OJ Simpson murder case

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Abstract

The OJ Simpson case was a high profile murder case in which OJ Simpson, a former NFL football star was charged with two murders. The 1995 case captured the attention of the American public given its huge television viewership (Battaglia, 2011). Oj Simpson was arrested as a prime suspect following the discovery of the bodies of the two victims. The arrest was captured on live television after a slow police chase. The case lasted for 133 days and was widely debated one given its countless viewers worldwide.

Introduction

The OJ Simpson murder case was considered to be among the most debated criminal trial of the 20th century. The case was heard in Los Angeles County Court in which former NFL footballs star, OJ Simpson was charged with two counts of murder (Battaglia, 2011). The case was considered to be the most publicized criminal trial given it huge viewership across the world. It lasted for 133 days with the acquittal of Simpson. It is within this backdrop that the paper will explore the OJ Simpson murder case in detail by examining various aspects of the trial.

Why was the case a big deal?

The case involved OJ Simpson a sport personality and an actor who was accused for the murder of his wife and her friend. OJ Simpson was once a high profile NFL Football player in the 1970s (Foley, 2010).  He is considered to be among the greatest quarterbacks and was responsible for the win of the Heisman trophy for his team in the late 1960s.  His fame in the sport arena was boosted by his career in acting in which he featured in a number of blockbusters films. In addition, after retiring from the field, he joined sport commentary at the Monday night football while still running ad campaigns.  Due to his popularity, the murder case received huge media coverage as it was aired in major cable television across the country. Due to the above reasons, the case evoked debates on race and criminal justice as  majority of African-Americans were in his support while the white-Americans believed in his guilt (Foley, 2010).

The murder

On 13 June 1994, Nicole Brown and her friend were found murdered. She had been stabbed severally around her neck (Salwen & Driscoll, 1997). Two officers discovered the bodies of the two victims two hours later after their murder. A single glove full of blood was also discovered in the crime scene. The officers then headed to Simpson’s home to inform him about the murder though he was not at home. One of the officers discovered a single bloody glove at the back of Simpson residence and this prompted them to search the premises without a warrant.  DNA tests done on the blood on the second glove confirmed that it belonged to the two victims and this provided concrete evidence for an arrest warrant for Simpson to be issued (Salwen & Driscoll, 1997).

The arrest of OJ Simpson

Once the arrest warrant of OJ Simpson had been issued, Simpson’s lawyers managed to convince the detectives in charge of the case to allow him to turn himself in. Simpson was now facing a murder charge for the death of two victims and this was subject to no bail and a death penalty if found culpable of the charges (Skolnick & Shaw, 1997). Numerous news reporters camped at the police station waiting for Simpson arrival.  He failed to turn up and was later spotted driving alongside his longtime friend. This led to a slow police chase that was aired across most cable television in the US. The occupants of the car that Simpson was in claimed that he was contemplating committing suicide. The chase attracted a huge viewership across America as almost all major cable networks covered it. It ended with his arrest without any violent confrontation and he was later set to begin trial for the two murder charges.

The murder trial

Prior to his hearing, Simpson had hired a team of high profile lawyers to represent him. At the beginning of the trial, the court ordered Simpson to be held without possibility of a bail. The courtroom was filled with journalists from various media stations and as a result, the case got a huge media coverage. At the start of the trial, the prosecution produced around 72 witnesses (Skolnick & Shaw, 1997). The first group of witnesses included the relatives of the deceased ex-wife and Simpson friends who claimed that Simpson often abused his wife.  One of the witnesses was Nicole’s sister who recounted the physical abuse her sister was subjected to by her husband who was overly jealous and insecure. The second group of witnesses that was called on stand included the limousine driver who drove Simpson to the airport to catch a flight and officers from the Los Angeles police department (Battaglia, 2011).  The witnesses were to help the court develop a timeline of events on the day of the murder (Battaglia, 2011). Later on, the prosecution began to produce witnesses connecting Simpson to the two murders.

The court proceedings were aired on television for 133 days. The prosecution later disserted the death penalty and settled for a life sentence. In the initial hearing, the prosecution often presented evidence that showed the years of physical abuse the deceased had endured in the hands of Simpson. Among the evidences included a 911 distress call in which the deceased expressed fear of her husband wanting to harm her. Other than the witnesses mentioned earlier, the prosecution also put forward a number of expert witnesses ranging from blood analysts, DNA fingerprint and shoeprint analysts (Krapohl, 2011).

