Guests: Kim Goldman, Tom Lange, Philip Vanatter, Rockne Harmon, Carl Douglas
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, we look back at the O.J. Simpson case 10 years later.
It was called the trial of the century, and for many, an embarrassment to our legal system. To this day, no one has had to serve time for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury in the above-entitled action, find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Ten years later, we look back and forward with key players from the case, Ron Goldman‘s sister, the lead detectives who investigated the murders, and lawyers from both sides.
The program about justice starts now.
Hi, everyone, welcome to the program.
It is hard to believe it‘s been 10 years since Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were brutally murdered at her Brentwood, California, home, 10 years since California was blindsided by the legal equivalent of a perfect storm, 10 years since two families began the painstaking process of seeking justice only to be stymied after a nine-month criminal trial.
Later in the program, we‘ll talk to the two lead detectives and lawyers from each side about what they think now, and how their lives have changed.
But first, there is no one who has been more affected by the murders and the trials than the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENISE BROWN, NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON‘S SISTER: He is looking for the killer, he should be—he looks at the killer every morning when he shaves or when he washes his face in his bathroom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Every day, they live with the fact that the many who they believe killed their daughter, sister, brother and son is spending most of his time on the golf courses in Florida enjoying an—an untouchable pension.
Kim Goldman is Ron‘s sister. And she joins me now.
Kim, it‘s good to see you again. I‘m sorry it‘s on this kind of terms, but it‘s nice to see you again.
So give me a sense of how you are doing, just in generally, what are you up to, what have you been doing, and how are you?
KIM GOLDMAN, RON GOLDMAN‘S SISTER: Well, Dan, it‘s nice to see you too. Things are doing OK in my life. I‘m recently married, a couple years now. I‘m a new mom of a little boy, Samuel Ronald, he is 8 months. And I‘m working for Best Buddies International. It‘s a nonprofit organization that works with people with intellectual disabilities.
So it‘s keeping me pretty busy. I have also been working on writing a second book and developing a new show that I hope to be on the air pretty soon.
ABRAMS: What kind of show?
GOLDMAN: It‘s called “The Advocate.” It‘s a show that talks about the strength and courage of victims and survivors and essentially what they do with their tragedy. And it‘s pretty powerful, it‘s pretty inspiration, I‘m pretty excited for it.
ABRAMS: Your boy‘s name, Samuel Ronald, the Ronald after your brother, right?
GOLDMAN: Correct. Yes, I grappled with maybe trying to call him Ronald, but I didn‘t think I wanted to walk around my house yelling, Ron, Ron. I just didn‘t—it was going to be too painful. So I want Sammy to have his own identity, but also in memory and honor of his uncle Ron.
ABRAMS: And you make sure he gets to see pictures of him on a regular basis, right?
GOLDMAN: Yes, I have a beautiful picture of my brother in his nursery, and, of course, we got pictures all over the house. So we stop and talk to him. So he‘s definitely going to know who his uncle is.
ABRAMS: I want to read you a piece of a quote from O.J. Simpson when he was talking on “DATELINE” recently about your father and your family, and I want you to respond, because I feel like it‘s been out there a lot lately and sort of not getting a whole lot of response.
“I didn‘t commit this crime. I don‘t think they,” referring to the Goldman family, “deserve anything. And what I find curious is that in the beginning, all I heard Fred Goldman, and I kind of respected him for it, would say is, it‘s not about the money, it‘s about responsibility. But ever since then, I don‘t think I‘ve ever heard him speak without him saying, we didn‘t get any money. So, hey, that‘s—tell him to go get a job.”
GOLDMAN: Yes, that‘s real sympathy for you, huh? No, I—you know what? From the beginning, we have always said that it‘s not about the money. My father has always said and maintained that if he wants to confess, if he wants to, you know, stick a needle in his arm and sit on death row, that‘s fine, I don‘t care about the judgment, neither does my family. But that‘s all we have in this state, and for us it was a matter of getting it on the record that he was responsible for Ron and Nicole‘s death.
And quite frankly, at this point, for me personally, it‘s about rendering him, you know, helpless. And if it means hitting him in the pocket because that‘s all he has to rely on at this point, I‘m fine with that.
I just want to make sure that he doesn‘t walk around this earth without remembering that Ron and Nicole were the, you know, the people that he murdered and that his family has left behind. And so at some point, it does become about punishment and judgment. And the fact that he is unwilling to do anything about that just isn‘t surprising.
