Angeles backdrop to the crime

When it began, it was a double murder, but evolved to a criminal trial that dominated America's interest and attention as the law tried its hardest to convict a suspect. A suspect who became perhaps the most famous criminal defendant in American history and so easily recognizable that people referred to him by only his initials. The trial lasted nine months. Eleven lawyers represented the defendant and twenty-five worked around the clock for the largest prosecutor's office in the country. It sadly became the most publicized case in United States history.

It was the longest trial ever held in California, costing over $20,000,000 to conduct and had nearly 50,000 pages of trial transcript. There were 150 witnesses called to give evidence before a jury that was sequestered at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles from January until October. No movie or television courtroom drama would have dared to unfold the way this one did, and it was not without coincidence that it evolved in Los Angeles, the only place in the world where Tofu is a considered a food group.

The rest of America and the world became obsessed with the fascinating, if not nauseating, celebrity-dominated West Los Angeles backdrop to the crime. The trial of O. J. Simpson, media labeled it the "Trial of the Century", turned into an epic of exploitation and media overkill that grew over the months into some huge cancerous media frenzy, feeding not only on itself, but also the appetite of its audience, who was desperate for more and more titillating details.

If all of this was not enough, the vicious murder of two innocent people created a legal mud fight that questioned the competence of just about everyone involved and created a division between the black and white community that a news poll estimated may have set back race relations in the United States by thirty years. To many, largely in minority communities, the trial of Simpson became not so much a determination of his guilt or innocence of murder in the first degree, beyond a reasonable doubt, but whether or not a black man could find justice in a legal system which they perceived to be racially against them.

Not more than three years earlier, Rodney King's videotaped beating by LAPD officers divided the immediate community. Upon hearing of the officers' acquittal, Americans became apparent to the feelings of injustice while watching the widespread riots. To others, many of whom were white, the key question was whether a mostly minority jury would convict a black celebrity regardless of the amount of evidence against him.

During the trial, the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman always seemed stage left, as the defendant on trial for the murders commanded center stage in his fight to prove bigotry and racism were the real issues on trial, using a pack of lawyers willing to go around the parameter of legal etiquette and acceptable courtroom manners to achieve their objectives, transforming their client, an accused double murderer, into some kind of racial martyr

On Sunday, June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson, then divorced from her husband for nearly two years, and Ronald Goldman, an unknown victim not directly related to Brown, were found by neighbors; brutally murdered at 875 South Bundy Drive. The neighbors were led to the crime scene by Brown's white Akita. The dog was scene acting erratically and having bloodstains on its underside and legs. After calling 911, at 12:13 officers Miguel Terrazas and Robert Riske arrived on the scene and after sealing the scene, radioed Sergeant Martin Coon and two additional officers for backup.

Homicide detective supervisor Ron Phillips arrived at approximately 2:10 a. m. with detective Mark Fuhrman, and his partner, Brad Roberts. At this time, Roberts was the eighteenth person logged in at the crime scene; clearly too many people. Phillips was notified that the investigation was handed over to division head William O. Gartland, who then assigns detectives Tom Lange and Phil Vannatter as lead investigators. At this time Phillips walked detective Vannatter through the scene carefully so that no one, except the first responders, went close to the bodies.

The men, getting no closer than six feet from the bodies, could not determine the exact cause of death. Upon searching the scene, investigators found a number of items lying near and around the two victims. Amongst those items were a set of car keys, a navy blue knit cap, a white blood-spattered envelope, and a single bloodstained left-handed leather glove. Bloody footprints were noticed to be directing the officers away from the scene towards the back of the property; accompanying blood drops were noticed headed in the same direction.

Commander Keith Bushey, chief of operations for the LAPD's west bureau, tells Phillips, Fuhrman, Lange, and Vannatter to try and contact O. J. Simpson in order the identify and gather his two children found upstairs, asleep in the house. At the time, Simpson was considered a potential, but not actual, suspect in the murders. At approximately 5:00 a. m. the four detectives arrive at Simpson's home at 360 Rockingham, no more than five minutes away from the Bundy crime scene.

The detectives assumed Simpson to be home due to his 1994 white Ford Bronco parked in front of the home. Upon inspection of the vehicle, detective Fuhrman noticed bloodstains on the vehicle's door panel. Combined with the blood and unsuccessful attempts to reach Simpson via the gate intercom, the detectives feared they were about to discover another murder scene. Acting out of emergency and fear of another homicide, the detectives, having enough cause to forego a search warrant for the premises, did just that by climbing the fence.

After inspecting the property, detectives encountered Kato Kaelin, a Simpson houseguest, and Simpson's eldest daughter Arnelle Simpson. With Arnelle, detectives Phillips, Vannatter, and Lange searched the main house while Fuhrman stayed with Kaelin. In Kaelin's immediate interview he noted that he and Simpson went out to get some food earlier that night and separated upon returning. He also noted that he heard three loud thumps on the other side of his bungalow's wall at approximately 10:45 the previous evening.

Not long after, Kaelin said he helped Simpson load a limo waiting to take him to LAX for a flight to Chicago. Kaelin noted that Simpson had a small bag with him that he didn't let anyone else handle. The detectives reached Simpson at his hotel in Chicago, and upon hearing of the events that took place that night, Simpson, though he seemed distraught, didn't ask certain questions about his ex-wife's death, which ultimately made investigators skeptic. After the conversation, Simpson agrees to immediately return to Los Angeles.

Detective Fuhrman, upon further investigation of the Rockingham scene, finds a right-handed leather glove matching the left-handed one at the Bundy scene. The second glove appeared to be covered in blood. Detective Vannatter also found blood in the form of spots leading from the glove to the Ford Bronco and to the entrance of Simpson's front door. At approximately 7:10 a. m. a police photographer, accompanied by chief forensics investigator Dennis Fung and his assistant Andrea Mazzola, arrived at the Rockingham scene. Back at the Bundy scene, detective Lange preserves the scene for the coroner's investigators.

Noticing a mass increase of television cameras, since the media has been notified, Lange, in order to relinquish any dignity for the dead, covers Brown's body with a blanket he finds inside the house. During the trial, detective Lange would live to regret that. After photographs are taken at the Bundy scene, inspector Fung documents and gathers evidence once the two bodies are bagged. The way in which the evidence at the Bundy location was gathered was heavily scrutinized by the defense in the trial; thanks to the media coverage that was so conveniently across the street.