Mistakes Made in the O.J. Simpson Investigation, Research Paper Example
Words: 1856Research Paper
The O.J. Simpson murder jury trial remains the longest in California history. Over a nine-month period, prosecutors were unable to prove, without a reasonable doubt, that Simpson was guilty of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The prosecution was, however, able to illuminate a series of investigative discrepancies on behalf of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) during their initial arrival at the crime scene. The fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches or seizures carried out by law enforcement officials. In other words, if the search proves to be unreasonable, the evidence obtained during the search may not be included in the trial (Garland, 2011). That procedure is referred to as the exclusionary rule. This paper will examine the alleged mistakes made by the LAPD in their collection of evidence against O.J. Simpson and conclude with alternate suggestions for the proper manner in which evidence should be handled and suspects should be interrogated.
Opening statements for People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson began on January 24, 1995 (Bailey & Rabe, 2008). Simpson stood trial for the double murders of his ex-wife and her friend. The trial, which has become one of the most publicized criminal trials in American history, lasted nine months. During that time the prosecution was unable to prove, without a reasonable doubt, that Simpson was guilty of the murders; despite the abundance of circumstantial evidence in their possession(Ogle, 2004). In fact, Simpson’s defense team was able to convince the jury that the evidence presented by the prosecution was compromised and mishandled by lab technicians and the LAPD. After nine months and inconclusive evidence, Judge Lance Ito acquitted Simpson. Two years later the victims’ families united and sued Simpson in a civil trial. The jury in this civil trial voted unanimously against Simpson based on their beliefs that a multitude of evidence indicated Simpson’s liability for damages incurred in the wrongful deaths of Brown and Goldman(Bailey & Rabe, 2008).
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
The United States legal system coined the term “fruits from a poisonous tree” to reference case evidence that is illegally obtained(Garland, 2011). The term was first used in Nardone v. United States to indicate that evidence obtained for the trial was not permissible in court because it was obtained in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.
As mentioned before, there was an abundance of circumstantial evidence to connect Simpson to the murders. For instance, police records from five years before the murders show that Simpson had abused his ex-wife repeatedly (Weinbach, 2010). Furthermore, numerous pieces of incriminating evidence were at the prosecution’s disposal to link Simpson to the murders. For instance, there was a bloody sock, a footprint of a size 12 Bruno Magli shoes (the same kind that Simpson owned), a bloody glove found at the suspect’s home that were traced with his and victims’ DNA, and Simpson’s disappearance upon news that he was charged with the murders. In fact, Simpson attempted to flee by hiding in the back of a Ford Bronco which was driven by one of his old college pals(Weinbach, 2010). The Bronco was outfitted with almost $8,000 in cash, a passport, a change of clothing, a fake goatee, and a loaded gun. Police found these items when Simpson finally surrendered at his home.
However, despite all these indicators that Simpson was guilty of the murders; sloppy police work ultimately resulted in Simpson’s acquittal. Within two hours of the murders’ report an estimated 18 police officers were on the scene. The first officers arrived at the victims’ residence at 12:13 a.m., but the lead investigators did not arrive until 4 a.m.(Jones, 2006). Detectives were told that chief of operations for the LAPD West Bureau, Commander Keith Bushey, wanted them to contact Simpson to make arrangements for the collection of Brown’s children. Simpson lived an estimated two miles from the murder scene. When detectives arrived at his house, they found a white Ford Bronco parked in Simpson’s driveway. One detective noticed a small blood spot near the door handle on the Bronco’s driver side (Jones, 2006). After several attempts to make contact with Simpson via telephone calls, the detectives decided to enter the premises of Simpson’s house. The detectives stated that they had good reason to believe Simpson was linked to murders, given the blood spot on the car and his history with Brown, and therefore did not need a warrant to enter the house. As a result, they jumped a five-foot wall and, unable to locate Simpson, interviewed his house guests and daughter. During their time at the Simpson residence, detectives found a blood-stained gloved, similar to one found at the crime scene. However, officers were in violation of Simpson’s Fourth Amendment rights, and according to the “fruits from a poisonous tree” principle, the glove could not legally be used as part of Simpson’s trial. Another officer found a trail of blood spots that lead from the Ford Bronco to the front door of Simpson’s house. Detectives were instructed to document all these pieces of evidence, as well as arrange for the Bronco to be towed to the NYPD garage for additional investigation.
