Chapter 35: 20 QUESTIONS
The sensational murder in Brentwood was hardly a "perfect crime." On the contrary, its success was pinned to well-understood imperfections in the human condition. We humans have imperfect perceptions and recall, we make irrational deductions based on emotions and preconceived ideas. We rely on internal and external clocks set to widely different times. We leap to rigid conclusions based on shaky, preliminary information. Our motives are not always pure, and our best estimates of the truth can be easily shaped by stereotypes, subtle suggestions and popular opinion. We know that the press will report whatever looks like news from an authoritative source at the earliest possible moment. This is the stuff of which successful murder/frame-ups are made, the imperfections in ourselves and our institutions that we can predict and exploit to simulate truth or brand a truth-teller a liar.
The crime for which O.J. Simpson was robbed of his good name was like a game of horseshoes between the Hatfields and the McCoys, with the Hatfields doing the judging. The side pitching the idea that O.J. was guilty didnt need a ringer to win. Occasional sounds of metal striking metal were close enough for the judges to "see" one every time. Otherwise, close was invariably close enough.
When several witnesses put the start of the attack on Ron and Nicole after 10:30, and one pegged it at 10:15 to 10:20, Prosecutor Marcia Clark went with the one closest to 10:00. She said, 10:15. The media repeated, 10:15. When Robert Heidstra said he saw a light-colored sports utility vehicle heading south, Chris Darden said it was a white Bronco. The media repeated, white Bronco. When an FBI shoeprint expert identified the shoes worn by the killer as Bruno Maglis, the type of shoe O.J. wore to his daughters recital was close enough for Detectives Vannatter and Lange to decide that he had worn the Brunos, too. They made a point of referring to the amateur photo taken of him a few hours before the murders in shoes very much like the killers as proof that he was lying about the shoes he said he wore when he returned from the recital. Not exactly a match, but close enough.
When photos of questionable authenticity appeared to show O.J. wearing Bruno Maglis in 93, the media called O.J. a liar for denying their authenticity. Expert witnesses for the plaintiffs testified under direct that the Flammer photos were "100 %" genuine, before admitting under cross that they could have been 100% wrong. The ability to make utterly convincing fakes is no secret among professional photographers. Just grab one, and youll get the same answer: With enough time, expertise and motivation to go with the proper equipment, not even an expert could tell a fake from the real thing.
There it is; the only way to be sure the photos were unaltered, is if they were taken by amateurs with nothing to gain and processed by strangers within a week or so. Flammer was a professional photographer. His photos were "forgotten" until the last week of December, 1996 when the networks paid him mega-bucks for the right to show them and O.J.s photo expert proved that he did not know how the alterations were made. He had the same publicity agent/professional photographer/buddy as Harry Scull whose photo appeared in the National Enquirer earlier in 96 for the first time anywhere. Flammers photos were allowed into evidence so late in the civil case that the defense could not mount an aggressive response. That did not stop Dan Abrams of Court TV from announcing on the day he saw them that they proved "O.J. Simpson is a murderer."
O.J. was framed. We know that because of all the oddball facts and circumstances that would have to be present to support that claim, all of which were eventually found to exist.
We now know enough about what happened and who was involved to be pretty sure of how the murder/frame-up plan was supposed to work. We can tell what did and didnt go according to plan by how easily some evidence fits into place and how convoluted the argument has to get to include or exclude others. Another tip-off is the quality of the evidence relative to the time and resources available to craft it and put it where one would reasonably expect to find it. Look at what happens when events and interpretations of evidence that no one could have foreseen get grafted onto the story of O.J. the murderer...
