Letters to the Editor
I am writing regarding the August Editor’s Page on OJ Simpson. Although I agree with a great deal of the information presented, my memory of the trial differs from that of the writer in a few key places. My husband and I had the opportunity to watch a significant portion of the trial as it was happening and to tune out most of the commentators and summation “specialists.” This allowed for an experience closer to that of the jurists than of the usual TV spectators.
Of particular note was the loss of “chain of custody” standards and procedures with the transportation of blood samples from the three parties. That presentation by the defense team concluded with the shocking blow that a small amount of blood samples was missing. The next bit of scientific testimony revealed that the one drop of Nicole Simpson’s blood that was found on the sock was present on both sides of the sock. That is to say that a person could not have been wearing the sock when the blood got on it. Finally, it appears that the amount of blood found in so many locations was very very close to the amount of blood that went missing.
These are just a few of the facts that I remember. There were many others that I’ve forgotten. I do not recall any annihilation by the prosecution on these issues. I remember waiting for a retort that didn’t measure up. Even if only one piece of evidence had the suspicious appearance of being “planted,” this made all the other evidence questionable, and that made the case for reasonable doubt. This highlighted the absolute brilliance of Johnny Cochran.
It is for these reasons that I take exception to the premise that 1. “a jury heavily weighted with African-Americans” was loathe to do anything but make a decision based on the information they had. And 2. that the jury members were not educated.
Finally, it is institutions like the LAPD and the US judicial system that are capable of real racism. Institutions like these are major contributors to the overwhelmingly disproportionate number of African-Americans incarcerated, harshly sentenced, and executed in comparison to the larger US society (or rest of the world). What African Americans know is that OJ Simpson had enough money to buy a defense team to find and exploit the cracks in the case against him to get a non-guilty verdict. This is no more and no less than what has come to be expected of wealthy White Americans. I think it is a sick measure of success, but that is the current game of justice that is being played.
Our Editor Replies:
You make a good point about the chain of custody standards for important evidence. But you presume a desire on the part of the LAPD to falsely incriminate Simpson, which if successful might have sent him to his death. The truth is that the LAPD was/is celebrity-mad and had often let Simpson slide on the many spousal abuse incidents that had been logged against him. Celebrities in LA have long been coddled by the authorities, going all the way back to the 1930’s when the major studios made it their business to see that the “right” people were elected to the District Attorney’s office. But of course, the average citizen does not fare nearly as well, especially if they are black. The Rodney King case amply demonstrated that the “sophisticated” LAPD could be just as vicious as any red-neck police department in the Deep South.
Insofar as the planting of evidence, Furhman was not one of the lead detectives on the case, and arrived at both the crime scene and the police work at his house more than forty minutes after the lead detectives—and well after the all-important second bloodied glove had been removed from the scene of the crime.
Moreover, I think the case against Furhman fails the motive test. Had he been caught planting evidence, the detective could have served a long term in prison. So why would he have chanced that? Further, to falsely try to send Simpson to his death would have required a burning hatred on the part of Furhman—and the record showed that there was little if any evidence that the two men had even met!
By the way, Mark Furhman went a long way toward rehabilitating his tarnished reputation when many years later he investigated the long-dormant Shakel/Moxley murder case in Connecticut in such a brilliant way that Shakel (of the famous Kennedy Connection) was finally brought to trial, convicted and sent to prison, where he languishes to this very day.