Patterico's Pontifications


The O.J. Posts — Part Five: Patterico Visits the O.J. Civil Trial

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:04 am

[This is Part Five of a series of posts on the O.J. Simpson trial. Part One is here; Part Two is here; Part Three is here; Part Four is here.]

I attended the morning session of the O.J. civil trial in Santa Monica on October 29, 1996. I had recently completed my clerkship with a federal judge in downtown Los Angeles, and was taking a few weeks off before I resumed civil practice with the firm I’d been with before the clerkship. The transcript of the session I attended can be read here. There was a lottery to get in, but as I recall, there were only about 25-28 people competing for 20 spots, so the odds were that I was going to make it, and I did. (I had hoped to meet Harry Shearer, who was attending the civil trial and writing about it for Slate, but it turned out that he was in a media listening room instead of in the courtroom that day.) What I’m about to tell you is reconstructed from my memory of almost 10 years ago, and I apologize if I get anything wrong. However, my memory is refreshed somewhat by the transcript linked above.

I watched all of the testimony of LAPD Officer Donald Thompson and the very beginning of the testimony of LAPD Det. Ron Phillips. Officer Thompson’s testimony impressed me greatly. Officer Thompson, whom I stood next to in the hallway (along with Linda Deutch), was a towering but very soft-spoken and credible black man. If the evidence in the case was planted by racist cops, he had to be in on it. He saw only one glove at the crime scene. Hours after the killings, he saw blood droplets on the back gate of the Bundy crime scene — droplets that conspiracy aficionados claimed had been planted, some say days later. He saw blood inside O.J.’s Bronco that the doubters also claimed was planted.

It seemed baffling to me that this apparently gentle black man could have been a part of a hastily conceived conspiracy of racist white cops. Of course, having heard Lange try to talk O.J. out of committing suicide during the Bronco low-speed chase — evidence that the criminal jury never heard — it seemed inconceivable that Lange could have been part of such a conspiracy. But I never heard Lange testify in person. I did hear Thompson. And he had also testified at the criminal trial — although I believe that contemporaneous photos of the blood on the back gate had emerged since the time of the criminal trial (why that took so long, I have no idea).

How did the jurors in the criminal case simply ignore Officer Thompson’s testimony? I’ve never been able to figure it out. Maybe it got lost in the overly long presentation. I’m sure they didn’t discuss his testimony in the couple of hours that they deliberated. But I found it significant. If you’d seen it, I think you would have, too.

P.S. I have sometimes heard the pro-O.J. crowd claim that Fred Goldman hammed it up for the cameras. Well, I can tell you this: at the civil trial, I sat two rows behind him and his daughter. When the lawyers displayed exhibits of Ron Goldman, they hugged each other, and you could see Fred Goldman shaking a little bit, apparently crying. But you couldn’t hear it. It wasn’t melodramatic, at all — and I saw no evidence that anyone else noticed (though I’m sure some did). It seemed genuine. And you know what? There were no cameras anywhere in sight.

P.P.S. This series of posts will soon be (at least temporarily) drawing to a close. I’m on vacation and am reaching the end of what I have been able to write in off-hours. My goal has not been to re-hash the whole case, but rather to bring some personal insights that aren’t available in the public record. If you are looking for a summation of O.J.’s guilt, read Vincent Bugliosi’s “Outrage.” Also, tomorrow I will quote extensively from Petrocelli’s summation in the civil trial. There is a pretty good summation there.

Tomorrow, I plan to discuss the differences between the civil and criminal trials, to respond to those who believe that it was all about the lawyering. It wasn’t. There were many more important differences.

14 Responses to “The O.J. Posts — Part Five: Patterico Visits the O.J. Civil Trial”

  1. The “blood on the back gate” evidence is described by Mark Fuhrman in his book “Murder In Brentwood” (pp. 15-17, 52-55, 160). The blood matched Simpson’s and there was an identifiable fingerprint in it. Apparently, when the case was turned over to Robbery/Homicide, that evidence was ignored, even though Fuhrman had detailed it in his primary notes.