Denise Brown and her sister Dominique, who both attended Sydney Simpson's dance recital with O.J. and Nicole were the only people who claimed have recalled seeing O.J. in Bruno Maglies. After the recital, Cora Fischman asked her husband Ron to take a photograph of O.J. and his daughter together. The photo he took showed O.J. in shoes that fit the general description of Bruno Magli Lorenzos and looked too much like them to be a coincidence. Cora told police they were loafers. Others called the shoes he wore to the airport Italian loafers. Bruno Magli Lorenzos were expensive, Italian, suede high-tops. The man who sold them at Bloomingdale's called them boots. Only an amateur photo taken on the spur of the moment without Denise Browns knowledge proved that the expensive, suede, high tops O.J. wore to the recital were not Bruno Maglis.
Marcia Clark combined one piece of solid evidence (blue/black cotton fibers on the victims clothing) with Kato Kaelins mushy memory of what O.J. was wearing before the killing and hammered out a conviction that he wore a sweatsuit with blue/black fibers. Pay attention to this one. If you live to be a zillion years old, you will never see a better example of how sheer repetition of a discredited idea, can become an article of faith for the masses. Its a microcosm of how Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and other leaders of genocidal regimes before and after them were able to do what they did through their control of the media. You really should study this process. It should be mandatory reading not only in law school and journalism school but in 9th grade history. Its no coincidence that "history buff" Fuhrman was able to control the media to the extent he did with his role in the case, or that he said what he did about genocide. He did study the process.
"...it was dark out," meaning dark outside. Meaning O.J. had changed clothes since Kato saw him inside a half-hour earlier. What was different? A blue jacket.
Kato said dark. Marcia suggested black. Kato suggested blue. Thats all Marcia wanted to hear. If it could have been blue or black, it could have been green, gray or brown, but blue and black gave her the color combination of the fibersnot that it mattered if Kato was only guessing about the sweatsuit. It was, undoubtedly, the closest thing he could think of to what he did remember. We know that he was wrong about this, the only objective test of his memory we have against what we know O.J. wore to the recital and what he wore to the airport. We know that he wore black dress slacks, a white T-shirt and denim jacket to the recital, and stone-washed jeans, a white sports shirt and the same denim jacket to LAX. Similar, but not identical, except for the jacket.
Thats what he tried to tell her in the first place, he couldnt say. She insisted on a guess, so he gave her one. He was wrong about everything except the long sleeves and the color. Thats the part she kept, and the media has been repeating as fact ever sincethe part that was proven by independent witness and the airport security camera to be wrong. Thats how we get O.J. at Bundy in dress socks, dress shoes and a sweatsuit with blue/black fibers that didnt appear in the Bronco, the Bentley or his home. Thats how the dark sweatsuit O.J. was photographed wearing came to be identified as proof that he and his housekeeper were lying about him never owning a sweatsuit with blue/black fibers. And do we know for sure what color those fibers in the pictures were, the ones that were supposed to prove he was lying? We sure do. They were gray/black. Thus, the follow-up question about the same sweatsuit, even though she knew he didnt wear a sweatsuit to the airport.
Her goal was to repeat the idea that he wore a dark sweatsuit on the night of the murders often enough for people to literally "see" what she was saying. It worked. The dress shoes and the sweats go together with O.J. like cowboy boots and a hula skirt. The blue/black fibers prove that O.J. did not wear the sweats and there is zero evidence that he ever owned them. Yet, millions of people are belligerently and unalterably convinced hes a killer partly because of the blue/black fibers and the photo of him in the gray/black sweats.
Surely no one would have planned for the evidence to be read that way any more than they would have planned for Ron Fischman to take that photo of O.J. and Sydney; for O.J. to cut his finger; for the limo driver not to see the Bronco; or for Kato to investigate the thumps by himself instead of calling O.J., and not to open one of the gates.
Put O.J. in the sweatsuit that existed only in the "maybe" vault of Katos memory and the shoes that left the bloody imprints at Bundy and what do you get? Key parts of the puzzle that dont fit worth a damn. Conclusion: Something went wrong with the plan. No sweatsuit was planned to be matched with bloody Italian shoes, and the bloody Italian shoes were intended to be identified as the dress shoes O.J. wore to the recital. If Ron Fischman hadnt taken his photo, Agent Bodziaks identification of the Bruno Maglis would most likely have been reported on CNN and other major television networks like this...