ABRAMS: Has your family seen any of the—there was a $33.5 million judgment against him—seems to have a lot of time to play golf, and it seems he‘s got some expendable income. Have you or your lawyers seen any of that money?
GOLDMAN: There was some money that was received from auctioned items. There were some items that were seized from his home and then put on the auction block...
ABRAMS: Right, that was early on, right?
GOLDMAN: That was really early...
GOLDMAN: ... but in terms of the judgment...
GOLDMAN: ... there has been nothing.
ABRAMS: Not a thing.
GOLDMAN: Not a penny. And he‘s made it very clear that he will not work in order to not pay that judgment, although we know differently. But that‘s neither here nor there.
ABRAMS: He says that he doesn‘t have enough money any more to continue his search for the real killer. What do you make of that?
GOLDMAN: You know what? I—listen, I think that that was all smoke and mirrors. I think that that was an attempt to, you know, get in the good graces of the country that still believes he‘s guilty.
I never believed it for one second before, and I think it‘s all, you know, crap, basically, that he said he was really looking for it and that he‘s been denied, and he went to the court to get, you know, records unsealed. I think it‘s all false.
ABRAMS: Very quickly, how is your dad doing?
GOLDMAN: My dad is doing OK. You know, it‘s painful. I mean, you know, my father‘s an incredibly strong and courageous man, and a piece of him died when my brother died, and that‘s difficult. But he is wonderful, and he‘s a proud grandpa and a great father to me and a great friend, so...
ABRAMS: Well, Kim, you have an adorable son. You look great. It‘s nice to see you...
GOLDMAN: Thank you.
ABRAMS: ... and next time, let‘s talk on a nonanniversary day, all right?
GOLDMAN: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the lead detectives, Vanatter and Lange, who headed up the investigation. The defense accused them of incompetence, even corruption. What do they think 10 years later?
We‘ll also talk with a member of one of the so-called dream team and one of the prosecutors (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The trial made household names out of its lawyers, witnesses, and its now infamous house guest, Kato. Where are they now? We‘ll find out.
Your e-mails, email@example.com. Respond at the end of the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
A.C. COWLINGS, O.J. SIMPSON FRIEND: This is A.C. I have O.J. in the car, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you?
COWLINGS: Please, I‘m coming up the 5 freeway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
COWLINGS: Right now, we all be OK, but you got to tell the police to just back off. He‘s still alive, but he got a gun to his head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: June 17, 1994, the now-infamous Bronco chase. O.J.‘s good friend Al A.C. Cowlings driving the then-fugitive O.J. Simpson along several Southern California freeways. During that time, Simpson apparently had a conversation with one of the lead detectives in the case, Tom Lange. Lange pled with Simpson to throw the gun out of the window, Simpson insisting the gun was, quote, “For me.”
Tom Lange and Philip Vanatter, two of the LAPD‘s most senior detectives, led the investigation into the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. Both of them well respected, but not by the defense. They were accused of conducting a sloppy investigation, even planting evidence. Both faced tough cross-examinations from members of Simpson‘s so-called dream team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Therefore, you wouldn‘t allow them to do anything at the Rockingham crime scene, would you, without your direction?
PHILIP VANATTER, INVESTIGATOR IN O.J. SIMPSON CASE: Well, that‘s not true, they are experienced police officers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they can do whatever they want.
VANATTER: No, no, no. That‘s misreading.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Now, 10 years since they were called to the crime scene and began the investigation into O.J. Simpson, they join us to talk about the impact the trial had on them and what they are doing today.
Former LAPD homicide detective Philip Vanatter and Tom Lange join us.
Gentlemen, good to see you. It‘s been a while.
TOM LANGE, INVESTIGATOR IN O.J. SIMPSON CASE: Hi, Dan.
VANATTER: Good evening. Hey, Dan, how are you doing?
ABRAMS: All right, good, good. Thanks a lot for taking the time. I appreciate it.
Tom, let me start with you. How would you describe the impact that this case has had on your life?
LANGE: Well, it‘s had, obviously, a pretty big impact. It‘s—for years, I know Phil had the same situation, you can‘t really go anywhere without someone recognizing you. I think, however, it has been very positive in that regard, because I have never had a negative contact in all of this time. Everything has been very positive and very supportive.
So it‘s been very positive for me.
ABRAMS: Phil, how about you?
VANATTER: Yes, it‘s been exceedingly positive. People all over the country come up and they just want to shake your hand and tell you that you did a good job, and that really makes you feel good.
ABRAMS: Phil, what are you up to? What are you doing these days?
