It was a problem that plagued prosecutors during the so-called trial of the last century. Authorities said they had the bloody glove O.J. Simpson used into the stabbing death of his former wife and her friend, but they could never produce the knife that was used.
This absence fueled public intrigue, along with two decades of potential weapons that never panned out.
There was the 15-inch retractable blade that O.J. Simpson purchased at a downtown Los Angeles cutlery shop. And the blood-stained kitchen knife wrapped in a blouse discovered near Simpson’s Brentwood estate. Even a broken carving knife found in a waste tank at Chicago’s O’Hare airport was turned into investigators.
Now, 22 years after the killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, a retired police officer has handed over a knife given to him by a construction worker who helped raze Simpson’s mansion in 1998.
The knife brought a frenzy of new speculation Friday but also deep skepticism in some quarters over whether it’s just one more empty lead in the case.
The LAPD’s elite Robbery-Homicide Division is examining the knife.
The knife was apparently turned over to a police officer a number of years ago by a construction worker who was helping to raze Simpson’s mansion on North Rockingham Avenue in 1998, police said.
At a news conference at LAPD headquarters Friday morning, Capt. Andy Neiman said the officer was a traffic cop and was working on a movie set when he was given the knife.
Detectives learned of the knife’s existence last month, and are now investigating where it came from, according to Neiman, who cautioned that the investigation is still in its early stages.
Neiman told reporters that it was unclear why the officer waited nearly two decades to hand over the knife.
“I don’t know why that didn’t happen or if that’s entirely accurate or if this whole story is possibly bogus from the get-go,” he said.
Attorney Carl Douglas — a member of O.J. Simpson’s legal “dream team” that secured his 1995 acquittal on Friday called the story “ridiculous.”
“It’s amazing how the world cannot move on from this case!” Douglas said. “And it, and the media, is apparently still fascinated by everything O.J. Simpson.”
Douglas said he remembers that “there were indications that two different knives may have been used. One with a straight edge, and one with a serrated edge.” But he cautioned that people sometimes will do anything for 15 minutes of fame.
Alan Dershowitz, who served as an appellate advisor for Simpson’s defense, also called news of the knife “highly suspect.”
“Where has the knife been? Who has handled it?” Dershowitz asked. “It’s totally suspicious when there is no chain of custody. … Courts don’t generally allow for that type of thing.”
The officer who had the knife was retiring and apparently informed detectives just recently of the weapon’s existence. An LAPD detective informed superiors, who immediately launched an investigation into the knife’s history and ordered a series of forensic tests to determine whether it had any connection with the June 12, 1994, slayings.
A law enforcement source familiar with the case said the retired officer had the knife for more than a dozen years. The source noted that even if the knife was proved to have been taken from the North Rockingham Avenue property, it may predate Simpson’s ownership.
At Friday’s news conference, authorities said they were also looking into what charges, if any, the officer could face if the knife turns out to be evidence that he withheld.
Neiman said he was “quite shocked,” to learn about this latest turn in a case that remains open to this day.
A police source told the Los Angeles Times that the weapon being investigated was a buck knife. At Friday’s news conference however, Neiman declined to specify what type of knife it was.
“It is a knife, not a machete,” he said.
Finding the knife that killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Goldman had been an obsession of police and others in the wake of the slayings.
Authorities searched for the weapon for months after the slayings, and there have been many leads that went cold.
A 15-inch knife with a retractable blade that Simpson purchased at Ross Cutlery in downtown Los Angeles briefly tantalized prosecutors in his criminal trial. They thought it might be the murder weapon, and even asked a coroner to compare that type of blade with the wounds of the victims. 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 the vicious double homicide.
Prosecutors in Simpson’s criminal trial never introduced it as evidence.
On Friday, LAPD officials and former Simpson defense attorneys alike remarked on the timing of the disclosure, as it coincides with the airing of an FX miniseries, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
“You have to ask the question…. Why was it revealed now? I think it raises more questions than it answers,” Dershowitz said.
Also among those who seriously doubt the veracity of the discovered knife story is Mike Weber, the owner of the grading and construction company that demolished the mansion.
“I think it’s a joke,” the 70-year-old said. “No one on my crew found anything…. I give this story no credibility.”
Weber, who owns Castaic-based Weber-Madgwick Inc., said that when he took the job, he knew there was a chance his crew might uncover evidence and that it had to be properly handled.
“I had instructed my people, ‘If you find anything, don’t keep it. Tell me, we’ll take the appropriate action,’” Weber said.
In 1994, a woman discovered a kitchen knife smeared with red stains less than a block from Simpson’s home.
A blood-soaked glove that police believed was used during the killings was found at Simpson’s house. But whether it fit Simpson’s hand became a famously debated point during the trial.
A jury found Simpson not guilty of the slayings in October 1995.
When the new owners of Simpson’s Brentwood estate decided to raze it in 1998, a man involved in the construction joked in an interview with The Times: “We haven’t found the knife yet.”
The existence of the latest knife was first reported by TMZ.
Whether the knife is found to be connected to the deaths or not, it will probably have little effect on Simpson’s legal future.
Attorney Dmitry Gorin, a former prosecutor, said that once a person has been acquitted of murder by a jury, it would be double jeopardy to try the same person again for the same crime.
“You can’t be prosecuted again,” he said.
The only exception is in federal court, Gorin said. But in that case, federal prosecutors would need to have a federal question that applies to a particular case.
In the O.J. Simpson case, Gorin said he doesn’t see any situation in which a federal question would arise.
“It’s very strange this is happening,” he said.
Gorin said he doesn’t understand why anybody would withhold evidence and not immediately come forward with it.
The Simpson case was dubbed “the trial of the century” and broadcast live daily on television, where it riveted the nation and divided many along racial lines.
When the trial verdict was read 474 days after Simpson’s arrest, the nation came to a standstill. Teachers stopped teaching and turned on the TV so their students could witness history. His acquittal came as a shock to many.
In a 1997 wrongful-death civil suit brought by the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Goldman, Simpson was ordered to pay more than $33 million.
In 2008, Simpson began serving a prison sentence in Nevada for kidnapping, robbery, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon and other charges for trying to obtain sports memorabilia that he claimed belonged to him.
Source: LA Times