By 8 a.m. the next morning, media outlets had heard of the murders and their connection to ex-football star Simpson. As a result, photographers and journalists began to swarm around the Simpson and Brown properties. In an effort to protect Brown’s body from invasive camera lenses, detective Lange ordered her body to be covered with a nearby blanket. This was a critical error on the detective’s behalf because as a rule one is not supposed to conceal evidence until all DNA samples have been collected because doing so will cause the transition of trace material to the evidence (Ogle, 2004). In cases where a cover is necessitated, it is suggested that a new cloth be used, so as to minimize material transfers. Furthermore, first responders failed to adequately extend crime tape around the entire scene. This lapse in judgment made it impossible for investigators to examine the pavement or road in front of the crime scene for evidence of tire marks. Such investigative mishaps are the result of too many bodies working on the same case. Throughout the entire murder scene investigation, there was never one person in charge to successfully delegate the other officers on the scene. As such, the investigation quickly became a discombobulated mess. For instance, supposed ‘lead investigator’ Lange left the crime scene for a second time to interview Simpson at the jail. By removing himself from the crime scene, and by not assigning another lead officer to take charge, Lange inadvertently became responsible for missing pieces of key crucial evidence. For instance, during his time interviewing Simpson, officers were wrapping things up at the crime scene. However, they managed to miss blood evidence on the back gate of Brown’s residence. To make matters worse, this blood evidence was eventually collected weeks later, after the crime scene had been released, making it virtually worthless to in court(Jones, 2006). In fact, the defense argued, quite successfully, that this piece of blood evidence could very well have been planted after the fact.
Staying on the subject of blood; a nurse at the jail during the time of Simpson’s initial interview made another grave mistake by estimating the amount of blood he withdrew from Simpson’s arm. The nurse testified that he had withdrawn 8cc’s, when in fact he withdrew only 6.5cc’s (Weinbach, 2010). This could potentially be linked to inconsistent evidence, such as planting blood splatters at the crime scene. Furthermore, the criminalist working on the case, Dennis Fung, was responsible for the collection and cataloguing of evidence(Jones, 2006). His first error was placing a vile of Simpson’s blood in truck and leaving it there for hours before transporting it to the crime lab. His second error was the case of the socks found at the foot of Simpson’s bed. Fung noticed the socks, collected, and bagged them. However, during a crime scene investigation, there is also photographer on duty who is responsible for photographing the scene. When the photographer taped the interior of Simpson’s room, there were no socks present; this is of course true because Fund had already collected them earlier. However, Fung replaced the socks where he had found them, in order to record it on the camera. Sadly, the time on the camera had not been set back at the time of the second recording, and the entire event appeared as if Fung had planted the socks in the bedroom(Hodgman, 2005).
At the time of the trial, DNA testing had not yet come to complete fruition. As such, important DNA samples were carelessly collected and used for testing. For instance, blood samples collected by LAPD investigators were placed in small plastic bags and left in heated vehicles for numerous hours(Hodgman, 2005). In addition, the DNA analyst who was responsible for examining the collected DNA did not change gloves during the examination of murder scene evidence and a tube of Simpson’s blood.
Based on the evidence presented in this paper, it is clear that the LAPD was ill prepared for a case of this magnitude. It is common knowledge that this department is significantly smaller compared to departments in New York or Chicago (Hodgman, 2005). However, that is not sufficient reason to botch a case that, by all appearances, would have been an open-and-shut case. If the LAPD had employed simple, correct procedures, O.J. Simpson could very well have been found guilty of the murders of Brown and Goldman. First, they should have isolated the entire crime scene to ensure that no evidence was lost. Second, they should have assigned a small group of professionals to tend to specific tasks involving the case. They should have been more meticulous in their evidence collection procedures and should have minimized the number of people on the crime scene to the bare essentials. Doing so would have prevented issues like the premature collection of the socks in Simpson’s room. Furthermore, they should have responded promptly to the collection and transportation of important evidence, such as blood samples. Leaving a vile of blood in a heated vehicle for an undisclosed amount of time compromises its integrity and could make it worthless upon examination. Lastly, all involved parties at the crime scene should have communicated better with one another to ensure that proper procedures are followed at all time; this would have prevented the covering of Brown’s body with a blanket found in her home, and would have reminded DAN analysts to change their gloves each time they come in contact with a new DNA sample.
Bailey, L. F., & Rabe, J. (2008). When the Husband is the Suspect. New York: Forge.
Garland, N. (2011). Criminal Evidence. New York, N.Y.: McGraw Hill.
Hodgman, W. (2005, October 4). Evaluating the Prosecution’s Case. Retrieved from PBS Frontline: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/oj/themes/prosecution.html
Jones, T. L. (2006, November 30). The Murder Trial of O.J. Simpson. Retrieved from Crime Library: http://voices.yahoo.com/oj-simpson-went-wrong-1289589.html?cat=37
Ogle, R. (2004). Crime Scene Investigation and Reconstruction. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Weinbach, J. (2010, October 1). OJ Simpson Trial at 15: A Legacy of Bad DNA, Beard Strokes, Bruno Magli Shoes. Retrieved from Aol News: http://www.aolnews.com/2010/10/01/oj-simpson-trial-at-15-legacy-of-bad-dna-beard-strokes-bruno/
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