VANATTER: You know, I work for a very competent and very progressive young sheriff here, Dave Lusby in Dearborn County, Indiana. I‘m having a great time. And hopefully I‘m making an impact on law enforcement in southeastern Indiana and having fun doing it.
ABRAMS: Tom, what are you doing?
LANGE: Well, I am a fraud investigator for a West Coast insurance company. And I have a couple of TV projects I have been involved with, and doing some consulting. Staying busy.
ABRAMS: If you could do it again, Tom, and someone would say to you before this case started, You have a choice. Here is what is going to happen if you get involved, and here is what the next 10 years are going to be like. Or you can pull out and not be involved in the case at all. Which would you choose?
LANGE: Well, that‘s a question, all right. You know, I have always liked a challenge, I‘ve always liked a challenge, Dan. And I think I would have gone ahead and done this. And one other thing, I would have liked to have done it with my partner, with Phil.
Remembering back, you know, at the time, Phil and I had over 50 years of police experience and had handled some 400 murder investigations between us. I wouldn‘t have done anything any different, and I would have welcomed the challenge.
ABRAMS: All right, Phil, you know, I want to read you something that O.J. Simpson has said about you in an interview. There was something about it that I found particularly striking that he didn‘t say. He said, “If I had to have feelings, they‘re more for Vanatter than I do with Lange. I wanted to go after Lange and go after Vanatter. He was in the courtroom on the end, and it was just everything—it took everything I could not to go after this guy, because I felt he was responsible for allowing somebody like Mark Fuhrman to be as out of control as he evidently was during the investigation of this case.”
But, you know, Phil, what I find striking is that he is not saying, oh, this guy Vanatter was responsible for planting evidence. What happened to the Phil Vanatter who supposedly took the blood and threw it all over the place?
VANATTER: Well, let me start out my response to that was—would be, I wonder if he had cement in his shoes that he couldn‘t come across the room, because I would have welcomed him at any time. And as far as allowing Mark Fuhrman to run wild, you know, I had never met Mark Fuhrman in my life. And actually, Mark Fuhrman was at the crime scene before I ever got there.
You know, but all these allegations, they‘re all nonsense. He—you know, that‘s a guilty man trying to put the blame someplace else, is all it is.
VANATTER: And in the future, if he ever sees me, tell him to take the cement out of his shoes.
ABRAMS: Tom, here‘s what O.J. had some choice words for you.
“You know, I thought Lange had some integrity. I mean, for a long time, I thought Lange would be my salvation. No, even since the trial, but, you know, once you write a book together and you make an income from it, I think he compromised himself.”
LANGE: Well, I didn‘t compromise myself. We did write a book together, and it was the right thing to do, it told our story. I am as proud of that book today as I was then. And as far as income from the book, the irony is, if I‘d have stayed on the job for another year, for—been a cop for one more year, I would have made more money than I did from the entire book.
So again, you know, this guy has no idea what he‘s talking about.
It‘s like he‘s sipping his own bathwater here lately.
ABRAMS: Phil, what is it, if there‘s a, do you have any regrets? I mean, if there‘s something you look back on and you say, I wish I had done this or that differently, is there something that strikes you?
VANATTER: Well, you know, you can always second-guess yourself. There is nothing really striking that I could have done different. Again, I would say, you know, I would have left Tom holding the bag, though, if I would have known what was going to come out of this whole thing.
But I told him the last time I saw him in person, I said, Thank God that you were there as my partner when we did get involved in this.
No, there is really nothing we could have done different. We did everything that we were supposed to do. And...
ABRAMS: I‘m going to ask you both...
VANATTER: ... and, and...
ABRAMS: Go ahead.
VANATTER: ... and we proved, and we proved beyond a reasonable doubt what actually occurred there.
ABRAMS: Well, I‘m going to have an editorial about that very issue at the end of the program, where I‘m going to support these guys.
Stay with us, gentlemen. When we come back, Mark Fuhrman says he is going to reveal new facts about the trial this weekend that he says could have changed the trial specifically. He says that Philip Vanatter was responsible for something. What is he talking about?
And later, we‘ll go inside the courtroom with two of the lawyers who were there. And I‘ll ask a member of Simpson‘s defense if he really believes his client was innocent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, March 9, 1995)
MARK FUHRMAN, FORMER LAPD HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: And when I found the glove back here on this pathway, I‘ll have to—I‘d have to admit to you that the adrenaline started pumping, because I didn‘t really know what was going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Mark Fuhrman, the detective at the center of O.J. Simpson‘s defense theory that police contaminated, even planted evidence. Among other things, they accused Fuhrman of planting a bloody glove at Simpson‘s Rockingham home. He was painted as a racist looking to frame Simpson because he is black. He was convicted of perjury for lying about his testimony concerning racial slurs during the trial. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years‘ probation.
