Nearly 17 years after O J Simpson walked away from his murder trial a free man, a prosecutor at the centre of the case has alleged that the lead defence lawyer tampered with a crucial piece of evidence.
On Thursday, a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, Christopher Darden, accused Simpson's defence lawyer, the late Johnnie Cochran, of "manipulating" one of the infamous gloves that the prosecution said linked Simpson to the grisly double murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
After Simpson struggled to fit the gloves on his hands, Cochran famously admonished the jury: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."
During a panel discussion on Thursday about the trial at Pace Law School in New York City, Mr Darden, a member of the prosecution team, said: "I think Johnnie tore the lining. There were some additional tears in the lining so that O J's fingers couldn't go all the way up into the glove."
Mr Darden said in a follow-up interview that he noticed that when Simpson was trying on a glove for the jury, its structure appeared to have changed. "A bailiff told me the defence had it during the lunch hour." He said he wasn't specifically accusing anyone, adding: "It's been my suspicion for a long time that the lining had been manipulated." He said he had previously voiced similar concerns in TV interviews, but could not recall the details.
Mr Darden's charge surprised key participants in the trial and related legal action. The Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who was a member of Simpson's defence team, and Paul Callan, who represented Nicole Brown Simpson's estate in a successful civil trial against Simpson, said it was the first time they had ever heard the allegation. On Friday, Mr Dershowitz called the claim that the defence had had an opportunity to tamper with the gloves "a total fabrication" and said: "The defence doesn't get access to evidence except under controlled circumstances." Mr Dershowitz said of Mr Darden: "Having made the greatest legal blunder of the 20th century, he's trying to blame it on the dead man."
Mr Darden's remarks came after Mr Dershowitz, a fellow panellist, called Mr Darden's decision to have Simpson try on the glove for the first time before the jury "the most stupid thing" a prosecutor could have done. Mr Dershowitz said that if Mr Darden had evidence that there had been tampering, he would have had an ethical obligation to report the alleged misconduct. He also questioned why Mr Darden hadn't filed a grievance with the state bar association. Mr Darden responded by saying that this would have been a "whiny-little-snitch approach to life" and that was not what he believed in because it didn't change anything.
The event was part of a "Trials and Errors" series, co-sponsored by Pace Law School and the Forum on Law, Culture and Society at Fordham Law, that examines America's most controversial cases.
Simpson was acquitted in the double murder case despite what prosecutors described as a "mountain of evidence" against him. Cochran died in 2005. A civil jury in 1997 found Simpson liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5m in damages to the murder victims' families. Simpson is serving up to 33 years in prison for a 2007 armed robbery in which he claimed he was trying to recover his own sports memorabilia.Reuse content