    Bill Schumm (33ab73)

  2. Thanks for putting all these together, they’ve been very good, and very interesting.

    Joel B. (31d860)

  3. it was not all about the lawyering, notwithstanding petrocelli towering over marcia clark in ability. it was also about:
    1. venue – downtown versus santa monica.
    2. the judging – weak sister ito versus fujisake, who maintained control over his courtroom at all times.
    3. the standard of proof – beyond a reasonable doubt versus preponderance of the evidence.
    thanks to patterico for his interesting o.j. retrospective. many of us felt that justice wasn’t served in the criminal case, we know he can’t be tried again but we’re still looking for somebody – who better than a prosecutor who has studied the case? – to bring us his head.

    assistant devil's advocate (dc045f)

  4. I just stop by occasionally, and had not seen your OJ series until now. Now I have to take more time out of my day and go back and read them all :-)

    I was…ummm… in between jobs as the trial was broadcast and managed to watch the entire proceeding.

    When the jury’s decision was announced I was surprised, dismayed and ultimately disappointed at what I considered a blatant miscarriage of justice. The man was guilty.

    I look forward to reading your series.

    Luther McLeod (69fa37)

  5. Just a suggestion: perhaps after all of the OJ posts have been put together, you’d set them up as a separate page on your site. That would keep them together.

    Dana (1d5902)

  6. Time to admit it. I was at a point in my life where I was able to watch, and so I did. Every goddamned minute of it. Then all the cable shows afterwards. Lot of screaming at the TV. For a while, I even imagined what I’d say to OJ if I ever ran into him on a golf course. It would have been ugly.

    CraigC (9cd021)

  7. Craig has admitted what a lot of people would not have, that he was glued to the television during the whole farce. I’ll bet I’m not the only one who remembered when CNN became the “all OJ, all the time” network — and its ratings went up!

    NBC has come dangerously close, with John Karr’s arrest, to becoming fixated on the JonBenĂ©t Ramsey case — again. Iran is taking steps to build nuclear weapons, and has a president who says Israel ought to be wiped off the map. North Korea already has nuclear weapons, and a Dear Leader who needs some serious time in a rubber room. Our economy might have topped out and be getting ready to contract. We have serious disagreements about Iraq, and an approaching election which could change the balance of power in our government — and the networks are feeding us more and more on a ten year old murder case.

    Dana (71415b)

  8. Patterico, As a layman I have always felt that Ito allowing Furhman to be questioned as to ever using the “N” word was crucial in that it validated the claim that the police (Furhman) planted the glove at Simpsons home. Yet, if my memory is true, Furhman was always in the presence of a uniformed patrolman at the crime scene, whom he hadn’t ever met before, when he would have had the opportunity to pick up the glove and conceal it, and later plant it at Bundy. Why would Ito allow such questioning when there wasn’t any realistic possibiblity-much less probability, that there was some department wide conspiracy to frame Simpson. Ergo I’ve always held Ito has is a heavy in this sorry matter. Did Ito have to allow such qurstioning?

    kent (d382e5)

  9. Kent,
    I don’t understand much of the criticism of Judge Ito in this case. Many times it seemed to me he was saying to the prosecution lawyers ‘what the heck are you doing?’ .

    As for the Furman matter, a judge would not be allowed to say a question couldn’t be asked due to probability that a certain action occured was zilch.
    The job of the prosecution would be to flesh out the ensunuation and point that out .

    seePea (0f9ef8)

  10. Kent, Nicole and Ron were killed at Bundy, OJ lived at Rockingham. The rarity of the gloves is a much overlooked issue. Nicole had puchased two pairs of gloves for OJ at Bloomingdales in New York City 2600 miles away on the opposite side of the continent. There were only 300 pairs of these gloves manufactured and they were sold exclusively at the one and only Bloomingdale’s Department Store.
    Only 200-240 pairs were ever sold in NYC, population 8 million, and one pair of these very rare gloves showed up at the murder of the century in LA. a city of 3.5 million people.

    Since they were OJ’s gloves, the LAPD would have had to obtain them at Rockingham, bring them to Bundy and soak them in the victim’s blood, then take one of them back to Rockingham and plant it, all the while not knowing how RARE and specific to OJ Simpson these gloves were.

