Skip to content

Nelson Agholor sexual assault investigation sent to Philadelphia D.A.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 16: Nelson Agholor #17 of the Philadelphia Eagles catches the ball and then runs past Deveron Carr #38 of the Indianapolis Colts on August 16, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Eagles defeated the Colts 36-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor became the subject of a sexual assault investigation in Philadelphia earlier this month after a dancer at a strip club accused him of raping her and Agholor’s attorney quickly issued a statement proclaiming confidence that his client would not be charged with a crime.

That decision is now in the hands of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams’ office. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross told Philadelphia Magazine on Thursday night that their investigative work has been sent to the D.A. for review before a decision is made about charges. The D.A.’s office had no comment.

“We’ve been in touch with the investigators, but I can’t comment on the progress of the investigation,” Agholor’s attorney Fortunato “Fred” Perri said. “It’s always difficult when something like this happens. [Agholor] has been staying close with his family and doing the best he possibly can.”

Reports at the time of the allegation against Agholor had him and the dancer in a dispute over money before the allegation was leveled. Agholor’s teammates Connor Barwin and Fletcher Cox were allegedly with him at the strip club on the day in question and both issued statements saying they had no knowledge of anything that might have transpired.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

NFL, Jaguars, Dolphins and Buccaneers donate $400K to OneOrlando Fund

HONG KONG - JUNE 13:  A man holds up a 'we stand together with Orlando' poster as people take part in a candlelight vigil for the victims of a shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 13, 2016 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. The vigil is put together by Betty Grisoni   co-director of Pink Dot and co-founder of local lesbian group Les Peches   with Double Happiness, Les Peches, Out in HK and Pink Alliance joining in as supporting organisations.  (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL and the three teams located in Florida have announced a donation to the OneOrlando Fund established to support the survivors and families of those who died in the attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12.

The league, the Dolphins, the Jaguars and the Buccaneers made a joint announcement of a $400,000 donation to the fund created by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Dyer said the donation shows that “we are not in this alone” and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league “will continue to look for ways to lend our support” to the community.

“In the face of this tragedy, the Jaguars stand in solidarity with the citizens of Central Florida,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement. “In addition to our team contribution, our fans are also supporting our Central Florida neighbors by donating at http://www.jaguars.com/jaxfororlando. Along with the NFL and our fellow Florida teams, the entire Jaguars family offers our condolences and continued support for the city of Orlando.”

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and a spokesman for the Glazer family offered similar sentiments in their own statements while Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has joined former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and others in spending time with survivors of the attack in recent days.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Muhammad Wilkerson is running as broken leg rehab continues

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 13: Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets celebrates after sacking quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth quarter during a game at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Steelers defeated the Jets 19-6. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson hasn’t signed his franchise tender or a long-term deal with the team, leaving him unwilling to say whether he’ll report to training camp on time next month.

If he does decide to show up, it doesn’t look like the broken leg that he suffered in the final week of the 2015 season will stop him from doing too much. Wilkerson posted a video of himself running on Instagram Friday that showed no signs of limitations as a result of the injury.

While the leg injury was a serious one, there hasn’t been a sense that questions about his ability to return from the injury have been the stumbling block in any contract talks with the Jets. The bigger issue appears to be the Jets’ feeling that the presence of Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams on the defensive line makes signing Wilkerson to a huge contract less of a necessity than it might be under other circumstances.

There’s still time before July 15 for the two sides to come together, but the way things have played out the last few months makes it seem like a better bet that Wilkerson is doing his running in a different uniform come 2017.

Permalink 11 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Dorial Green-Beckham more confident, comfortable in second season

Dorial Green-Beckham, Harry Douglas AP

Seven receivers came off the board before the Titans selected Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round of the 2015 draft and only one of them had more catches, yards and touchdowns during their rookie seasons.

That didn’t stop Titans coach Mike Mularkey from saying that he wants more from the team’s receiving corps this season and it didn’t stop the team from bumping rookie Tajae Sharpe ahead of Green-Beckham on the depth chart during offseason work. Pushing Green-Beckham may have been part of that alignment as Mularkey said he wants more consistency from Green-Beckham, who says he finished OTAs feeling “more comfortable” in the offense.

“I had a good offseason,” Green-Beckham said, via the team’s website. “I had a hamstring problem that set me back early, but other than that I have been taking care of myself, learning the playbook, and have done my best to play fast. My confidence is up there. But I know these next 5-6 weeks I am going to have to keep busting my tail and get in the playbook and stay motivated.”

Green-Beckham didn’t play at all while spending the 2014 season at Oklahoma, so it had been a while since he was on the field when he joined the Titans. If things continue to come together for him in training camp, it could lead to another shuffling of the depth chart and the emergence of a wideout who can help the Titans do some shuffling in the standings as well.

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Joe Cullen isn’t happy with the Gerald McCoy report

82883376_crop_north Getty Images

Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy laughed off a report that he didn’t work hard enough in coach Lovie Smith’s defense. Former Buccaneers defensive line coach Joe Cullen had a much less jovial reaction.

