New clues suggest OJ's son may be real killer
New evidence backs up OJ Simpson's claim of innocence and raises damning questions about the role of his son Jason. Stephen Dodd examines a dramatic twist in America's most infamous murder case
A TRAIL of blood still points to the killer. Traces discovered in a Bronco jeep; bloody footprints at the scene of the crime; mysterious drops that appear to have fallen on the victim's body from above. Blood remains the closest clue to the truth of America's most controversial murder hunt, but the conclusion of the evidence has been utterly transformed.
It is the considered opinion of a team of British documentary film-makers, backed up by the expert witness of two London forensic experts, that blood evidence in the OJ Simpson case completely supports the murder jury's ``not guilty'' verdict. Were the case to have been tried under Britain legal rules, the experts hypothesise, the forensic evidence would never have been deemed strong enough to bring OJ to the dock.
Last week, the documentary OJ: The Untold Story claimed Los Angeles police effectively framed OJ, planting evidence to link him to the 1995 stabbing of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The programme goes further, exploring other possible suspects and concluding that OJ's son Jason, a man with a history of violence, should have been investigated more thoroughly.
In a wide-ranging 90-minute film, with a plot-line worthy of Raymond Chandler, the BBC crew introduced another suspect. A convicted criminal with links to LA's shady drug underworld says he was hired to spy on Nicole, and was then asked to kill her.
The evidence collected for the documentary is not all new. Jason Simpson's motivations and violent character have been questioned before, and the hit-man link was a trail briefly investigated and swiftly dumped by the Los Angeles prosecutor's office. Assembled in one package, however, the sheer scale of doubt suggests serious questions remain to be answered about police handling of the case.
In true crime-thriller fashion, the freelance investigations of a private eye unearthed the most disturbing fresh evidence of mishandling and possible fraud by the LA police.
The Simpson trial is a case which still stirs a thousand obsessive conspiracists, and private detective Bill Dear is no exception. Spurred by a nagging doubt over the case against OJ, Dear set out on his own trail of clues.
He began at the crime scene, where forensic evidence simply did not tally with the prosecution case against OJ. If the Juice was not the killer, Dear asked himself, who was? His investigator's hunch fell rapidly onto Jason, OJ's son by his first marriage.
Jason Simpson, the programme alleged, had both motive and means to kill Nicole and Goldman. By the time of the killing Jason was 24 years old and had known Nicole since she began dating OJ, when Jason was in his early teens. Jason, the programme suggested, may have developed an obsession with Nicole after visiting nightclubs with her.
There are further disquieting trails to explore. Jason Simpson has a track record of violent attacks, ranging from a brutal assault on his boss to an attack during which he sliced off a girlfriend's hair with a knife. He took medication prescribed for both epilepsy and rage attacks, but had stopped using it two months before the killing. At that time, too, Jason had beaten his then girlfriend.
Worrying evidence, admittedly circumstantial, piled up as Bill Dear investigated Jason. OJ's son was a professional chef, and regularly carried knives in a bag. Dear found that Jason's alibi accepted by murder squad detectives was misleading. In fact, Dear suggests, he would have had time to get to Nicole's house by the time of the killing.
Not all the information, of course, is new. Part of the account presented in the BBC film comes directly from Jason's own deposition, given at the time of the civil case which found against OJ. Examination of the original document provides intriguing perspective; Jason's testimony wavered, for example, when asked about past misdemeanours.
``I forgot about that,'' he told lawyers who prompted his memory about the assault on his ex-boss.
``Charges were brought against you for assault?''
``Right,'' said Simpson. ``Right.''
The lawyer pressed: ``You didn't tell us about thatearlier.''
``I totally forgot about it.''
Whatever else Jason had forgotten, he seemed reasonably clear in his version of what happened in the hours before Nicole's death, and about his feelings towards her. What emerges from the BBC documentary, is that he may have harboured an obsession about his step-mother. Was Jason the ``stalker'' that Nicole told police she had seen, claiming it must have been either OJ or his son?
``Did you love Nicole?'' lawyers asked the younger Simpson during his deposition.
``Were you close to her?''
``Was she like a second mother to you?''
``I wouldn't say second mother, no.''
Jason Simpson's testimony, recorded in May 1996, was taken under the probing interrogation of lawyers representing families of the two murder victims. With the accusations now levelled by the BBC documentary, his words take on a dramatic new hue.
Jason talked about how he thought Nicole had ``changed'', from being a ``young, fun-loving person'' into ``a beautiful mother''. When she parted from OJ, he said, Nicole changed again. Now he could see her true personality for the first time, witness her real likes and tastes.
``I liked going over to her house,'' he said. ``It was cool.''
Bill Dear next investigated motive. He discovered that on the night Nicole and her friend Goldman were killed, Jason had arranged for a family party including his father and Nicole to dine at the restaurant where he worked. Instead, Nicole called and cancelled the evening, saying they would instead go to another restaurant, Mezzaluna, where Goldman worked as a waiter. Could Jason's motive have been a mixture of jealousy and frustration, the BBC wondered?
Both Jason and OJ Simpson declined to talk to the BBC but, in the depths of Jason's deposition, he touches on his feelings that night.
``She went to Mezzaluna all the time so it was just easier for her,'' Jason said. ``I figured, okay, fine, go. I was kinda hurt.''
Forensic evidence assembled by police in their case against OJ Simpson is given a detailed dismissal by the BBC film-makers. Police, either through deliberate sabotage or incompetence, contaminated the crime scene. Detectives smeared vital footprints by walking through blood patches.
Crucial bloodstains found on Nicole's back, which might have identified the killer, were never analysed, forensic expert Henry Lee told the documentary. Dr Lee alleged police laxity in controlling the murder scene made any reconstruction of the crime meaningless.
The case against the LAPD becomes still more serious. The BBC accuses detectives of planting evidence to sweeten their case against OJ. A pair of bloody socks found in his bedroom, and bloodstains on the gate at Nicole's house, were later found to contain EDTA, an artificial preservative used by forensic laboratories. Could the blood have been planted after a senior detective obtained vials of the blood of OJ, Nicole and Ron Goldman from the Los Angeles coroner's office? Was another blood clue, found in OJ's Bronco jeep, a similar fake?
The final puzzle offered by the documentary is the claim by Bill Wasz, who says he was hired by one of OJ Simpson's friends to kill Nicole. His claim, repeated in a telephone interview with the BBC, was investigated by the Los Angeles district attorney's office, who then dropped the lead.
The BBC evidence, taken in isolation, suggests there is a substantial case for the Los Angeles police to answer about their handling of the OJ investigation, and sufficient fresh evidence for the case to be reopened. It is unlikely, of course, that it will ever happen, as the Simpson story remains a wound that official America will never be anxious to reopen.
As for the police motives in a botched and possibly fraudulent case, Bill Dear provides an easy explanation.
``I think they made up their mind pretty quick it was OJ,'' he says, ``and from that point on they went no further. They had their man.''