William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Saturday, 4, October, 2008

O.J. Simpson Has Been Convicted…of Something

Filed under: Forensics,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 20:33

And, you know what’s really wrong about that headline?  It is something I have noticed time and time again when dealing with forensic cases.  The cases acquire the names of the defendant.  I get a call from the prosecutor on the “Peel case” or, if they’re more formal “State v Peel”.  The victim gets marginalized, and ultimately ignored.

This first was brought home to me in the 2000 Sheppard trial.  For those who are not in the know, Dr. Sam Sheppard battered his wife to death on 4th July, 1954.  He was railroaded into prison with terrible pre-trial publicity (see the headline).  In 1964, his attorney, F. Lee Bailey, got him a new trial, where he was acquited.  His estate brought a trial for false imprisonment in 2000, seeking damages.  These were not granted.

A lot of ink has been spilt about the Sheppard Case.  My personal belief is the prosecutors in 1964 didn’t spend to much time and effort (the trial transcript is 1/6 as big as the one from the first trial) on a trial of a man who was going to get out on parole from his original sentance anyway.  Having reviewed the evidence in 2000, and having undressed Marilyn Sheppard (among other things) I remain firmly convinced of Sam Sheppard’s guilt.  But Marilyn (and her child, she was pregnant when she died) get short shrift.  Most victims do.

Nicole Brown Simpson died a very nasty death.  She was alone with her killer, probably frightened, and died horribly.  The extent of her wounds (including near decapitiation) bespeak of immnese rage.  “Overkill” in the forensic argot.  Vastly more violence than was needed to kill.  Ron Goldman was killed doing a favour, in an attempt to cover tracks.

Simpson is, unfortunately, a thug.  I say unfortunately, because he has a nice manner, and a pleasant persona, and I’d enjoyed seeing him in fluff roles in films.  But that means he’s a better actor than I gave him credit for.  He’s not a nice man.  He exercises spectacularly poor judgement.  He has a propensity to violence, and it’s finally caught up with him.

Race in the United States is still a polarizing issue.  I don’t believe that anyone in the US wants to see people, whatever their colour, get away with murder.  I do believe that juries do want to be fair.  They do try to do the right thing in the context that they are permitted to act.  Christopher Hitchens had an interesting take on it.



  1. I tend to agree with you on the Sam S. case. Rarely have I seen evidence of someone being beaten with such a degree of violence when simply resisting a sexual crime from a stranger. It was a crime of rage from the forensic evidence given, even if the rudiments of the science at the time couldn’t expand on it to the degree necessary for an inarguable conviction

    Comment by Brigid — Sunday, 5, October, 2008 @ 14:46 | Reply

  2. Only a very powerful emotion nets a murder with the level of overkill present in this one. A random stranger? Not likely; not by a long shot. It was far too personal. The killer in this case wanted to make a statement to the victim. Unfortunately, his jury wanted to also. In any other courtroom, the DNA evidence alone would have been far more than enough to convict him.

    Comment by Jeannene — Monday, 6, October, 2008 @ 09:36 | Reply

  3. I watched them disinter his body (what little could be seen, due to privacy screening) some years back, when the son was looking for forensic evidence he hoped would clear his father’s name. Didn’t Shepherd get acquitted posthumously at some point (not that that proves innocence)?

    Comment by marcia (2) — Monday, 6, October, 2008 @ 10:27 | Reply

  4. Marcia–

    No, he was acquitted at his second trial in 1966. He was released at the same time he would have gotten out of jail, anyhow. He DID get to practice medicine again, but lost several malpractice suits, got a drinking problem, became a pro wrestler and died of liver disease in the 70’s.

    He most certainly did not get acquitted posthumously, the opinion of most of the jurors and the folks who worked on the case is that he certainly did it.

    Comment by williamthecoroner — Monday, 6, October, 2008 @ 10:32 | Reply

  5. Okay, my memory is faulty. Here’s the story behind what I witnessed:

    “…His body remained there until 1997, when he was exhumed for DNA testing as part of the lawsuit brought by his son to clear his name.[10] After the tests, the body was cremated, and the ashes inurned in a mausoleum at Knollwood Cemetery in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, with those of his late wife, Marilyn.[1] (Wikipedia, I know it’s a terrible source)

    He was originally interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens on Broad Street, in Columbus, OH.

    Apparently, the son sued the State of Ohio for wrongful imprisonment and lost in 2000. The case was appealed, and…

    “…On February 22, 2002, the Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the case should not have gone to the jury, as a wrongful imprisonment claim could be made only by the person actually imprisoned, and not by a family member such as Sam Reese Sheppard. Legal standing to bring such a claim, the court of appeals found, died with the person who had been imprisoned. In August 2002, the Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the appeals court’s decision.”

    Sorry for the original misinformation.

    Comment by marcia (2) — Monday, 6, October, 2008 @ 14:14 | Reply

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