The role of police officers is not limited to prevention and investigation of crime or to the apprehension of offenders. They are also critical in the judicial process, acting both as officers of the law and representing the public perspective of crime. Mcguire (2000) believes that public’s perception of the role of police officers has increased their significance judicial outcomes and subsequently the interest of both prosecutors and defense in examining officers’ testimonies in court.
Researching for the impact of officers’ court testimony to the outcome of the case, the O. J. Simpson murder trial was a good case to analyze. For Belrad (2008), the murder trial of American football celebrity O. J. Simpson is one of the best illustrations of how officers’ testimony can impact the court. The long-drawn litigation is one of the most infamous trials in American history and many believe that one of the turning points of the case was Officer Mark Fuhrman’s testimony which raised the possibility tainted evidence due to discrimination and reaction to the public pressure on the resolution of the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Background Fuhrman, appearing as a witness for the prosecution, accounted for the investigative procedures undertaken upon the discovery of the crime and the evidentiary collection against Simpson. His testimony followed the standard mode of police testimony and the prosecutors repeatedly emphasized the commitment of the police force to resolve the case and build evidence for the court hearing. However, Fuhrman’s testimony during cross examination would upset the earlier efforts of the prosecution.
In the opening statements of the cross-examination, he already expresses a degree of personal feeling about the case, admitting that it has been an exhausting process and acknowledging the pressure the police were under to bring the case to court (Court TV, 1995). It should be noted that Fuhrman acted to relate the processes the police underwent during investigation and as an expert witness interpreting the evidence gathered. Belrad (2008) believes that though Fuhrman’s testimony complied with the requirements of the court for pre- and actual trial, he was not able to fully establish his credibility.
Subsequently, commentators on the case’s proceedings said that there was also less confidence in the investigation and evidence he presented. The situation was further aggravated by his assertion of his 5th Amendment rights when questioned by the defense regarding the preliminary statements and the accusation that he manipulated evidence to bring about the arrest and conviction of the defendant (Court TV, 1995). Though Furhman never admits during the proceedings the truth of the accusations, his using the 5th Amendment in lieu of responding to the questions implied otherwise (Belrad, 2008).