But now Mark Fuhrman is fighting back, saying there was some sort of conspiracy to keep his partner out of the case, which he says changed the course of the trial.
Let‘s bring back the two lead detectives in the Simpson case, Philip Vanatter and Tom Lange.
All right. I want to read you, this is a quote from Fuhrman from “The New York Post.” Phil, I‘m going to read it about you, because I think it refers more to you.
“I‘m going to release absolute corroboration as to why Vanatter kept Roberts,” who was his partner, “out of the trial, considering Roberts found half of the evidence at Rockingham. What I‘m going to reveal is something that occurred in August 1994 between Roberts, Vanatter, and Tom Lange that changed the course of the trial.”
What is he talking about?
VANATTER: You know, I, I, you know, that‘s, that is insane. How could I keep anybody out of the trial? That decision is made by the prosecutors. All I did was give them the information I had.
You know, he‘s, he, he, he‘s real good at pointing fingers at everybody but himself. He is the reason that the defense was able to refocus that to a trial of the Los Angeles Police Department. And I, you know, I have said that all along.
LANGE: Dan, you have to ask yourself, why did we have to wait 10 years for this revelation? I mean, what‘s, what has he been doing for 10 years? Did he just come up with this? And do we have to wait another 10 years for the next one? It just doesn‘t make any sense. It‘s like attention is off of him, and he wants it back on him.
ABRAMS: Tom, do you have any idea what he is talking about?
LANGE: I don‘t have a clue. But there was initially, Roberts was at the Rockingham scene, and he said that he saw blood evidence in the driveway and some other things about the same time that Phil did and everyone else. But you can‘t have everybody testifying to that. I think that if the prosecution wanted to streamline their witnesses, have one person testify to all of these things that they saw.
I think Roberts was miffed because, you know, he wasn‘t allowed to testify. That may have been a good idea. You know, if this is a conspiracy, the more the merrier. Maybe they should have let him testify. But it‘s childish to even bring this up. It‘s ridiculous.
ABRAMS: I‘m going to ask some of the lawyers, we got Rockne Harmon and Carl Douglas coming up in a few minutes. But Denise Brown has recently, the sister of Nicole, gone after the prosecutors, saying that she‘s very angry at Marcia Clark as to how she dealt with many things in this case. What do you guys think? I mean, do you think—Phil, let me start with you. Do you think that Marcia Clark did a good job as the lead prosecutor in the case?
VANATTER: Well, you know, that‘s really putting me on the spot. I think she could have done a better job. There is no doubt in my mind. But again, I think she did enough to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt. The thing that I really disliked with what happened with the prosecution is that during the course of this trial, we were completely cut out of it. We had no contact with them. Lange and myself, who should have known the most about the case, were just cut out of it.
ABRAMS: Tom, what do you think?
LANGE: Dan, as you probably well know in a an attorney yourself, many times in a murder investigation, the—a lot of the evidence reveals itself after the trial has begun. That‘s what happened here. We didn‘t just stop investigating because we were in trial. We garnered a lot of evidence over the months. Some of it was a eyewitness that saw Simpson out at the airport the night of the murders, with his arm buried in a trash container, took it out of the container, it goes into a small, half-moon-shaped flight bag, zips it closed, grabs it, and walks inside.
This is the flight bag no one has seen since and everyone‘s been looking for. If you want to know what happened to evidence, clothes, shoes, knife, perhaps that‘s what happened. We had this witness in the midst of trial, and they didn‘t want to put him on. I mean, nothing that we did did they wanted to put on.
And I think the reason for that was, number one, they felt safe with the DNA, the blood evidence, and secondly, they didn‘t want to appear too close to the LAPD, who would have to introduce that evidence, because of the Rodney King thing, and then, of course, the Fuhrman situation.
ABRAMS: I‘ve got 20 seconds, Phil. Do you think this changed—this trial changed anything in the LAPD for the better?
VANATTER: You know, I would hope so. But I don‘t really know what you could change so much. I was told, after I retired there, that they had done a biopsy of the investigation and the presentation, and that they didn‘t find anything wrong. But I would hope that it would send a message to the officers to really be careful and make sure everything is done as best can possibly be done.
