Lack of knife always dogged O.J. Simpson murder investigation
O.J. Simpson reacts in 1995 as he is found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. With him are members of his defense team, F. Lee Bailey, left, and Johnnie Cochran Jr.(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
From the beginning, the lack of a definitive murder weapon was a major issue -- and some say a key flaw -- in the O.J. Simpson case.
Now, the Los Angeles Police Department is testing a knife possibly found years ago on Simpson’s former Brentwood property.
Simpson always denied any role in the 1994 slaying of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. And after an exhaustive search, police and prosecutors could never present the jury in his murder trial with the knife they claim he used to kill them.
What the prosecution did have was blood-soaked gloves.
During the trial, Simpson tried on one of the gloves. He held up his hands in front of the jury box to let everyone see the leather bunched up around his broad palms; it didn’t fit. That demonstration became a powerful symbol for the defense, summed up by Cochran: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
During the trial, prosecutors tried to prove that the gloves were purchased at Bloomingdale’s by Nicole Brown Simpson and that O.J. Simpson used them in the slayings.
The left-hand glove was found outside the townhouse of Nicole Brown Simpson, a short distance from her body and that of Goldman.
The right-hand glove was found on Simpson’s estate. Both were smeared with blood, but the only DNA results came from the right-hand glove, which contained genetic material consistent with both victims and with O.J. Simpson.
In both civil and criminal trials, defense attorneys argued that former LAPD Det. Mark Fuhrman planted the glove at Simpson’s house.
Police searched far and wide for the knife. Several were presented as possible murder weapons through the years.
A 15-inch knife with a retractable blade that Simpson purchased at Ross Cutlery in downtown Los Angeles briefly tantalized prosecutors in the criminal trial. They thought it might be the murder weapon, and even asked a coroner to compare that type of blade with the slicing and stabbing wounds of the victims in the June 12, 1994, killings. The fact that no one could locate the knife only added to the intrigue.
But the defense produced the knife -- in an envelope that became known as the “mystery envelope” in the preliminary hearing. Forensic tests later revealed that the knife was in pristine condition, with no scratches or bloodstains to suggest that it had been used in a vicious double homicide.
Prosecutors in the criminal trial never introduced it as evidence.
They did have the merchant who sold Simpson the knife testify in a preliminary hearing.
“I guess something attracted him about the knife. It’s a nice-looking knife. And he just, he liked it,” Ross Cutlery employee Jose Camacho said in court.
Simpson was found not guilty in 1995.
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