Thursday, September 17, 2009

OJ revisted: The Prosecutors' Biggest Mistakes

by Women In Crime Ink

We decided it could be fun to take a look back at sensational cases and voice our opinions on what went right, what went wrong, or who was really responsible. Yesterday on Good Morning America O.J.'s ex-girlfriend, Christie Prody (photo below left), said he made incriminating statements during their 13 years together and that she believes he's guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson (below right), and Ron Goldman.

It just seemed the perfect time to take a look back and ask the question: In his 1995 murder trial, what were the
O.J. prosecutors' biggest mistakes. Here's what WCI members had to say:

Laura James: They made their biggest mistakes in jury selection.

Kathryn Casey: There were, of course, multiple issues; in addition to moving the trial out of the more affluent part of L.A., where the murders took place, they drew it out too long, bogging the jury down with minutia. They had a good case. They needed to get to the point.

Andrea Campbell: Oh, where do I begin! The first problem was that the prosecution did not anticipate what the defense was doing. The crime scene had too much traffic. They didn't make the blood evidence clear to the jury. The "gloves don't fit" scenario was painful. Was there no one there to bring up the fact that leather shrinks when soaked? The blood trail to his home did not receive an adequate presentation. The fact that Simpson was a celebrity meant there was already a Sisyphus-type, push-up-the-hill, stone-rolling ahead of the prosecution team, yet they often got side-tracked by their own personalities-like the grilling of Mark Furman (that was a travesty). There's more to discuss, but who has time?

Robin Sax: There were so many mistakes. Many were due to the prosecutors, many due to the judge, and the most due to the jury. The biggest prosecutorial mistake was not allowing Bill Hodgman to be the lead prosecutor. He was and is a genius, he has amazing presence and advocacy skills, and he would have had that matter what obstacles he had to overcome.

Susan Murphy-Milano: There were so many mistakes.

The Former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi (who prosecuted the Manson trial) wrote a book called Outrage: The Five Reasons O.J. Simpson Got Away With Murder. Bugliosi was very critical of prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. He faulted them, for example, for not introducing the note Simpson wrote before trying to flee. Bugliosi contended that the note "reeked" of guilt and that the jury should have been allowed to see it. He also pointed out that the jury was never informed about items found in the Bronco: a change of clothing, a large amount of cash, a passport and a disguise kit. The prosecution during this media circus felt these items of evidence would bring up emotional issues on Simpson's part that could harm their case, despite the fact that the items likely could be used to flee.

In addition, Simpson made an incriminating statement to police about cutting his finger the night of the murders. In the book, Bugliosi took Clark and Darden to task for not allowing the jury to hear the taped statement. Bugliosi also said the prosecutors should have gone into more detail about Simpson's abuse of his wife. He said it should have been made clear to the mostly African-American jury that Simpson had little impact in the black community and had done nothing to help less fortunate blacks. Bugliosi pointed out that, although the prosecutors obviously understood that Simpson's race had nothing to do with the murders, once the defense "opened the door" by trying to paint Simpson falsely as a leader in the black community, the evidence to the contrary should have been presented, to prevent the jury from allowing it to bias their verdict. Vince Bugliosi also criticized the prosecution's closing statements as inadequate.


Leah said...

I enjoy reading these types of blogs.

Don't you just know that arrogant people like OJ love getting away with murder but can't stand to keep their mouths shut about it. Must be tough having to brag in such small doses.

Kathryn Casey said...

Interesting observation, Leah, and no doubt very true. Gather he made some very incriminating statements to Prody, including that Nicole had it coming.

California Girl said...

The biggest mistake was having a racist jury.

shthar said...

What the jury said was the deciding factor was that oj was seen in one place at a certain time. And then at another place and time. And that it was impossible for him to travel between the two locations AND the murder scene AND kill two people.

All the rest of the evidence is meaningless if the jury doesn't think it's possible for him to have had time to do the deed.

The prosecution chose to ignore this GIANT HOLE in thier case, but the jury didn't.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Laura James: They made their biggest mistakes in jury selection.

Utter rubbish. The jury made the correct decision on the facts and under the law as it was given to them. This is just another case where incompetent police and technicians screwed the case up beyond repair.

Consider Philip Vannatter, a police officer who could not explain why he kept the eight CCs taken as a sample of O.J. Simpson's blood for hours before recording it as evidence, and why he had it at Simpson's house when evidence was being collected, as corroborated by TV news footage.

Consider the LA County District Attorney's Office and the Medical Examiner's Office who could not explain why 1.5 CCs of blood were missing from the original eight CCs taken from Simpson and placed into evidence.

Consider the evidence technician who spilled the blood in the lab thereby contaminating the entire lab and everything in it.

Consider the evidence given by the analyst who found evidence contaminated by the preservative used for the blood sample.

Ask yourself how any honest jury could find against Simpson after such a spectacularly bad performance. As the wits have it, the LAPD is so incompetent they couldn't even frame a guilty man!

Now consider the case if Simpson's blood had been drawn at a separate lab and analyzed there so that the LAPD had never had possession of it. The whole case would have been quite different.

Simpson had that rare American jury - one that actually followed the evidence and the law instead of voting their own prejudices. He also had the benefit of extremely incompetent police and a legal team who shone a spotlight on them. Oh, the irony!

FleaStiff said...

When you have a criminologist leave dark blue clothing in the washing machine, it shows the level of competence involved. And when a prosecutor believes he was a Buffalo Soldier in a past life, you've got a pretty dumb prosecutor. A stagestruck judge didn't help matters, but the critical mistake was an early procedural issue that made the jury pool from downtown LA be the source of the jurors rather than having him be tried in West LA.

A Voice of Sanity said...

That's confusing. Do you believe that the people of West LA are stupid or do you believe that they are immoral?

Kathryn Casey said...

My guess is that he believes the same thing I do: That O.J. was supposed to get a trial by a jury of his peers. His peers lived in West LA, where LJ and Nicole lived, where the murders took place. There was no reason to move the trial.

A Voice of Sanity said...

So do you believe these people in West LA would have convicted OJ because they are racists; or because they are stupid? Because that is what these comments imply - unless you believe the outcome would be the same with either jury in which case point?

Anonymous said...

After reading your comments, I conclude that you are stupid. Why after having it explained to you about being tried by one's peers are you still ranting about jurors being racist or stupid? That is not the point at all. Moving the trial to a different area brought in a pool of jurors who were less sympathetic to their own community and more prone to influence by the issues that should not have been factors, such as: race, celebrity status, and media publicity.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Anonymous said... {deleted}

The jury in this case made the correct decision. They followed the law and the rules as they were explained to them. Simpson could not have been found LESS guilty, so those who want a different result want a jury which would ignore the law and the rules. This can only imply a desire for a more racist or a more stupid jury.

Race, celebrity status, and media publicity were factors against a fair verdict. Fortunately this jury followed the law.

You may search every law book in this country. Nowhere will you find that a defendant is entitled to a "jury of one's peers". This is a fallacy. The defendant is entitled to a fair jury and that is what Simpson got, no more, no less. Others, such as Douglas S. Mouser, Scott Peterson and Phil Spector got no such jury. Instead each got a jury which was driven by bigotry against them. Shame on California.