ABRAMS: All right. I‘m going to ask if you gentlemen wouldn‘t mind just standing by after a moment. I want to bring you back. We‘re going to come back to you in a little bit. And we come back immediately, we‘re going to talk to a member of O.J.‘s so-called dream team.
I‘m going to ask him if he thinks this O.J. Simpson is innocent. And we‘ll talk to one of the prosecutors as well.
As the verdict divided much of the nation along racial lines, you may be surprised by a recent NBC News poll as to what people think now.
Your e-mails, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, two lawyers who worked on the O.J. Simpson trial. Both were in the courtroom on opposite ends of the aisle, but first the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNNIE COCHRAN, SIMPSON DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If it doesn‘t fit, you must acquit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: It probably became the most famous or remembered lines in the O.J. Simpson trial from probably the most famous member of the defense dream team, Johnnie Cochran. If Cochran defined the defense, Marcia Clark became the most well-known face of the prosecution. And we are looking back at the O.J. Simpson case object this, the 10-year anniversary of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. Both sides had teams working on the case. Rockne Harmon was a prosecutor and DNA expert. He was in charge of much of the DNA evidence, including the blood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCKNE HARMON, FORMER L.A. DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Visually, were you able to determine whether or not Miss Brown could be the source of the stain on the sock at 13a?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I declared that a visual match.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Carl Douglas served on Simpson‘s team of defense lawyers.
Among others, he questioned one of Nicole Brown‘s neighbors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARL DOUGLAS, SIMPSON DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Knowing as you know now where the crime scene was located, did you have occasion to see anyone walking out of the condo complex directly north of the crime scene to go to the mailbox?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Both men join us now. Rockne Harmon is currently a prosecutor in Alameda County, California, and Carl Douglas now runs his own civil law practice in Beverly Hills. That‘s Tom Lang, who we‘re going to get—Carl. There‘s Carl Douglas. They look a little bit different.
All right, Carl Douglas, it‘s good to see you. All right, let me start with you, Carl. And I just got to get this question out of the way because I have asked it or heard it asked to just about every member of the defense team. I was on earlier with F. Lee Bailey, who seems to me to be the only member of defense team who to this day insists O.J. Simpson is actually innocent. Are you willing to go that far?
DOUGLAS: I am, Dan. I spent 16 months of my life working on one particular case. And at the conclusion, I remained convinced not only that the prosecution failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Not only that, the jury there rendered the only fair decision that they could render consistent with the facts and the law. But I remain convinced that O.J. Simpson is factually innocent of the murder of her ex-wife and her friend.
DOUGLAS: I understand there are those that disagree but that‘s the way that I believe.
ABRAMS: Wow! All right. All right, look, I‘m surprised to hear that from Carl Douglas, but you heard it here. Carl Douglas maintains that O.J. is factually innocent.
All right, Rockne Harmon, good to see you.
HARMON: Hey, Dan.
ABRAMS: When you look back at the prosecution case, Rockne, what were the problems? Why—what happened? What went wrong?
HARMON: Some of our people got distracted by all the attention that was being paid to them, to be honest with you, Dan.
ABRAMS: And do you think that—I mean how did that actually impact the outcome, though?
HARMON: There just didn‘t seem to be a real commitment to it. I mean when you know at the end of the trial that you are going to be wealthy beyond belief and have a new career, it doesn‘t really matter what the outcome is.
And you know, let me give you a little—one example of how I knew we were in for a rough ride when we were having one of our only meetings and it gets interrupted so Darden and Clark can get photographed by Annie Levowitz for, I guess, it was “Vanity Fair” magazine. You know you‘re in for a rough time and you know you don‘t have their full attention.
ABRAMS: Carl, how did the defense seem? I mean obviously this is viewed a big success, I think a huge success considering the facts against O.J. Simpson? Did—the defense team also had a lot of infighting, correct?
DOUGLAS: They did, but ultimately based as much as anything on the strength and the power of Johnnie Cochran‘s personality, he was able to keep the team focused on our goal. And it‘s really been interesting for me to see all of the—to hear all of the things that were going on unbeknownst to us at the other side. We were unaware of all the problems between the detectives and the lead prosecution team. We were unaware of all the infighting going on among other prosecutors and it really serves to appreciate and to explain some of why the prosecution was as disjointed as it was.
ABRAMS: Rock, are you sorry you got involved in this case in the first place? I mean you don‘t work for the Los Angeles D.A.‘s office.
