Stupid Question ™
Sept. 29, 2003
By John Ruch
Q: Are police really still looking for the “real” killer of Nicole Brown Simpson?
—Dennis Laycock, Columbus, Ohio
A: Nothing in law or logic forces the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to keep searching for a killer they are certain they already caught.
That suspect, of course, is O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted in 1995 of the brutal knife murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. The double killing took place in LA’s Brentwood neighborhood on June 12, 1994. Simpson was found liable for the murders by civil trial in 1997.
“We presented the case with all the evidence we had and a jury acquitted [O.J.],” LAPD spokesperson Lt. Art Miller told me. “As far as the LAPD and the [District Attorney’s] office is concerned, the case is closed.”
O.J. is now protected by the Constitutional prohibition against retrying a suspect for the same crime. “Even if a hundred people came up today and said they saw [O.J.] do it, we couldn’t do anything about it,” Miller said.
It was O.J. who vowed after his acquittal to “pursue as my primary goal in life the killer or killers who slaughtered Nicole and Mr. Goldman.” O.J. could not be reached for comment, but his hunt appears to be neither very active nor productive, though he occasionally claims to have unspecified new information.
“He gave us all kinds of leads and everything that we investigated,” Miller said. “Everything he’s given us was basically bogus.”
Entertainment Network, Inc., the company behind the AskOJ.com web site launched in 2000 as a connection between O.J. and the public, offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of a “real killer.” Clearly, no one got the reward, which came with an inexplicably short Nov. 20, 2000 deadline attached. A message I sent to the company was returned as undeliverable.
For police, a murder case is “solved” when a suspect is arrested or indicted, and the case is “closed” when a court convicts or acquits the suspect. If the evidence doesn’t point to any other suspects, there’s no obligation to keep investigating. Thus, the LAPD considers the Brown Simpson/Goldman murders solved and the case closed.
An acquittal doesn’t mean the suspect was necessarily innocent. There can be a difference between closing a case and seeing justice served.
O’Neil De Noux, a mystery author and former homicide detective in suburban New Orleans, told me about a case of his in which six witnesses saw the suspect shoot someone to death in a bar. After a series of court blunders, the suspect was acquitted.
“‘Case closed.’ It’s very frustrating,” De Noux said. “That’s why cops are sarcastic as hell, why many become alchoholics, why all use black humor to relieve the pressure. Many, like me, who never turned to drink experienced burnout and simply left law enforcement. Frustration is one of the reasons I turned to writing.”
Miller said dazzling new evidence about a new suspect would certainly lead the LAPD to reopen the Brown Simpson/Goldman case. But nine years later, there isn’t any.
“Hey, there’s a murderer among us,” Miller said.