The jury

The court in which the case was filed was a key influence on the racial composition of the jury. As noted by Krapohl (2011), the jury would have been mostly comprised of whites instead of African-Americans if it were filed in Santa Monica.  As statistics revealed, most White-Americans believed in Simpson guilt while most African-Americans believed in his innocence (Krapohl, 2011). As such, the racial aspect was crucial in determining the composition of the jury. The selection of the jury was initiated on September 24, 1994 and was conducted by both the defense and plaintiff lawyers.  The jurors were handed a 79-page questionnaire each by the presiding judge that took them approximately 4 hours to complete. The selection process of the jury carried on for two months. Some of the potential jurors were excluded due to minor reasons by the presiding judge who laid strict rules particularly relating to media exposure. In the end, the final jury comprised of 2 men and 10 women- nine African-Americans, one Hispanic and two White-Americans (Krapohl, 2011).

The strategy of the defense team

The defense Lawyers adopted a strategy of undermining the evidence put forth by the prosecution by suggesting that Simpson had physical incapacitation that could not allow him to murder the two victims. The defense lawyers also cast aspersions on the timeline of events relied on by the prosecution by claiming the contamination of the physical evidence incriminating the accused (Krapohl, 2011).  The defense strategy was later reinforced by the testimony of Simpson family members including his daughter, his sister and mother. However, the defense suffered some major drawbacks in an attempt to prove that Simpson was physically incapacitated by arthritis to commit the crime. This was due to a video that showed Simpsons performing strenuous physical exercises that countered the incapacitation claim.

The defense lawyers claim of contamination and framing of Simpson received a major boost from the Police officer who discovered the bloody gloves. The LAPD officer, Mark Fuhrman denied being racially prejudiced or using racially abusive words in the past ten years (Hoffer, 1997).  However, he was recorded on tape using racial slurs while referring to African-Americans.   The prosecution also noted that the officer had once planted evidence in a particular case to help hasten the prosecution.  This new revelation prompted the defense to develop a new theory. The defense argued that the LAPD officer carried the bloody glove from the crime scene and dropped at Simpson residence after rubbing it with the victims’ blood in an attempt to frame Simpson. However, as noted by Hoffer (1997), it is not the new theory that led to the acquittal of Simpson but rather the explanation presented to the court by forensic expert named Henry lee.  With his concrete credentials, Lee was able to question the prosecution physical evidence diligently using a set of demonstrations. The argument convinced the jury who found the justification to be plausible and thus qualifying him as the most credible witness.  Eventually, this all was in favor of Simpson who was acquitted of the murder. Despite the acquittal of Simpson of the two murder charges, his legal challenges did not end. The victims’ families sued him for wrongful death. The suit stretched for 17 months and was he found culpable for the death of Nicole and Goldman. Simpson was required to pay the families over $30 million in damages (Hoffer, 1997).

Reaction to the acquittal

During a post interview with the jury, a section of the jurors confirmed that they believed that Simpson was culpable of the crime and that the court had failed to prove his guilt (Hoffer, 1997). In addition, those that were opposed to the verdict argued that the time for the deliberation of the case was quite shorter compared to the period it took for the trial (Meringolo, 2010).  Some argued that most members of the jury lacked college education and thus were less likely to comprehend scientific evidence (Meringolo, 2010). Critics further argued that the prosecution ignored a number of aspects that incriminated Simpson (Cotterill, 2001). For instance, the note that Simpson left behind before he tried to flee was an admission of guilt on part of Simpson and it should have been  presented to the court for the jury to view it. In addition, they also noted that the items found in Simpson’s car such as the huge amount of cash, passport and fake moustache should have been presented to the jury.   The prosecution argued that the items would affect the case negatively since it would lead to an emotional contention. However, the items were clear evidence of Simpsons attempt to flee.

Another anomaly that rocked the the case and appeared to be ignored is the contradictory statements made by Simpson concerning the deep cut on his finger. Simpson had earlier recorded a statement with the police claiming that he suffered a cut while in Chicago after crushing a glass when he was informed of the murder of his ex-wife (Mixon, Foley & Orme, 1995). He later recanted the statement claiming that he suffered the cut while in Los Angeles and then the cut was reinjured in Chicago. He later claimed that he could not remember when he cut his finger. As noted by Mixon, Foley & Orme (1995), this aspect was crucial in the determination of Simpson culpability though the prosecution ignored it.  Another issue that critics argue was not fully investigated is the domestic abuse that Nicole had gone through in her marriage to Simpson.  Critics argue that the prosecution did not scrutinize the issue in detail since this would have proved that Simpson was a deranged and violent and was capable of committing the heinous act.