HARMON: Right, not at all, Dan. I mean we—for the most part, there were a huge number of dedicated fully committed people like Phil and Tom. We were inspired by Kim Goldman and the Brown family. So it was just a question of us trying to do the best we could. I wouldn‘t change it one bit. I would just try to change our commitment, you know, completely.
ABRAMS: How has this case affected your life, Carl? Has it been a good thing for your law practice, a bad thing? Do some people say I don‘t want anything to do with a lawyer who represented O.J. Simpson or do people say, hey, he represented O.J. Simpson?
DOUGLAS: Well, Dan, I have really been blessed since the trial. Since 1998, I have been the owner of my own personal injury and civil rights practice. Even today, it‘s interesting that I am recognized probably three days out of five. In my community, I am respected, I am welcomed and people think well of the job that the defense team has done. And I think as much as anything else, this trial gave me the confidence to believe that I could overcome whatever odds were put before me and that I was willing to take a case to trial if I had to.
ABRAMS: Yes, well, after winning this case, I would think that you should get a lot of confidence. Rock, do you blame Judge Ito for a lot of what happened?
HARMON: You know he‘s just a person. He had his weaknesses. No. No. I mean, you know, a judge can have an impact on how things happen but it‘s hard to blame the judge for the outcome of the case. I don‘t blame him one bit. I wish he had, you know, held the reins a little bit tighter. At least then I wouldn‘t have been away from my family for as long as I was.
ABRAMS: As we go to break, I want to just play very quickly the 1993 Nicole Brown Simpson call to 9/11. I just think that it—people sometimes forget what Nicole Brown‘s voice sounded like when you were listening to her, making this call. This is not 1989. We‘re talking about here about a year from the time of the murders. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911 Emergency.
NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON, VICTIM: Can you get someone over here not to 325 Gretna Green. He‘s back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, just stay on the line.
BROWN SIMPSON: I don‘t want to stay on the line. He‘s going to beat the...
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. I want Carl, if you can; I want you to listen to my editorial at the end of the show. I am going to lay out for you exactly why I am so convinced—I am going to convince you that O.J. Simpson is factually innocent.
Rock, Carl, stick around.
Coming up, the jurors in the O.J. Simpson trial. You‘ll hear from one of them and we‘ll ask if the verdict caused our guest to lose faith in the jury system. And the trail made household names of the lawyers, family, friends, and even the house guests. What‘s become of them now? We‘ll tell you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEILA WOODS, SIMPSON JUROR: I always felt that Mr. Simpson was innocent until proven guilty and I went into the deliberation room with that same feeling.
ANN ASCHENBACH, SIMPSON JUROR: I believe that probably he committed the crime.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that deep in your heart you feel that you did the right thing.
ASCHENBACH: Yes, again, based on what we received.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You sometimes forget that one of the jurors there saying that she thinks O.J. Simpson probably committed the crime.
I am back with four people who were very much involved in this case:
former L.A.P.D detective Phillip Vannatter and Tom Lange, former deputy district attorney, Rockne Harmon and Simpson defense attorney, Carl Douglas.
You know I was struck by what I‘m about to read to you, and Carl, let me go to you on this. The question NBC poll asked, do you think O.J. Simpson murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Amongst whites, the answer 87 percent said yes, blacks only 29 percent said yes, and the no‘s, 70 percent of blacks, no, 12 percent of whites no.
You know, Carl, I was struck and I knew there was this huge racial divide immediately after the verdict. I am struck that that remains the case today. Are you?
DOUGLAS: Not really, Dan, because I‘m a black man living in Los Angeles, California and I know the history of the relationship between the police department and African-Americans here in this city. And I am sure the history here parallels histories of many of those polled in different cities across America. In your experience, the police have always been probably an organization in whose position you can put your trust and you think they will protect and serve you. Unfortunately, that has not always been the experience among African-Americans, particularly here in L.A.
So, no, I am not surprised given some of the evidence that we were able to present that really challenged the integrity of the prosecution‘s investigative arms, why there is a disparity.
ABRAMS: Yes, but Phil, Vannatter, it seems to me that it is such a stretch to say on the one hand that there were some mistakes made by the police is one thing. To say that somehow that demonstrated that O.J. Simpson wasn‘t responsible, that the prosecution didn‘t prove their case to me is something entirely something else.
