OJ: Made in America
Thursday, June 16, 2016
I've been having the same argument since 1994.
I've had it with classmates, with law professors, at California Bar Association meetings, at job interviews, with colleagues, with bosses - if you had a JD in the 90s, probably we went a couple of rounds.
Neither the full Ryan Murphy OJ Simpson mini-series nor the first three episodes of the documentary OJ-Made in America have addressed it.
So, I'll have the argument one more time with you people.
The OJ Simpson Trial was about the 4th Amendment.
The night of the murders, LAPD conducted a warrantless search of Simpson's property, one of the items discovered during which was a bloody glove.
Why were they able to make a warrantless search?
The same justification offered at the time is offered by Tom Lange and Mark Fuhrman 22 years later in Part 3 of OJ: Made in America.
Why did LAPD go to OJ Simpson's house at 4:30 in the morning after discovering the bodies of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman? From the documentary:
"Someone's got to make a death notification to next of kin - which is Simpson" - Tom Lange.
I have for you two thoughts:
1. OJ and Nicole were divorced in 1992.
2. LAPD did not go to notify the Goldmans at 4:30 in the morning after discovering the bodies.
LAPD arrived at OJ's house, no one buzzed them inside, LAPD jumped the gate. The argument for lack of warrant is one of exigent circumstances, that there was an emergency situation on the Simpson property that required immediate attention. Here is Mark Fuhrman, again from the documentary, discussing what he found on the outside of Simpson's car.
"On the driver's side doorhandle, blood - there was enough evidence outside, we gotta make sure everybody's okay in here.."
I have for you two thoughts.
1. The amount of blood seen on Simpson's car was a "a small spot, an eighth or a quarter of an inch."
2. LAPD did not call for backup nor put on protective vests.
Those thoughts could have been voiced in the documentary. Perhaps they will be in parts 4 or 5, but in part 3, Lange and Furhman went uncontradicted. Note the distinction in the filmmaking between that segment and the lengthy discussion of the way in which Simpson's home was dressed for the jury visit, with Marcia Clark and Carl Douglas providing opposite views on the "critical" issue of what photographs appeared on the walls. When it came to the search - Lange and Fuhrman told the same story LAPD told in 1994 and did so in a way seemingly accepted by the film.
I'd submit to you the far more plausible explanation for why LAPD went to OJ Simpson's house at 430 in the morning is they believed him to be a suspect; he was the ex-husband with multiple domestic abuse calls on his record. They jumped the gate without warrant to look for evidence.
Note, I didn't say "plant" evidence. Although, were you to ask me "do you think LAPD helped frame a guilty man" that's a position I'd be likely to hold, and at worst, one which I think is reasonable to hold. That position doesn't need to be reached here to reach the conclusion of my argument.
At the time of the Simpson Trial, the predominant media narrative was the Simpson defense team played the "race card" - a devious, sinister strategy which should be condemned. The 1990s were a time when Hillary Clinton could get away with using terms like "superpredator" and "bring them to heel" with reference to African-American crime, so this was a narrative that white America was eager to accept.
Two decades later (when challenging Hillary Clinton from the left is said to be motivated by racial animus) the theses of the two OJ Simpson films is different than that - LAPD had a history of discriminatory practices which, when coupled with a cunning defense strategy and Mark Fuhrman, led to the Simpson acquittal.
I'd suggest to you LAPD was not just historically discriminatory. The best reading of the evidence is they lied in this case. The story told (and accepted at the time) was not plausible. It wasn't just Mark Fuhrman perjuring himself over use of the "n" word - LAPD perjured themselves regarding the warrantless search of the Simpson property. I'd suggest the better reading of this case is that LAPD lied then and the officers discussed herein are still lying now.
The kicker, of course, is that were the evidence found during that search properly excluded from evidence there are no bloody gloves, which means there is no "if the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit". And there may be no Mark Fuhrman. If that was the result - it means no Furhman tapes where he confessed to manufacturing evidence against African-Americans out of racial animus and no Mark Furhman taking the 5th Amendment when asked if he manufactured evidence against OJ Simpson.
I've always been of a mind that the Simpson verdict was a reasonable one. Not only because of the history between LAPD and the African-American community, but because of LAPD deception central to the case. My hope was, given all the hours devoted to re-examination of the Simpson Trial two decades later, I'd finally find an ally in this view. I've got a lot of 20 year old arguments I'd still like to win. Thusfar - not so much.