Cullen, best known in league circles for a clothing-optional trip to the Wendy’s drive-through, strongly disputed the report in comments to PewterReport.com.

You tell him to tell his source to put his name on it,” Cullen said. “That is total BS. Gerald worked his ass off. I’ve coached some good ones around the league but no one worked harder than Gerald. He was limited at times because of injury but no one in that building worked harder. You can put MY name on that as a source. Total BS. Tell that guy he can call me.”

Cullen’s reaction serves only to underscore the possibility that someone said something about McCoy to Vaughn McClure in the hopes that it would get back to McCoy and, in turn, that it would coax an even higher level of performance out of him moving forward.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Steelers cut veteran kicker Shaun Suisham

Shaun Suisham AP

Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham admitted recently he wasn’t ready to kick.

The Steelers decided Friday to not wait for him.

The team announced they were releasing Suisham with a failed physical designation, and signing running back Brandon Johnson to fill the roster spot.

“Unfortunately Shaun incurred a setback in his recovery from knee surgery that won’t allow him to compete in a timely manner,” Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “Shaun has played a significant role in our success during his time in Pittsburgh. He has been the consummate professional on the field and in our community. We wish he and his family all the best in the future.”

Suisham tore his ACL last year in the preseason, and wasn’t sure he was going to be able to kick when training camp opened. Now, he’s going to have to get himself well on his own, and look for another job.

The Steelers now turn to Chris Boswell, who kicked reasonably well for them after they signed him last October.

Permalink 13 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

No progress seen on the Kirk Cousins contract front

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins looks for an open receiver against the Dallas Cowboys during the first quarter at AT&T Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Expect Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to play this season on his one-year guaranteed salary of $19.95 million.

That’s the word from Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, who reports that both sides assume they’re stuck on the one-year deal for 2016 and will have to reassess in 2017. Breer describes contract talks as “going nowhere.”

If Cousins were to get franchised again next season, he’d be guaranteed at least $23.94 million for 2017. And if he doesn’t get franchised again next season, he’s a free agent who can shop his services to any team. So unless the team is willing to guarantee him more than $44 million over the first two years of any long-term deal, there’s no reason for Cousins to sign.

And from all indications, Washington isn’t ready to commit that kind of money to Cousins, who played very well over the second half of last season but still isn’t very experienced.

If Cousins has a big season in 2016, Washington is going to have to pay him a fortune in 2017, either on the franchise tag or on a long-term deal. (And the quarterback market will only grow, as Andrew Luck and the Colts may agree on the biggest contract in NFL history within the next month.) So Cousins would be in a very good negotiating position if he plays in 2016 like he played over the second half of 2015.

But for Washington, that would be a good problem to have: If Cousins proves himself as a franchise quarterback this year, Dan Snyder will happily pay him a fortune. That just isn’t going to happen this year.

Permalink 28 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Carlos Hyde: Players buying into Chip Kelly’s offensive system

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 04:  Carlos Hyde #28 of the San Francisco 49ers in action against the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Things didn’t end well for Chip Kelly with the Eagles, but they appear to be off to a good start with the 49ers.

Kelly and the 49ers have wrapped up an offseason spent installing his offensive scheme and one of the players who figures to fill a major role on the unit says that he and his teammates have jumped on board. Running back Carlos Hyde has previously talked about his personal excitement about what Kelly does on offense and says that he thinks his teammates are feeling the same way after a couple of months working in the new system.

“It’s been great having Coach Kelly there,” Hyde said on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Bruce Murray and Maurice Jones-Drew. “I feel like the team has bought into his system. Even though it’s new to most guys, I’m kind of familiar with the system from college. But I definitely feel like everybody has bought into the system and guys are just really looking forward this season. Guys are really looking forward to making a name for themselves.”

Hyde should get every opportunity to do that in an offense that has generally given plenty of work to the No. 1 running back and Kelly’s said he plans to have Hyde more involved in the passing game than he has been over the last two seasons. How things will play out at other positions is less clear, but success for Hyde would be a good building block for the entire offense this season.

Permalink 30 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Marvin Lewis likes to keep things in-house for continuity

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 6: Head coach Marvin Lewis looks on while playing the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Bengals won the game 37-3. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has run a successful program, which means he’s had to replace assistants who earn promotions.

So when offensive coordinator Hue Jackson got the Browns head coaching job this offseason, he stayed in-house for a replacement, moving quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese up a chair.

It’s the same way he replaced promoted coordinators Mike Zimmer (with Paul Guenther) and Jay Gruden (with Jackson) last offseason, and there’s a reason he prefers to do it that way.

I didn’t want to start over again, where we’re teaching a new coach, or teaching a new offense,” Lewis said, via Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. “Hue was here as part of the offense when he became the coordinator so the transition was fairly smooth. This will be a smooth transition in terms of nomenclature and verbiage, which is important for our players to not have to take a step sideways. That way, we can continue to forge forward.”

