Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder Trial of O.J. Simpson

Gloves, Shoes, Fibers and Hairs

It is conceivable that the leather gloves were the Rosetta stone of the Simpson murder trial. One was discovered at each of the two crime scenes. Of all the physical evidence that had been gathered and catalogued that day, the gloves were, perhaps, the most tangible. There was also a terrible irony in the fact that they may have been purchased by a woman as a gift for her husband, who then used them in the commission of her murder.

They were unique articles of apparel and the prosecution had linked together an imposing evidence chain connecting them to the defendant.

The gloves were dark brown leather, cashmere lined, size extra large. Manufactured by Aris Gloves, a subsidiary of Consolidated Food Corporation, the Isotoner Lights brand, style number 70263, were part of a small batch of only 300 pairs that had been sold exclusively by Bloomingdale's Department Store on 3rd Avenue in New York between 1989 and 1992. The store sold 240 pairs and returned the rest to the manufacturer. On December 20th, 1990, Nicole Brown Simpson had purchased two pairs of these gloves for $110. The gloves had a distinctive stitching and V pattern in the palm and were very identifiable. The prosecution assembled press photographs and videotapes of O.J.Simpson wearing this type of leather gloves during football game telecasts in 1993 and 1994.

On April 3rd, the prosecution produced evidence that the glove found behind the bungalow on Simpson's Rockingham estate had a mixture of blood from Nicole, Goldman and Simpson.

On June 15th, Christopher Darden called Richard Rubin to the stand. The former vice-president and general manager of Aris Gloves testified that the gloves were part of a batch sold to Bloomingdale's, New York. He measured Simpson's hand and estimated it to be size large to extra large. The police had already established this and had found three pairs of gloves in this size in Simpson's belongings.

The prosecution team had arranged a trial run earlier in the day using Detective Phil Vannatter to try on a pair of identical gloves. His hands and fingers were as long and thick as Simpson's, and the gloves slid on easily. Rather than wait for the defense to beat him to it, Darden made the decision to have a demonstration with Simpson trying on the gloves.

Simpson trying on the glove
Simpson trying on the glove

Cochran, however, insisted that his client wear latex gloves and he would attempt to slip the brown leather gloves on over these. Caught in full by the television cameras in the courtroom, Simpson was seen struggling to get the gloves on, saying, "They're too tight."

When asked later why the gloves failed to fit his client, Johnnie Cochran said, "I don't think he could 'act' the size of his hands. He would be a great actor if he could 'act' his hands larger."

Rubin subsequently testified that moisture had caused the extra large gloves to shrink a full size and later in the trial, Simpson again tried on a brand new pair of the Isotoner extra large gloves, which fitted perfectly. But it seemed that the damage was irretrievable. 

Cochran would make much of the glove trial that went wrong. In his final summation to the jury, he said that the prosecution's case was slipping away as soon as they had his client try on the gloves.

"You will always remember those gloves," he said "when Darden asked him to try them on and they didn't fit... No matter what they do, they can't make them fit. The prosecution would do anything to contort and distort the fact, he reminded the jury as he repeated his theme, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."

Interestingly enough, at least two of the jury who acquitted Simpson, were not that impressed with his performance that day.

Juror #98, Carrie Bess, a postal worker, later stated, "Those gloves fit. He wasn't putting them on right... I do believe the gloves fit. I have no doubt about that. The glove demo didn't impress me at all. Not one iota."

Marsh Rubin-Jackson, #984, also a postal worker, agreed. "Sure, you know they fit... they would have fit anybody," she said.

On July 6th, the prosecution rested its case.

There had been other evidence tying Simpson to the murders. The bloody footprints that led away to the back of the condominium were identified as being from a particular brand of shoes.

William Bodziack, an FBI agent and one of the country's most foremost experts on shoe print impressions, testified that the prints were left by Bruno Magli shoes, style Lorenzo, incorporating a Silga sole with a waffle-type print. The footwear, manufactured in Italy, retailed for $160 per pair and was sold by only 40 retailers across America. In all, only 300 pairs of size 12 (Simpson's size) were ever sold. Only 9% of the population wore size 12. Simpson had denied ever owing a pair, calling them, "ugly-ass shoes."

However, on September 26th, 1993, AP photographer Harry Scull Jr. had taken pictures of Simpson wearing these exact shoes at the Rich Stadium in New York. It didn't seem to impress the jury.

Doug Deedrick, another FBI agent and a hair and fiber forensic expert, testified on the hairs found on Goldman's shirt and inside the knit cap discovered at the crime scene. He testified that the hairs on the cap and 12 hairs recovered from the shirt were consistent with the characteristics of Simpson's hair. He identified hair found on the Rockingham glove as compatible to Nicole's and Goldman's.

He testified that blue/black cotton fibers found on Goldman's shirt matched the fibers in the socks found in Simpson's bedroom. He affirmed that cashmere fibers which were removed from the knit hat, matched with fibers from the glove lining.  He had also examined fibers removed from the Ford Bronco and found that they matched fibers found on the glove discovered at Simpson's house and on the knit cap found at the crime scene. It didn't seem to impress the jury.

One of the areas that did impress the jury revolved around evidence about EDTA.

Fredric Reiders, a forensic toxicologist called by the defense, testified that EDTA was found on the sock in Simpson's bedroom and on a blood spot on the back gate of Nicole's condominium. According to Simpson's lawyers, this indicated that the blood had come from the vial of blood taken from their client at the Parker Center. Although EDTA is used to preserve blood in laboratory testing, it is also found naturally in human blood, as well as in chemicals such as laundry detergent and paint. The prosecution pointed out that this easily explained its presence on a painted gate and an article of apparel.

Dr. Cotton from Cellmark had also testified regarding EDTA used to stop the degradation of blood. When she had checked the autopsy blood taken from Nicole, she had found that it was more degraded than her matching blood found on the sock in the bedroom. Once blood has degraded, it is impossible to raise its DNA count. Under the defense's conspiracy theory, the blood on the sock had to have come from Nicole's autopsy vial, but this blood had a lower DNA count than her blood on the sock. In other words, it was fresher when it splashed onto Simpson's sock as he was killing her, than it was two days later when the coroner collected it. It is impossible for degraded blood to become fresh again, proving that Nicole's blood on the sock could not have been planted.

The jury, however, could not get around how EDTA appeared on the sock and the gate, but not in the trail of blood spots that, according to the prosecution, had dripped from Simpson's injured finger as he left the crime scene. It also wondered how the DNA fingerprinting on the gate blood spot was higher than the other samples, especially when this blood had not been collected until 20 days after the murders. The jury could not figure out why this blood had not degraded after being exposed all those days under sun and rain

So much of the "mountain of evidence" seemed to loose its credibility, either because the prosecution did a less than stellar job in preparing and presenting it, or because Simpson's lawyers were smooth enough to re-interpret it in such a way that they kept introducing reasonable doubt into the minds of the panel of jurists.

It would have been interesting to see how the jury would have responded to the evidence the prosecution chose, for various reasons, not to offer, in addition to the evidence which was presented.

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