    The blood soaked left glove was found at the murder site on Bundy at about 3:30 AM BEFORE the LAPD officers were sent over to Rockingham at 5:00 AM where they found the blood soaked right glove.

    Speller (120ab2)

  11. Gee #10 Speller, since you say Nicole bought them, is it reasonable to assume one pair was at her place, for when OJ visited the kids ? Is it reasonable to think maybe Goldman was wearing them, as the new man on the scene, a nice “replacement” for you know who at her place?
    I wonder how you determined both pairs of gloves were at OJ’s. I hear the “other pair” you claim, was never found.
    Since the cops went inside OJ’s, maybe they have them ? Might be handy to check with what “they found” – to see if “they match” ?
    LOL – If you have an ex, and children, have you ever left something there, at her place, or do you only have one of every paired item ?
    It’s these kinds of assumptions, they are OJ’s so they were at his place, not hers. even though he had been at her place numerous times, that makes the “truthers” seem so ridiculous.

    SiliconDoc (da9276)

  12. I went and read at some other site a week or so ago part of the civil trial transcript. It was probably 20 pages or more, and included OJ’s testimony.
    I noticed one thing I’d like to mention. OJ had to correct the prosecutor, nearly constantly, since the prosecutor was lying.
    Now, I can imagine the game plan. “AS prosecutor, you have to make every word and every statement point toward OJ’s guilt, as if you believe it with every fiber of your being. Make sure you use every spin and insinuation to do so. If you’re convinced, the jury will be convinced.”
    Well, maybe so. However, reading through it, I saw who was doing the lying, and who was doing the correcting. Unfortunately, it made me believe OJ was the honest person, and the prosecutor was a lying scoundrel.
    I also learned Mr. Goldman went to Sacramento and got a law changed so the diary could be used.
    Further, I learned there was a third type of blood on the Bronco steering wheel, that the site and it appeared the trial never identified. It was of course, “that evidence that is unneccessary”. I don’t know, what if it was Fuhrman’s ? Is that why they didn’t want to tell us ?
    I also learned, according to the site, that the blood on the sock upstairs at OJ’s place, was FRESHER than the blood drawn from Nicole’s corpse, and that was presented as a PROSECUTION point. They claimed since it was fresher it indicated it was not planted evidence, but that OJ did it.
    I’m not sure how I was supposed to figure that blood exposed to air is fresher than blood drawn from a corpse. Although the site didn’t say, I tried to imagine what biochemical processes occur after death, that are more destructive to “freshnes” than air. They never outlined those.
    I think most prosecutions are so convinced the jurors are such mind numbed robots of partisan emotionalism, that they:
    1. understand they can lie with impunity, and it won’t ever be figured out
    2. they can form all sorts of ideations that don’t make sense, but if they tell the jury they do make sense, the jury so dumb and ignorant, that they will believe it, especially when it’s “experts” who “seem credible”, because everyone knows the jury is too dumb to follow…
    I guess the prosecution is dumb to see that kind of presentation might piss off the idiots they have mis-selected for the jury. Especially if they are stupid. LOL
    A friend of mine who had watched the whole original TV trial said the sock with blood was stuck together at the bloodspot, as if it was lying flat and was dripped upon, not as if it was worn at the time it got the bloodstain.
    I guess the “he changed” arguemnt would have to be switched to “he dripped” Nicole’s blood on socks he left laying around.
    I’m not sure how the glove didn’t have a cut right where the finger did. I just watched an old Charlie Rose, and the Detective on there, mentioned “if the glove has cut where OJ’s figner is cut, it’s real bad news for him”… ( it was before the answer came out at the trial).
    Gee, isn’t the internet, and the archiving of all these things people say before and after, wonderful ?

    SiliconDoc (da9276)

  13. Yeah, it’s great. It allows people like yourself to claim that prosecutors do civil trials, even though they don’t.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  14. Yeah, SiliconDoc, maybe you should have paid more attention in 7th grade civics class.


    lc (a21bb2)

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