History’s Mysteries: The OJ Jury

I remember it well.

It felt like it had been the longest week of my life.  I was filling in at some big apartment complex while the building's handyman was on vacation, and I ran my tail off all week long fixing things.  I came home that Friday and did something I'd never done before, and have never done since:

I flopped into my easy chair.

The easy chair is a nighttime thing.  Normally, I plunk myself down in front of the computer and get caught up.  But I was so beat that I just wanted to hit the La-Z-Boy and relax.

I then did the second thing I'd rarely ever done before, and haven't done since.

I turned on the TV in the daytime.  It, too, is strictly a nighttime thing.

Destiny was at work.

And it was kind of a bizarre sight.  On a completely empty highway, a white SUV was cruising down the fast lane going about 45 miles per hour, trailed by a zillion police cars.  It eventually turned off and drove through the neighborhoods with people standing on the side of the road with signs reading "Go, OJ!", "We Believe In You, OJ!", "Run, OJ, Run!"

As I said, it was kind of bizarre.

And thus started a long journey as I watched every word of testimony and every cable talk show that evening, VCR at the ready for overlapping shows.  And yes, I was there, a few weeks after the trial finally ended, watching the final talk show on the trial's aftermath, and when they signed off, that was the last of the 'OJ Special' shows.  I had literally watched the entire event, from the very first moments to the very last.

So I obviously consider myself something of an expert on the subject.

The other day there was an article on Hot Air claiming that OJ was going to 'fess up and admit to Oprah that he did, indeed, kill Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman.  It's probably a hoax, but we'll see.  [update: it was]

You might agree with some of the commenters:

  • The verdict had NOTHING to do with the murders. It was a racial vindication that a black man could kill two white people and get away with it if the jury was black. It’s called jury nullification and it’s happened many times throughout history. It doesn’t make it any less disgusting but it is a fact.
  • They didn’t believe he was innocent, they just refused to process the facts of the case. They went into this jury duty with a pre-determined outcome.
  • Stupid judge.  Stupid, stupid, stupid jurors.
  • Wasn’t the composition of the jury all black females?  Not that it would make any difference in their decision-making of course.
  • The jury was not all black. It was, however, all dumb. In fact, it was what they call a “downtown jury” meaning they are stupid and prosecutors are less likely to get convictions.

Actually, these people are as wrong as wrong can be.

And here's why.

It all boils down to a simple legal phrase you've heard a thousand times:

Guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.

In other words, if doubt is introduced and not refuted, then the correct judgment is 'Not guilty'.  It has to be beyond any reasonable doubt.

And there were actually quite a number of doubts that were introduced — and not refuted — in this case.  Combine them all and that's enough for any jury to have 'reasonable doubt'.

Result?  Not guilty.  Bitch all you want, but that's how the system works.  The underlying moral principle is that it's better to let a killer go free than imprison an innocent man.  You want to be that innocent man?  Get that silly 'reasonable doubt' clause revoked and maybe you'll get the chance.

To wit:

The Physical Evidence

At one point, the jury was shown incontrovertible video evidence that a policewoman collecting blood samples out on the sidewalk momentarily lost her balance and touched the ground with her surgical glove, contaminating it, then continued using the same glove.  That put the element of doubt into all of the collected evidence.  If one sample can be contaminated, then they all can be.


Remember, this is back in '94, when DNA sampling was just getting off the ground, and it took the silver-tongued Barry Scheck exactly one day to prove to everybody in the universe that the science was still in its infancy and rife with the possibility for error.  The policewoman touching the ground with her hand negated the physical evidence, and this took care of the lab's.

The Trust Factor

"Have you ever shown any sign of racial prejudice?" asked the defense attorney of Detective Mark Fuhrman.  "No, I have not." he replied under oath.

