The Double-Murder Trial of O.J. Simpson, Research Paper Example
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On June 13, 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered in front of Nicole Brown Simpson’s house in Brentwood, California. The subsequent police investigation led law enforcement officials to believe that O.J. Simpson, the ex-husband of Nicole Brown Simpson, was responsible for committing the murders. The double-murder trial of O.J. Simpson began in January of 1995, and lasted for approximately eight months. During the trial, a significant number of different pieces of evidence were introduced by the prosecution, from witness testimony about the events on the night of the murder to 911 calls from Nicole Brown Simpson in which she told operators that she was being threatened by O.J. Simpson and that she feared for her life (Bugliosi, 1996). The most important evidence presented by the prosecution, however, was the DNA evidence collected at the crime scene and at O.J. Simpson’s home. The prosecution claimed that this DNA evidence proved Simpson’s guilt, while the defense used a number of approaches to undermine the credibility of DNA testing in the eyes of the jury. The use of DNA testing was relatively new at the time, and the efforts by the defense to discredit the DNA evidence were ultimately successful. Simpson was found not guilty in October 1995, a verdict that shocked many members of the public who had followed news and other television coverage of the trial.
In the early morning hours of June 14, a neighbor of Nicole Brown Simpson found a dog wandering the neighborhood with a leash attached to its collar. The dog’s paws had blood on them, though the dog was uninjured. Another neighbor took the dog into his home, but the dog was reportedly restless and agitated (Bugliosi). The second neighbor decided to walk the dog, and later reported that the dog strained at its leash, guiding the neighbor to the body of Nicole Brown Simpson near the front of her house (Bugliosi). The police were called, and the first officer to arrive on scene found a second body, that of Ronald Goldman, lying nearby. Both victims had been stabbed repeatedly, through Nicole Brown Simpson’s body had more injuries than Goldman’s (Bugliosi). A significant amount of blood evidence was collected at the scene of the murder, along with another piece of evidence that would prove central to the subsequent case against Simpson, a single bloody leather glove. As the investigation continued the morning after the murders, police went to the house of O.J. Simpson a few miles away to determine if there was any connection between him and the murders of Brown Simpson and Goldman, including the possibility that he had also been a victim of a crime along with the two deceased victims.
The Investigation and Evidence
One of the first police officers to arrive at the home of O.J. Simpson was detective Mark Fuhrman. Detective Fuhrman had been at the scene of the murders, and then drove to O.J. Simpson’s house to attempt to contact Simpson. No one responded at the gate to Simpson’s home, so Fuhrman climbed the wall to Simpson’s property based on exigent circumstances, including the possibility that Simpson had been injured or killed as well. While searching the property, Fuhrman found a black leather glove matching the glove found at the murder scene (AP, 1996). Fuhrman also found blood drops and other blood evidence in the driveway of Simpson’s home (AP). Subsequent DNA testing of this and other blood evidence found at the murder scene and Simpson’s home matched it to both Simpson and the two murder victims (Bugliosi).
The subsequent investigation of the murders pointed to a possible timeline of events involving Simpson as the perpetrator. Several hours after the murders took place, Simpson was taken by limousine to the airport for a flight to Chicago. The limo driver testified that Simpson’s white Ford Bronco was not parked outside the house where it was later found (Linder, 1995). The driver also testified that the house was dark when he arrived, and that he later saw a person enter the front door of the home from the rear of the property, at which time the house lights came on (Linder). Kato Kaelin, resident in Simpson’s guest house, testified at the trial that on the night of the murder he heard several loud thumps at the rear of the property (Linder). Prosecutors presented this testimony to show their version of the timeline: that Simpson had driven to his ex-wife’s house, killed her and Goldman, returned to his home, parked the Bronco out front, hopped the rear wall to his property, and entered the house in view of the limo driver.
The Trial and the Verdict
The prosecution believed it had a strong case against Simpson, with the blood and DNA evidence being their primary focus. Both the prosecution and the defense presented expert witnesses to testify about DNA evidence; the prosecution argued that the DNA evidence against Simpson was conclusive, while the defense argued that the investigators had mishandled the evidence to the point that it could not be trusted. The defense also undermined Mark Fuhrman’s credibility with evidence that he had used racist language in the past, and argued that Fuhrman may have taken one of the bloody gloves from the scene of the murders and planted it, along with other blood evidence, at Simpson’s home (Bugliosi). After hearing eight months of testimony and evidence presentations, the jury voted to acquit Simpson of the murders.
Public opinion about the verdict was largely split along racial lines, with the majority of white Americans believing Simpson was guilty and the majority of black Americans believing he was innocent (Schuetz, 1999). Coverage of the Simpson trial exposed a strong sociological component, with issues and questions about racism and abuse of power by police figuring strongly in how people of different racial backgrounds felt about the trial and the verdict. The issue of DNA evidence, which was so crucial to the prosecutor’s case, was also significant. The use of DNA testing and evidence was relatively new at the time, and the amount of testimony and evidence may have been too complicated for the jury to fully understand (Schuetz). In the nearly two decades since the Simpson trial DNA evidence has become much more common, and it is possible that if the Simpson trial were held today that the DNA evidence would be enough to secure a conviction. It is also possible that the power of Simpson’s celebrity, his ability to hire an expensive team of attorneys, and his celebrity status would still have complicated things for the prosecution. Given the fact that there is virtually no evidence supporting any other theory of the crime, and based on the overwhelming evidence against Simpson, however, it does appear that he was able to get away with murder.
Associated Press (AP) (1996, October 10). List of the evidence in the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial:. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/index/nns25.htm
Bugliosi, V. (1996). Outrage: The five reasons why O.J. Simpson got away with murder. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.
Linder, D. O. (1995). The Trial of O. J. Simpson. Retrieved from http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Simpson/simpson.htm
Schuetz, J. E., & Lilley, L. S. (1999). The O.J. Simpson trials: Rhetoric, media, and the law. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
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