Media coverage

As earlier mentioned, the OJ Simpson murder case received huge media coverage and had millions of viewership. The case was highly debated due to the racial aspect in which most White Americans believed that Simpson was culpable while most African-Americans believed in his innocence (Foley, 2010). As earlier noted, the mainstream media covered the court proceedings for 133 days and the case sparked worldwide debate on the American criminal justice system.  The case is reported to have been widely aired by three of the big cable television networks on prime time. The case also featured widely in newspapers and magazine with Los Angeles Times reported to have broadcast the case on its front page for a period stretching close to a year.  Due to the high profile nature of the case, a dramatization of the proceedings was made and aired by a number of media houses such as Fox and CBS.

Summary

The OJ Simpson case was a high profile murder case in which OJ Simpson, a former NFL football star was charged with two murders. The 1995 case captured the attention of the American public given its huge television viewership (Foley, 2010).  The case involved OJ Simpson, a sport personality and an actor who was the prime suspect for the murder of his wife and her friend. OJ Simpson was once a high profile NFL Football player in the 1970s.  On 13 June 1994, Nicole Brown and her friend were found murdered. She had been stabbed severally around her neck. Two officers discovered the bodies of the two victims two hours after they were murdered. Prior to his hearing, Simpson had hired a team of high profile defense lawyers to represent him. At the beginning of the trial, the court ordered Simpson to be held without the possibility of a bail.

The courtroom was filled with journalists from various media stations and as a result, the case got a huge media coverage. The court proceedings were aired on television for 133 days. The prosecution later deserted the death penalty and settled for a life sentence. In the initial hearing, the prosecution often presented evidence that showed the years of physical abuse the deceased had endured in the hands of Simpson. The court in which the case was filed was a key influence on the racial composition of the jury. As statistics revealed, most White-Americans believed in Simpson guilt while most African-Americans believed in his innocence (Foley, 2010). As such, the racial aspect was crucial in determining the composition of the jury. The selection of the jury was initiated on September 24, 1994 and was conducted by both the defense and plaintiff lawyers. At end of the trial, Simpson was acquitted of the two murder charges, as his defense had weakened the prosecution evidence terming it circumstantial and unreliable. However, the acquittal did not mark the end of his legal battle. The victims’ families sued him for wrongful death. The suit stretched for 17 months and he was found culpable for the death of Nicole and Goldman (Foley, 2010).

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  1. Williams, L. (2001). Playing the race card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to OJ Simpson (Vol. 134). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  2. Foley, M. (2010). Serializing racial subjects: The stagnation and suspense of the OJ Simpson saga. Quarterly Journal of Speech96(1), 69-88.
  3. Salwen, M. B., & Driscoll, P. D. (1997). Consequences of third‐person perception in support of press restrictions in the OJ Simpson trial. Journal of Communication47(2), 60-78.
  4. Skolnick, P., & Shaw, J. I. (1997). The OJ Simpson criminal trial verdict: Racism or status shield?. Journal of Social Issues53(3), 503-516.
  5. Battaglia, N. A. (2011). The Casey Anthony Trial and Wrongful Exonerations: How Trial by Media Cases Diminish Public Confidence in the Criminal Justice System. Alb. L. Rev.75, 1579.
  6. Krapohl, D. J. (2011). Limitations of the concealed information test in criminal cases. Memory detection: Theory and application of the Concealed Information Test, 151-170.
  7. Hoffer, P. C. (1997). Invisible Worlds and Criminal Trials The Cases of John Proctor and OJ Simpson. The American Journal of Legal History41(3), 287-314.
  8. Meringolo, J. C. (2010). The media, the jury, and the high-profile defendant: a defense perspective on the media circus. NYL Sch. L. Rev.55, 981.
  9. Cotterill, J. (2001). Domestic discord, rocky relationships: semantic prosodies in representations of marital violence in the OJ Simpson trial. Discourse & Society12(3), 291-312.
  10. Mixon, K. D., Foley, L. A., & Orme, K. (1995). The influence of racial similarity on the OJ Simpson trial. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality10(3), 481.
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