VANNATTER: Well, you know, Carl—I remember Carl saying during the trial that he fell on his sword over some of the discovery stuff. I think he just fell on it again. You know the evidence was overwhelming and to see a divide along racial lines that you just read off, you know how silly that is? This case had nothing to do with race. It had absolutely nothing to do with race. It was a double murder case, two people that were brutally murdered. And why people had to talk about black and white still amazes me because there was no reason for it. It had knowing to do with that.
ABRAMS: And Rockne, it seems to me—and this is where I blame Judge Ito is in letting in as much as he did with regard to Mark Fuhrman‘s past, it just seems to me that in order to introduce that evidence, they should have show a better nexus that Mark Fuhrman could have planted the glove, that maybe there was evidence that he might have planted the glove. And yet, they didn‘t show that.
HARMON: No doubt that he—are you there, Dan? I just heard a noise.
ABRAMS: Yes. No, go ahead, that was for you.
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Rockne. Yes.
HARMON: OK, that was me. No doubt, Dan, and you know, that little speech that Carl just gave, that‘s how he and Johnnie got wealthy because they keep repeating it over and over again and they want people to believe that‘s true so that they can sue police departments and force municipalities to settle. That‘s the sad reality that that sort of search for money is what perpetuates this divide that exists that‘s shown in that poll. That‘s the problem.
ABRAMS: I just got to give the stage to Carl for a minute to just respond. Go ahead, Carl.
DOUGLAS: Well, I don‘t see another African-American male on your panel so I don‘t know how possibly you are going to appreciate the perspective of the black community here. But we‘re not making these kinds of things up. These numbers are real. And if—I dare say, Dan, if you would go to 10 black people at random on the streets of America, seven of the 10 would probably know themselves, a relative or a close friend who had been treated unfairly by the police. That probably is not the experience of most white Americans and until that changes; you are going to still have these kinds of poll numbers...
ABRAMS: And I think that‘s true.
DOUGLAS: ...across America.
ABRAMS: I think that‘s true, but the problem is there is a very legitimate argument that race had nothing to do with this case that people were bringing in their experience from other cases and inappropriately applying it to this one.
DOUGLAS: Race was important in this case because of some of the evidence that we were able to uncover and because of some of the suggestions that there was, in fact, a question of the integrity of this investigation. And that question went all the way from the crime lab through to the actions of some of your guests through to the actions of Mark Fuhrman and it capped off with that. And all of these issues really reinforce some of the historic preconceptions that black people brought to this event.
ABRAMS: Let me give Tom Lange...
ABRAMS: Let me let Tom Lange in here. Go ahead, Tom.
LANGE: Dan, I‘d like to comment. You know, I like Carl. In fact, he‘s right next door over here. But the next question—why don‘t you ask Carl if he still believes that Elvis is alive and listening to his spiel here about innocence and guilt that‘s overwhelming. Carl is a very bright man and he knows the evidence is overwhelming.
More so, in this case, there is virtually nothing exculpatory. There is nothing that puts this evidence in another direction or inculpates another suspect. The Fuhrman issue is a separate issue. The race issue is a separate issue. If you look strictly at the evidence, there is basically nothing that‘s exculpatory. It all goes in one direction.
ABRAMS: Well, I am going to talk about the evidence in a minute. Look, I got to wrap it up. Thank you to all my guests: Detective Vannatter and Lang, Rockne Harmon, and Carl Douglas. We‘re all beating up on you. Carl Douglas is a great lawyer and a friend. And I like—I just want to make it very clear that despite the fact that we‘re all taking on Carl Douglas, I have a lot of respect for Carl Douglas and I appreciate him coming on the program and taking on the team. Thanks a lot.
DOUGLAS: Thanks so much, Dan. My pleasure being here.
ABRAMS: Coming up next, if Americans watched the Simpson civil trial as closely as they did the criminal trial, you would have to be one of his relatives or friends to believe his testimony. I was in the courtroom for both and it is my closing argument coming up. Some of the headlines that were put together as the trial went on and there I was 10 years ago with my boss and his now wife.
ABRAMS: Coming up, they became famous in the O.J. Simpson trial:
Marcia Clark, Kato Kaelin, Fay Resnick. Where are they now? We‘ll tell you after the break.
ABRAMS: My closing argument, while on this 10th anniversary of the murder of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, it‘s important to remember that most Americans did not get to see just how guilty O.J. Simpson actually appeared because most did not see the civil trial as I did. After the criminal trial, which was televised, almost anyone who came into it with an open mind and watched all the testimony, as I did from inside the court room, you would have to say that the evidence was overwhelming, that there was no way that all that blood and fiber evidence at her home, in his home, and in his car could have been planted and/or contaminated to make it look like someone else with size 12 shoes actually killed O.J. Simpson‘s ex-wife.