But, oops-a-daisy, wouldn't you just know it, but ol' Fuhrman and another detective were caught on video down in the 'hood talkin' jive with the locals, including using the word "nigger" which, in the 'hood, has no racial significance and refers to blacks and whites and everybody else caught up in the trash basket of life known as the ghetto.

But it certainly had significance in Judge Ito's courtroom.

And, so much for the police 'trust factor' in the jury's eyes.  After all, this racist lied while under oath!  And, if one policeman can lie while under oath, then they all can.

The Hard Evidence

Uh, sorry, I missed that.  What hard evidence?  The only evidence that weighs on a jury's mind in a case like this is the murder weapon, and the knife was never found.  OJ had dumped it at the airport and it was ancient history at the city dump by the time they started looking.

And then

The Moment Arrived

OJ never took the stand, so the jury only had one occasion to judge him; when he attempted to put on the gloves.  Not only did the defense team know that the gloves would have shrunken with all of the testing (which involves liquids), but they gave OJ 'bloat pills' that morning so his fingers would swell up.  By the time he tried them on, they were a good two sizes too small.  He really had to struggle to pull them on.

"If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit!"

Thus spake lawyer Johnny Cochran.

And who could argue differently?


This is a pretty big deal as far as that "life and death" stuff goes.  There's supposed to be, you know, a reason someone commits such a heinous crime.  And no one could ever provide one to the jury.  "Acted out of blind rage" only goes so far.  Juries need to know why he acted out of blind rage.

Ed's article on Hot Air was pretty good, but he did miss one little thing:

The motive.

…and that doesn’t even begin to address the issue of Ron Goldman, who was there by chance.

Well, er, not quite.  What the jury wasn't told was that Nicole had lit the candles around her bathtub that night, which her friends were later quoted as saying she only did for 'special' (wink-wink) occasions.  The fact that Ron was zipping around in Nicole's car might also be an indication he was there for some other reason than "by chance."

In other words, ol' Ron was tooling around town, basically saying to OJ, "I'm screwing your wife, buddy — and borrowing her car!"  OJ eventually snapped and wasted them both, lit bathtub candles and all.  The coroner said Ron had first been pierced by multiple small stab wounds as he lay tortured on the ground, which would be indicative of a raging jealous husband as referred to, say, a mugger demanding your wallet or car keys.

But the jury never learned that the bathtub candles were lit.

No motive.

So, my question for all of the readers out there who blame the jury for the verdict is this:

No motive, no murder weapon, no glove that fit, no crime scene evidence, no DNA evidence, no trust in the police testimony…

Just what the hell did you expect??

As one of the D.A.'s said afterward, "We had enough evidence to convict ten men."  What made it a disgrace was the way the prosecutors did such a poor job of refuting the raised doubts.

Along with the candles, here are a few other gems the jury didn't hear about:

— Amazingly, the killer went from the crime scene directly to OJ's house to spy on a houseguest and dropped one of his bloody gloves outside the guest's window.  It was a very expensive glove with a unique stitching pattern.

One of the cable TV shows dug up an old video of OJ doing sports commentary a year before at some football game — wearing gloves with the exact same unique stitching pattern.

— And then there were the size 10½ Bruno Magli shoes the killer wore.  The company had two outlets in the U.S., New York and L.A.  In its entire history, the L.A. branch had sold exactly two pair of size 10½ Bruno Magli shoes, one of them to OJ Simpson.

— A few months before the crime, OJ was rehearsing for some movie involving the SEALs and had learned how to effectively slit a person's throat from behind using a combat knife.

The same type of knife the coroner said was used on Nicole — from behind.

If you're wondering, there were a few talk show pundits brave enough to venture a 'not guilty' verdict the night before, risking being laughed off the set in the process.  As I recall, one was an ex-judge and the other a lawyer, which makes sense.  While most people were smitten with the overwhelming evidence, those who understood the high hurdle "beyond any reasonable doubt" presents saw it differently.

Like it or not, by the letter of the law, the jury made the correct decision.