resulted in his acquittal. There were various reasons for this acquittal. The most prominent reasons include accusations of racism, evidence contamination, and the lack of faith in DNA profiling.
The date of June 12th, 1994 will always be historic for forensic science and the Los Angeles Police Department and based on the trial of the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson commencing January 11, 1995. The trust of the Los Angeles Police Department and forensic science itself were also for mishandling, cross-contamination of samples and lack of knowledge regarding DNA testing. As a result of this perception of cross contamination and mishandling the evidence, Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Andrew Smith states: “We’re more cognizant of contamination or the possibility of contamination or the appearance of contamination — that a jury might toss out some evidence”. One of the biggest factors in this case was race. The case itself caught the national interest of millions of people. The trial of the century changed perspective to millions on the Los Angeles Police Department and the perspective and trust of forensic science and investigators. Since the acquittal of O.J. Simpson, forensic science has advanced and the credibility of DNA profiling has greatly surpassed the efforts of the Los Angeles Police Department.