These two Case Studies come from a National Center on Case Studies. I think that a case study approach is very useful in applying knowledge and this is what makes….
Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson was a famous football star and actor. Simpson’s life was completely changed when he was put on trial for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman. Due to the celebrity status of Simpson and the media coverage that followed the case, it is known as the “Trial of the Century.” Officially called the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, the trial lasted from November 2, 1994 to October 3, 1995. After the extensive trial, Simpson was acquitted on murder due to a lack of evidence to convict him.
This verdict is one of the most highly debated verdicts in one of the most high profile case.
The origin of this high profile case dates back to June 12, 1994. The facts of this night are disputed but what is known is that an intruder entered through the gate of Nicole Simpson’s condominium and brutally murdered her and Ronald Goldman. Goldman was a friend of Simpsons, who was there returning a pair of sunglasses.
At the time of the murder O.J. and Nicole had been divorced after a largely public break-up. O.J. was on a flight to Chicago when the bodies were discovered. He was informed by police the next morning that his e-x wife had been murdered. He asked no question, simply said thank you and hung up the phone.
Simpson came home to Los Angeles where he discovered an intense police investigation under way that had labeled him as suspect #1. The first mistakes that led to the acquittal of O.J. occurred during this police investigation and initial questioning. O.J. had a deep cut on the inside of his hand that he was unable to explain and gaping holes in his story of the night of the murders. The police did not pursue the cut on his hand or ask adequate follow-up questions during the interrogation. Due to the inept work of the police officers the evidence contained in the interview was not introduced at the trial.
Police obtained enough evidence against Simpson to obtain a warrant for his arrest and charge him with the murders. O.J hired high-profile defense attorney Robert Shapiro to represent him in this case. Shapiro worked an agreement with the L.A. Police Department that O.J. would turn himself in by 10:00 am on June 17th. This was after Nicole Simpson’s funeral, which O.J. was adamant about attending. When O.J did not arrive at the agreed upon time, police officers went to his house to arrest him. This set off one of the most memorable moments in American television history. O.J. had left a suicide letter at his home which had people wondering what truly had happened to him. As dusk began to fall upon Los Angeles a motorist driving on the freeway informed police that they had seen Simpson in a white Bronco driving down the freeway. This led to a slow motion police chase with dozens of police cars and news helicopters following the white Bronco. This chase was broadcasted on every T.V. and radio in America. The police chase ended in Simpson’s driveway, where police discovered a loaded gun, almost $10,000 in cash, and a disguise inside the Bronco.
Major mistakes were made by the prosecution before the trial had even begun. The prosecution filed the case in the downtown L.A. court house rather than in the Santa Monica courthouse, were the crime was committed. Normal procedure of a case is to file where the actually crime took place. The prosecution’s most likely reason for doing this was to avoid controversy or even another riot as in the Rodney King case, due to the largely white jury that would be hear the case in Santa Monica. The prosecution believed that their case was so strong that even a minority dominated jury would still find Simpson guilty. The prosecution also did not pursue the death penalty in the case against O.J., which cost them a chance at a more qualified jury and a jury that has been proven more likely to convict guilty. Another mistake made pre-trial by the prosecution was to not consult the advice of their own jury consultants. The consultants advised the prosecution to constutionally exclude black and female jurors. The prosecution did not believe this was necessary and may have cost themselves a guilty verdict with a mistake as simple as this.
O.J. Simpson pled “absolutely one hundred percent not guilty” on July 22, 1994 and the trial was set to begin. Months of deliberation were to take place before the trial could official start. The jury selection and the issues of cameras in the courtroom and admissibility of DNA tests were the main topic discussed during these months.
The first day of the O.J. Simpson trial was on January 24, 1995. Judge Lance Ito, prosecution lawyer Christopher Darden, and defense attorney Robert Shapiro were the three main players in the courtroom. Over the next 99 days of trial, the prosecution put forward 72 witnesses. The first set of witnesses suggested that Simpson had the motive to commit these murders. The second set of witnesses suggested that Simpson had in fact the perfect opportunity to kill his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman. The prosecution used numerous witnesses and evidence to try and tie O.J. directly to the murders. The most powerful piece of evidence that the prosecution presented were two RFLP tests. These tests indicated that blood found at the crime scene was matched to 1 out of 170 million people and O.J. fit the profile. The second test was more concrete and incriminating for it showed that blood found on socks in O.J.’s bedroom could be matched to the blood of Nicole Brown Simpson. The defense was able to get the validity of these tests questioned when they stated that corrupt police officers had planted evidence to help convict O.J.
One of the most well-known pieces of evidence in law history is the glove presented in the O.J. Simpson trial. The bloody-glove was found at the scene and was worn by the killer at the time of the murder. Darden was confident that the glove belonged to Simpson so asked him to try it on in front of the courtroom. Simpson struggled to get the glove on and then proceeded to proclaim that the glove did not fit. At that time an almost shocked sound from the people in the courtroom could be heard. The glove did not fit because O.J.’s hand had swelled up, but this was not known until much after the trial had ended. This is the origin of the phrase, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” This was a huge hit to the prosecution and damaged their case to where it was very hard to recover. Darden having O.J. try on the glove was another major mistake made by the prosecution that led to the acquittal.
The defense’s approach to the case was known as the “Dream Team” in the media. Their goal was to undermine the prosecution’s theory of motive, the timeline of the crime, and that key evidence was planted or contaminated. Another tactic that proved valuable for the defense was to bring O.J.’s family on to the stand. His daughter, sister, and mother all testified on the stand and the jury was visibly affected by their testimonies. It was clear that the jury showed more sympathy to the Simpson family than to the families of the victims.
Mark Fuhrman and his testimony became the cornerstone for the defense’s case. Fuhrman was a Los Angeles police officer who had found the famous bloody glove. He was also one of the prosecution’s key witnesses. During initial testimony Fuhrman denied that he was racist and claimed he had not used the word “nigger” in the past ten years. The defense had obtained a tape that Fuhrman was on and repeatedly used the n word. Fuhrman also said on the tape that he had sometimes planted evidence to help secure a conviction. Fuhrman’s false testimony and the tapes were a vocal point of the trial and were a major cause to Simpson’s acquittal.
The testimony of Henry Lee was also a turning point in the case. Lee was a forensic expert who had solid credentials and talked to the jury well. Lee used blood splatter demonstrations and other physical evidence to suggest that there was more than one intruder. Lee raised questions about key prosecution evidence a disputed their key DNA tests.
On October 3rd, 1995, after just three hours of deliberation the jury found O.J Simpson not guilty of murder. The defense and O.J celebrated when the verdict was read while cries could be heard in the courtroom from the Goldman and Brown families. This case was known for its high profile media attention, but become most well-known for its unexpected verdict.
This not guilty verdict was due to the many mistakes made by the prosecution before and during the trial. The mistakes made by the police causing key evidence to be excluded or thrown out was a major mistake. Not pursuing the death penalty and filing in Los Angeles rather than Santa Monica were two crucial mistakes made by the prosecution pre-trial. The “bloody glove” and the testimony of Mark Fuhrman were the two biggest mistakes made by the prosecution during the trial.
After the trial O.J. proclaimed that he would devote his life to finding the true killer of Nicole Brown Simpson. This was quickly taken over by a civil case filed against O.J in Santa Monica. This case had a very different tone than the murder trial and came with a very different result. After seventeen hours of deliberation, the jury found that O.J Simpson had wrongfully caused the death of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Simpson was ordered to pay $8.5 million of compensatory damages and $25 million for punitive damages.