Forensics scientists are responsible for compiling scientific evidence from a crime scene and present it during a court trial. One of the most convincing evidence in a crime scene is the presence of DNA. DNA can be retrieved from blood, saliva or hair. Perhaps one of the most publicized murder cases, in Los Angeles, was the one involving the death of O.J Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
On the night of 12th June 1994, both of their bodies were found near Nicole’s residence by a neighbour. Nicole’s body was severely cut almost decapitated and Goldman had multiple stab wounds. There were no witnesses and the murder weapon was never found. Despite of this, investigators were able to find forensic evidence that linked the murders to Simpson. This evidence was used to prosecute Simpson in the court of law (Oracle, 2000).
This was the forensic evidence that was presented to court. The DNA extracted from Simpson, matched the DNA that was found on a hair sample on Mr. Goldman’s body. Moreover, there were bloody shoeprints at the crime scene which coincidentally matched Simpson’s size; twelve. Back at Simpson’s residence, a pair of socks was found with blood, which was later found to be having Nicole’s DNA. Simpson was arrested after a 71 km police chase. In the car, blood stains were found which upon testing were found to have both victims’ DNA. The most compelling evidence was the one that showed that DNA samples belonging to Simpson was found all over the crime scene (Mydans, 1994).
The police speculated that the blood found on the crime scene belonging to Simpson, was as a result of a cut which he had sustained on his left arm. A pair of leather gloves were found separately containing Simpson’s and Goldman’s blood. One glove was found at the crime scene and the other one was found in Simpson’s apartment. With all this evidence, the District Attorney was able to present the case to court. On the other hand, Simpson hired some of the highly rated lawyers. The trial was then set to begin after six months (Bailey & Rabe, 2008).
The prosecutors started by stating that Simpson had the capability of committing the murders since he had a history of being violent. He had had several cases of domestic violence filed against him. The prosecutors added that, some of the women who were once involved with him, reported that there were incidences when Simpson acted violently. They continued to say that Goldman was murdered when he stumbled upon Simpson while murdering Nicole. Clearly, with Simpson’s history of violence together with and the strong forensic evidence, gave Simpson little chance (Oracle, 2000).
In spite of of the overpowering evidence, the defence came up with a plan that was meant to disgrace the Los Angeles Police Department. The officer, who was under the defence scrutiny, was detective Mark Fuhrman. He is the same officer who found the leather gloves on Simpson’s residence. The defence presented recordings to the court in which Fuhrman voice was heard making racial remarks.
They accused Fuhrman of planting evidence at the crime scene and also at Simpson’s apartment. The defence argued that the reason for Fuhrman’s action was simply because he hated the blacks. Other than that, Dennis Fung, who worked with LAPD, confessed to not have collected all the blood samples at the fence. He said that he came several weeks later to correct his mistake. He also admitted to not using gloves when collecting the evidence (Mydans, 1994).
When the trial was about to end, one of the Simpson’s lawyer asked Simpson to wear the leather glove found at the crime scene. Apparently, to the public and the jury, the glove did not appear to fit Simpson’s hand. This fact, gave a lot of weight to the theory formulated by the Simpson’s lawyers of planting evidence. The people of California were left in shock when Simpson was found not guilty by the jury. The jury claimed that the mishandling of evidence was the cause of letting him go; they did not consider that detective Fuhrman was a racist. Therefore, he was not guilty because there was reasonable doubt. The charges were dropped but he was still convicted in a civil court. In the civil court, he was found liable to both murders and was fined around US $8 million (Bugliosi, 1997).
This case has shown that, strong forensic evidence might not necessarily convince the jury to pass a sentence. In the Simpson case, the forensic evidence refused to hold water because of the way the evidence was handled and the contradicting remarks made by the experts when they were testifying. Regarding the DNA testing methods, Dr. Bruce Weir, who testified during the case, said that the methods used were scientifically proven and have been accepted throughout the world by scientist. He also added that the way the evidence is handled, can discredit its viability (Bugliosi, 1997).
Dr. Henry Lee, who was Simpson’s blood expert, testified that the blood collected at the crime was not packaged well. This might have resulted to blood contamination. The defence went to further claim that, probably the blood samples were swapped. Simpson’s lawyer also added that the blood samples could have degraded due to storage in the lab track. This notion was supported by Dr. Harlan Levy, a DNA expert.
He testified that the degraded blood’s result was not credible since blood stored in the lab track, had cases of contamination. If by any chance there were irregularities in the handling of the blood, the forensic evidence would have been disregarded by the jury. On top of that, the contradicting testimony from both sides might have puzzled the jury who probably were not familiar to the DNA testing methods (Bailey & Rabe, 2008).
One of the reason that this case received a lot of publicity, is how there was plenty of strong evidence to convict Simpson and yet he walked away. Afterwards, the media turned their attention to the procedures of the forensic department. This case prompted the forensic department to change the way it handles evidence (Bailey & Rabe, 2008).
Bailey, L. F., & Rabe, J. (2008). When the Husband is the Suspect. New York: Forge.
Bugliosi, V. (1997). Outrage: 5 Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away with Murder. Seattle: Island Books.
Mydans, S. (1994). Lawyer for O. J. Simpson Quits Case. Web.
Oracle. (2000). Case Studies: OJ Simpson. Web.