The Trial of O. J. Simpson

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Introduction

Nicole Brown, O.J. Simpson’s divorced wife, was found stabbed to death together with her friend Ronald Goldman at night on June 12, 1994, two years after she had divorced Simpson. The latter was charged with the crime but his defense team got him acquitted after a lengthy criminal trial that attracted worldwide attention. Legal analysts have blamed the acquittal of Simpson on the shoddy investigations conducted by the police of the murder of the two victims in Nicole’s house. However, some factors also contributed to the acquittal of Simpson. In 1997, a civil court found him guilty of battering Nicole and wrongfully murdering Ronald. This paper is an in-depth analysis of the factors that led to the acquittal of Simpson, the prime suspect in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman.

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Case facts

On June24, 1994, Ronald Goldman and his friend Nicole Brown, O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, were found stabbed to death at Nicole’s home. Detectives found hairs matching the suspect’s hair on Goldman’s shirt and on a cap that was at the scene of crime. Cotton fibers were also found at Nicole’s residence, which matched cotton fabric in Simpson’s Ford Bronco. Blood evidence found at the scene of crime matched that of the suspect. Additionally, blood evidence from a blood-stained sock at the suspect’s home matched that of the victims. A right-hand glove found at the suspect’s home matched a blood-soaked left glove at the scene of the crime. Shoeprints on the crime scene were from a Magli size twelve shoe. O.J. Simpson’s shoe size was twelve, and the shoe prints on his car were from a Magli size twelve shoe (Jones n.pag.). After several months of hearings, Simpson was acquitted due to shoddy forensic investigations.

Forensic mistakes in the case

From the onset, evidence collection was flawed. The first investigator who got to the scene of crime, Mark Fuhrman, documented fingerprints that other detectives never followed up. Additionally, other pieces of evidence from the crime scene were lost without being secured or collected. Expert witnesses brought to the case by the prosecution noticed that investigations were shoddy and evidence was not sufficiently secured. Photographic evidence lacked scaling, proper logging and labeling, making it difficult to relate them to the scene of crime. Investigators packed wet items of evidence, making them susceptible to changes, as a result, cross-contamination occurred in items that were erroneously packed together. One victim’s body was covered with a blanket that contaminated evidence. Detectives maneuvered the scene unprofessionally, leaving more footprints than those by perpetrator.

As the investigation progressed, more issues about securing of evidence arose. An approximate 1.5 mL of the perpetrator’s blood got lost from the evidence package (Jones n.pag.). Detectives had not even documented the amount of blood collected from the crime scene, and thus they could only approximate that the aforementioned volume of the perpetrator’s blood was missing. Additionally, the blood evidence had been in transit for hours before being handed over as evidence. This fact left room for speculation on how and when the missing blood disappeared. The LAPD storage was not secure enough. It was established that unauthorized personnel accessed evidence, and that evidence was altered while in LAPD’s custody.

In addition to the aforementioned claims, it was highly suspected that evidence had been illegally planted at the scene of crime. Detectives were unable to explain how much blood they had taken from the scene of crime. They were also unable to give collected documentation for the suspect’s blood. This led to speculation that Simpson’s blood had been planted in critical areas at the scene of crime and on evidence items. For instance, detectives collected socks from the suspect’s residence for the investigation. The socks were not reported to have had any bloodstains at first. However, the socks were later reported to have a bloodstain. The reported stain on the sock was on both sides, which was unlikely to happen if the suspect was wearing the sock as he committed the crime. This is because the suspect’s foot would block the victim’s blood from staining the other side of the sock. It was, therefore, concluded that the evidence had been either compromised or wrongly recorded.

The first detective to arrive at the scene of crime was also put to question. Mark Fuhrman was alleged to have been involved in planting of evidence. The detective was also suspected to be a racist. “He perjured himself on the stand and when asked if he had falsified police reports or planted evidence in the Simpson case he invoked the 5th Amendment, the right against self incrimination” (“Forensic Investigation of the OJ Simpson Trial” par. 11). This made the defense and court officials scrutinize his evidence even more. Mark Fuhrman was accused of contaminating evidence with the suspect’s blood, planting evidence at the scene of the crime and at the suspect’s home, and altering LAPD records.

A number of errors were associated with the security of the suspect’s car, a white Ford Bronco. The car was either an item of evidence or a scene of crime, but detectives ignored proper forensic practices with regard to its handling. Investigators were quick to deny claims that the car had been opened at the crime scene. However, their report referred to bloodstains that could only have been seen by a person inside the car. The biggest error with respect to the car was that it was not secured as the investigation progressed. Some unauthorized people got access to the car while the police was holding it. One can only guess what those people could have done in the car. It is, therefore, indubitable that the integrity of the car as a scene of crime was interfered with.

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DNA testing was done in the Simpson case. However, samples taken from the scene of the crime had been contaminated a number of times because of the erroneous forensic procedures. The most serious error in DNA testing was that detectives had contaminated the samples of blood that were to be used as reference evidence in testing. The contamination occurred because of erroneous forensic procedures and extreme carelessness by the investigating team. The defense presented that investigators had been negligent working with DNA, and thus the DNA was degraded. In addition to this, the investigators stored the DNA in plastic bags at warm temperatures for a couple of hours. The DNA was on wet cotton, and thus the hot moist conditions at which it was stored facilitated its degradation. The defense therefore argued that the degraded DNA was non-identifiable and the rest of the DNA could falsely link the suspect to the crime scene as a result of contamination occurred.

Other factors

Other issues apart from the forensic mishaps of the case contributed to the acquittal of the suspect. Jill Shively, a witness relied upon by the prosecution, perjured herself by lying that she had not shared any information regarding the case with anyone. She subsequently talked about it on television after being paid $5,000 to appear on the television show. Following this, the prosecutors denied her the chance to testify as the trial progressed. The prosecution also had a hand in the failure of the case. They filed the case in the business district of Los Angeles instead of Santa Monica, hoping to find more black jurors for the murder case. It was also a mistake on their part to decide that they would not seek for the death penalty for the defendant. With a death penalty request, they would have had a more qualified jury, who would have convicted Simpson. In addition to these factors, Judge Lance Ito also contributed to the acquittal of the suspect. The judge did not follow the letter of the law, but made decisions based on his personal instincts. “For instance, he allowed defense to mention, unlawfully, witnesses during its opening statement, of which the prosecution had not been notified. He recognized his mistake almost a week later and informed the jury to disregard that information” (McClair 1). All the aforementioned facts, coupled with shoddy forensic investigations led to the acquittal of O.J. Simpson, who, the American public believed, was guilty.

Conclusion

From the discussion above, it is clear that the suspect, O.J. Simpson, was highly likely to have committed the crime. However, the Jury in the case acquitted Simpson because of shoddy forensic investigations presented by the police. Apart from the poor investigations, other factors like unreliable witnesses and an unprofessional judge led to the acquittal of Simpson. According to the American public opinion, however, there is no doubt that Simpson committed the crime. Unfortunately, no action can be taken against him now.

References

Forensic Investigation of the OJ Simpson Trial 2008. Web.

Jones, Thomas. The Murder Trial of O.J. Simpson. 2011. Web.

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McClair, Amy. O.J. Simpson: What Went Wrong? 2008. Web.

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