But even those who were unable or unwilling to look at the big picture, as apparently it was the case with the jurors in the criminal trial, you would literally, I think, have to have been a close relative or friend of Simpson‘s to believe his testimony in the civil trial.
Again and again, he contradicted himself or couldn‘t explain key details in the case. A few examples, he couldn‘t explain exactly how he gouged his hand that night. At the trial, he said he believed he cut it on some glass in a hotel, but he told police he thought he did it at his home. Either way, there were significant cuts and a significant amount of blood found at his home that he couldn‘t explain.
He said that Nicole must have lied in diary entries when only days before the murders she wrote that Simpson had repeatedly threatened her. It didn‘t come up in the criminal trial. He said that phone records were incorrect, that suggests he called his answering machine and heard a message that night from his then girlfriend threatening to break up with him.
And finally, and arguably, most importantly, there were 30 photos, only discovered during the civil trial of Simpson months before the murders wearing the exact type of rare shoe worn by the killer. He said the photos were doctored, that he never had worn those ugly—something else—shoes. But Simpson could not explain why one of the photos appeared in a Buffalo Bills newsletter seven months before the murders.
Even if you accept both jury‘s‘ verdicts, it still means the jurors are saying Simpson likely committed the crimes. The criminal jury was not convinced there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt. They were not something like 90 something percent certain he was guilty. But the civil jury found it was more likely than not that he did it.
So both juror verdicts are to be accepted. Then it‘s somewhere between 51 percent and 90 something percent certain Simpson killed his ex-wife and Ron Goldman. That should make those few remaining Simpson defenders think twice before saying, “why won‘t you accept the jury‘s decision?”
And I want to take a look at where some of the key players are in the O.J. Simpson case. Judge Lance Ito, who was widely criticized for not controlling the courtroom (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the trail, has been re-elected to the bench twice and is still a judge today.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark no longer practicing law. She wrote a book after getting a $4 million advance, and now works as a legal commentator for “Entertainment Tonight”.
Clark‘s co-counsel, Chris Darden, also wrote a book. He‘s a defense attorney in Los Angeles and teaches law and appears as a television commentator.
Robert Shapiro, the attorney who put together the so-called dream team, is still a top Los Angeles attorney. He was defending music producer Phil Spector in his murder case before being let go in February.
Johnnie Cochran hosted a cable TV show and has built a nationwide network of offices handling civil cases. He‘s also a legal analyst for NBC.
F. Lee Bailey, another member of Simpson‘s team, was disbarred in Florida in 2001 and Massachusetts a year later for allegedly embezzling money from one of his clients.
Mark Fuhrman, the detective who found the bloody glove at Simpson‘s home, moved to Idaho, became a broadcast analyst and a best-selling author.
Kato Kaelin, famous for being O.J. Simpson‘s house guest during the murders, is now a reality TV star.
Fay Resnick, Nicole Brown Simpson‘s friend, who O.J. indirectly blames for her murder, now owns her own entire interior design business.
Denise brown, Nicole Brown Simpson‘s sister, now runs the Nicole Brown Charitable Foundation for victims of domestic violence.
And O.J. Simpson moved to Miami, Florida. He says he‘s working on developing a reality TV prank show. He lives off his NFL pension and has yet to pay back a $33.5 million verdict that was won against him in the wrongful death suit brought by the Brown and Goldman families.
To this day, no one has served time for the murders.
Finally, just to remind you how crazy everything got during the criminal trial, I pulled out some of paraphernalia that I got during the trial. In front of the courthouse, vendors were hawking t-shirts like this. It says, “If it doesn‘t fit, then you must acquit.” And there‘s Johnnie Cochran with the hat on and there‘s Joe looking very good in the shirt. Joe, flip around for a sec, so we can see the back. There it is. All right, “If it doesn‘t fit, then you must acquit.”
You see the other t-shirts. Camp O.J. up there on the left and look at Joe serving as Vanna White—and the fight of the century and you see the—I mean all this stuff was being hawked. Look at this game. The O.J. Simpson game. There‘s a die there, all these little things. You know you pick up cards that say—what is that? I can‘t read that one.
But anyway, my favorite though? I‘ve got to show you my favorite, the Judge Ito Jell-O mold. I still have it. I haven‘t made any Jell-O yet.
That‘s it for our special one-hour look. Thanks for watching.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.