"The shoes O.J. wore to the recital a few short hours before the brutal murder of his estranged wife and her young male friend, matched the description of size 12 Bruno Magli Lorenzos. These are the rare, expensive, Italian shoes that tracked the blood of the victims to the rear of Nicoles condoa rich mans shoe that several eyewitnesses positively identified as the ones they saw O.J. wearing at the recital. As you know, Simpson, a wealthy man, wears size 12 shoes. He cannot produce the Bruno Maglis he wore that night and claims he never wore themthat he never owned the shoes identified by a string of credible witness, beginning with the slain womans sister, Denise Brown.
"In a dramatic courtroom gesture, Ms. Brown glared at the defendant and, barely able to control her tears and her anger, positively identified the missing shoes as the ones she saw that night on Orenthal James Simpsons feet. The defense claims that witnesses who followed Denise on the stand were biased by photos of the killers shoes and Ms. Browns insistence that they belonged to O.J. However, our independent experts..."
Cant you just hear that? Cant you hear the ace reporters and expert commentators for all the major networks (except NPRs Renee Montaign and CNNs Greta Van Susterne, who deserve medals for their fairness) poo-pooing the defense claim of a bandwagon effect? Something of the sort did happen regularly...No, invariably. It happened with all of the other items of incriminating evidence that could have been said to belong to O.J. barring ironclad proof to the contrary. For instance, in the Chris Darden glove demonstration that I saw, the gloves didnt fit. According to most of the ace reporters and commentators I heard, I was fooled by O.J.s acting. And remember Robert Heidstras description of the vehicle he saw going south on Bundy. Remember Darden saying, "Okay. So when this white vehicle that looked like a Bronco with tinted windows" Read the transcripts. Darden was describing O.J.s Bronco, not Heidstras testimony. Yet, most expert reporters and commentators called it the way Darden did. Thats what you get with the shoes minus Dr. Fischmans snapshot showing that O.J.s expensive, Italian loafers were not Bruno Maglis.
The killer had more brass than brains, but enough of both to kill two people and to anticipate popular reaction to whatever he and his four associates did to frame an innocent man. The Bandwagon Effect they created around the idea that O.J. Simpson would have, could have and did butcher two human beings lies on the outer ring of clues that point to the real killer. The circle inside the ring is where all the clues were planted against O.J. There are plenty of gaps in the circleplaces where the killers mistakes with the stick, the socks, the blood, the gloves, the time, the Bronco, the clothes, the shoes, the dogs, the witnesses and his own testimony leach out, join together, and form an air-tight circle around him. But to get a Lion, a Tiger or a Bear to look at it is a whole nother animal.
Marcia Clark was all three in one. The killer had to know in advance that he would get someone like that to head the prosecution against Simpson before the plan to frame him for the murder of Ron and Nicole could go forward. That was another of the high order of improbabilities that got in the way of my willingness to believe that O.J. may have been set up. After seeing that the qualities of high tolerance for police misconduct and tainted evidence was shared by everyone on the prosecution team, I imagined that those qualities were requirements for the job. Looking at Gil Garcetti, the possibility did not seem all that remote. But would it be a sure enough bet to stake everything on?
No. There were too many honest, dedicated deputy prosecutors around who would not have stood for the lying and cheating that went on under Marcias stewardship of the case. If any of those people had been put in charge, they would have insisted on going after the truth no matter where it led. To get around that, the system had to be structured in a way that Fuhrman could shop for the prosecutor he wanted with a reasonable expectation of success.
Guess what? The system was set up that way.
Guess what else? Marcia had a reputation among cops with a penchant for lying a little to recoveror to plant the evidence they needed to make their case in court. When a cop needed help in that department, she was the one to call. Fuhrman was going to need help in that department. There was never a doubt that she would get the call, adopt his views and fight like a Tiger to win.
The following exchange took place in May of 97:
Your move, my friend. Jasper
PDF version of Chapters 31-35
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison