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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

O.J. Innocent? Junk History in the Simpson Murder Case

     From the June 1994 day in Los Angeles when Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were stabbed and slashed to death outside of O.J. Simpson's ex-wife's condo, to his October 1995 acquittal, the double murder case dominated the news in the U.S. and abroad. The investigation and trial involved DNA analysis, blood spatter interpretation, and plenty of forensic medicine. Because the physical evidence pointed to Simpson's guilt, the not guilty verdict introduced the public to the concept of jury nullification.

     The infamous case turned police detectives, defense attorneys, and the trial judge into instant celebrities. Several of the major players in the case cashed-in with lucrative book deals. A few of these people evolved into television personalities. The Simpson case put CNN on the map, and elevated the careers of more than a few talking-heads.

     In America, the combination of celebrity-worship and the fascination with violent crime has produced a dozen or so "crimes of the century." In my opinion, the 20th Century featured three crimes of the century: the Lindbergh Kidnapping (1932), The John F. Kennedy Assassination (1961), and the O.J. Simpson double murder. In the Lindbergh case, Bruno Hauptmann, after being convicted on the strength of physical evidence connecting him to the crime, was executed in April 1936. Since then, there have been a handful of books, several television documentaries, hundreds of articles, and a HBO movie devoted to the theory that Hauptmann was an innocent man framed by the New Jersey State Police. It is my view that these exonerations of Hauptmann amount to junk history.

     There have been more than 500 books written about the Kennedy assassination. While I am not an expert on this case, I subscribe to the view that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin. Dr. John Kelly, a friend of mine who taught in the University of Delaware's criminal justice department, spent twenty years investigating the assassination. He is firmly convinced that the Warren Commission got it right, and that's good enough for me.

     Because the physical evidence pointing to O.J. Simpson's guilt was so plentiful and incriminating, the case hadn't moved into the revisionist stage until 2012. In the fall of that year, a book came out that purported to exonerate Simpson. It was followed by a television documentary in which another man was identified as the Nicole Simpson/Ronald Goldman killer. The revisionist stage of the O.J. Simpson case had begun.

     In his book, O.J. Is Innocent and I Can Prove It, true crime writer/private investigator William Dear makes the case that Simpson's then 40-year-old son Jason committed the murders. According to the author, although O.J. was present when the victims were murdered, he didn't wield the knife. This is convenient because it helps explain away the physical evidence linking O.J. to the crime scene.

     So, what evidence does this revisionist author have against Jason Simpson? Not much. In Jason's abandoned storage locker, Mr. Dear found a hunting knife that could have been the murder weapon. There was nothing, however, on the knife that connected it to the crime. (Over the years there have been several knives discovered that were purported to be the missing murder weapon. None of them were connected to the killings.) The other so-called incriminating evidence involved the fact that after the murders, Jason retained an attorney. The author also found a photograph of Jason Simpson that shows him wearing a knit cap similar to one recovered from the crime scene.

     Two months before the murders, Jason Simpson assaulted his girlfriend, and according to some crime profiler, the suspect had a homicidal personality. And finally, Jason Simpson did not have an airtight alibi. Although there was not nearly enough against Jason Simpson to even justify a legal arrest, William Dear managed to pad this "evidence" into a book-length manuscript someone was willing to publish. When the book first came out, it attracted a little media attention then quickly fell out of the news. But uncritical readers willing to believe revisionist accounts of famous cases based on nothing but speculation and faux evidence, embraced Dear's book.

     On November 21, 2012, the Investigation Discovery Channel aired a documentary called "My Brother the Serial Killer," a story about a convicted serial killer from Kentucky named Glen Edward Rogers. Narrated by his older brother Clay Rogers, the documentary was a well-told, visually dramatic, and interesting biography of a serial killer. The 60-year-old murderer, who claimed to have killed 70 women, had been on Florida's death row for fifteen years. (Although lRogers exhausted his appeals in 2012, he was still alive as of March 2016.) The documentary revealed, among other things, how easy it is for a serial killer to get away with his crimes.

     The documentary's main hook, however, was its connection to the O.J. Simpson case. According to a criminal profiler and true crime writer named Anthony Meloli, Glen Rogers revealed to him that O.J. Simpson had hired him to break into Nicole's condo. Rogers, who claimed that he was working at the dwelling as a painter, was supposed to steal a set of $20,000 diamond earrings Simpson had given to his ex-wife. According to Rogers, O.J. told him that "You may have to kill her." Rogers also informed the profiler that after murdering Nicole Simpson, he took an angel pin off her body and mailed it to his mother. The killer's mom supposedly wore this piece of jewelry at one of her son's murder trials.

     As the story goes, O.J., shortly after the murders, walked up the bloody sidewalk to check on Roger's work. This doesn't make sense. One would think that Simpson would take pains to distance himself from the crime scene.  In so doing, Simpson left his shoe impressions at the death site.

     Ronald Goldman's sister, Kim Goldman, in speaking to a reporter after having watched "My Brother the Serial Killer," said, "I am appalled at the level of irresponsibility demonstrated by the network and the producers of the so-called documentary." A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department said, "We have no reason to believe that Mr. Rogers was involved [in the case]. Nevertheless, in the interest of being thorough in the case, our robbery/homicide detectives will investigate [Roger's] claims." Nothing came of that inquiry,.

      Except for the O.J. Simpson angle, "My Brother the Serial Killer" was an outstanding true crime documentary.    

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