The so-called “trial of the century” had all the drama, twists and turns one could imagine — except for a murder weapon.
Despite a jury’s 1995 acquittal of O.J. Simpson in the murder trial for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, questions endure about his guilt in popular culture — fairly or not.
Interest in the case spiked late last week after Los Angeles police confirmed that investigators were analyzing a knife that was reportedly found years ago on the former property of O.J. Simpson and only recently turned over to police.
But the details released so far are not enough to tie the knife to the killings. Even if the knife is found to be linked to the case, the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment — which says that a person cannot be tried a second time for the same crime — applies here, meaning that Simpson cannot be prosecuted again for the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend.
On March 4 the LAPD announced a knife was allegedly found on Simpson’s former estate in Brentwood. Could this be the murder weapon, the one piece of evidence that was never found prior to or during the trial?
Police are examining the knife, including for DNA and hair, but are not releasing further details. Speculation fills the void.
From the Simpson trial, the public learned that the weapon used to kill Brown and Goldman was a long, serrated knife.
As for the knife currently being examined, police have not said if it is long or serrated.
TMZ, which broke the story, reported that it is a “folding buck knife.” The Los Angeles Times, citing a police source, described it as “fixed blade that was not large.”
Former officer George Maycott got the knife from a construction worker in 2002 or 2003, according to the ex-officer’s attorney.
At the time, Maycott was working off duty near the estate, attorney Trent Copeland said.
The construction worker came up to him and gave him the knife, saying he found it “on or near” the old Simpson property.
Police have publicly asked for the construction worker to come forward.
The knife that has the media abuzz currently, however, is hardly the only knife to be recovered from the former Simpson estate.
The former lead detective in the Simpson case, Tom Lange, said investigators thoroughly searched Simpson’s residence after the murders. They also searched nearby streets.
“Initially … there were several knives found around the property,” he told CNN. “There were dozens and dozens of hours spent with over 100 officers searching property areas, sewers, streets, no-stone-unturned type of a situation.
“As to knives, there were several knives turned in by various people. I mean, we even had people admitting to the crime,” Lange added.
None were found to be the murder weapon.
It’s the big question: If this knife turns out to the murder weapon, would it have changed the outcome of the initial trial, or can it affect the possibility of any future charges against Simpson?
Marcia Clark, the prosecutor in Simpson’s murder trial, doesn’t think so.
“Honestly, I don’t know whether he would be convicted today,” Clark told “Dateline NBC” in an interview that aired March 6.
She points out that there was DNA evidence available in the trial — bloody shoe prints, a glove at Simpson’s home with blood that matched Goldman — but it did not sway the jury.
The mishandling of the evidence by police and shoddy forensic collections created a distrust of the LAPD, Clark said.
The public’s understanding of DNA evidence is stronger today than it was in 1994 and 1995, Clark told “Dateline,” but the mistrust of police — heightened by a number of cases of shootings of black men by white police officers — would create the same challenge if the trial were held now.
“Because in the wake of all these police shootings and all the racial mistrust that has been exposed, probably what would result, in my opinion, is a hung jury,” Clark told “Dateline.”
Simpson is imprisoned in Nevada in a separate case. In October 2008 he was found guilty on 12 counts, including kidnapping and armed robbery, for a confrontation in a Las Vegas hotel room over sports memorabilia that Simpson said had been stolen from him.
He was sentenced to 33 years with parole eligibility after nine years.
CNN’s Michael Martinez and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.