While it’s a bit of a concern any time a staff loses human talent, Lewis hopes that the overall plan he’s built in Cincinnati will help them adjust. He cited lessons he learned from Tony Dungy, when he was an assistant with aspirations.

“Sometimes, the guys just have to make a tackle,” Lewis said. “Tony Dungy told me that back in the spring of 1997, that was my first year as the coordinator in Baltimore. ‘Marvin, sometimes, they just have to make a tackle, whether it’s second-and-3 or first-and-10.’ You can’t worry about all the what-ifs. You gotta have a sound system, you have to believe in your system, and then the players gotta go play.

“I think that’s the thing as a playcaller. You gotta put a great plan together, and we know we’re gonna be sound with it, and then we gotta let the players go play.”

So while there’s pressure on Zampese to keep the Bengals offense going this year, after losing a pair of very good wide receivers in free agency, there’s also enough structure in place to support him. And they still have an impressive base of talent on that side of the ball, which creates not only an opportunity on the field for the team, but for Zampese’s career as well.

Permalink 15 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Friday morning one-liners

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 28: Ryan Kalil #67 of the Carolina Panthers walks off the field after beating the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 28, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

WR Terrell Owens didn’t play for the Bills too long, but was back in Buffalo for a high school graduation Thursday.

A look back at when John Bosa played for the Dolphins and was the highest draft pick in his family.

The Patriots like cornerbacks who can contribute on special teams.

Jets rookie LB Jordan Jenkins is trying for a starting role.

The Ravens like what they’ve seen from CB Jerraud Powers this offseason.

Will the Bengals make any other veteran additions?

Joe Kim has returned to teach Browns players martial arts.

Any Steelers hopes for success in 2016 start with staying healthy.

The Texans hope to see continued development from DT Christian Covington.

Colts scouts share some of their thoughts on rookie T Le’Raven Clark.

What did the Jaguars learn about themselves this offseason?

Former Titans OL Fred Miller’s son committed to Vanderbilt, where former Titans RB Eddie George’s son also plays.

Dennis Smith checks in on the list of the best Broncos safeties.

Breaking down RB Spencer Ware’s fit on the 2016 Chiefs.

Raiders TE Colton Underwood is involved in the fight against cystic fibrosis.

Another proposal for a Chargers stadium has surfaced.

DL Cedric Thornton explains why he signed with the Cowboys.

Breaking down the Giants safeties.

Chris Pantale could be the Eagles’ choice at fullback.

Doug Williams likes the receiver group the Redskins have put together.

Former Bears offered some advice to the team’s rookies about transitioning to the pros.

Graham Glasgow is in the mix for the Lions’ center job.

A call for the Packers to retire Paul Hornung’s number.

A home in Houston owned by Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is on the market for $8.5 million.

What do the Falcons have at tight end?

Panthers C Ryan Kalil and former teammates Jordan Gross and Geoff Hangartner have teamed up to write a book about life as a rookie in the NFL.

A look back at when Bum Phillips roamed the sidelines for the Saints.

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston visited survivors of the attack in Orlando.

Where do things stand with the Cardinals defense after offseason work?

The Rams don’t want to be overly reliant on RB Todd Gurley.

A few notes about the 49ers special teams units.

The Seahawks haven’t settled on a strong-side linebacker yet.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Falcons officials “pretty confident” stadium construction on target

Rich McKay AP

The Falcons gave reproters a tour of their new construction site yesterday, and were confident their new stadium would be complete well before the start of the 2017 season.

According to Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Falcons president Rich McKay said they were “pretty confident” that Mercedes-Benz Stadium would be finished by the June 1, 2017 target date.

“June 1 is a good date for us,” McKay said. “We’re working pretty confidently towards that date, and we feel very good about it. I would say that we’ve really picked up the pace on steel. You see the steel going up. We’re in a pretty good place.”

The original target date was March 1, 2017, but that was pushed back because of issues with the steel structures that will support the retractable roof and the video boards.

The hope is that owner Arthur Blank’s MLS team, Atlanta United, will be able to open the building. But McKay hinted at some other options as well.

“I’m not sure we know yet,” McKay said. “There is a very good chance Atlanta United opens the stadium and has the first event. That’s probably what we think at this point in time. But, . . . there are a couple of out-of-the-box ideas that have been brought to us that are really cool and would be neat for Atlanta and for a world-wide stage. “

But he was more certain that none of the delays would impact the Falcons, saying: “No, I do not.”

Getting the stadium was a key move for Blank and the Falcons, if only because it gave them the hook they needed for a Super Bowl bid.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Texans pouring resources into sports science department

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 03: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans warms up before playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 3, 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Houston Texans are attempting to create an edge off the field with the addition of a sports science department, which General Manager Rick Smith started this offseason. But if you want to know exactly what a sports science department does, Smith won’t tell you.

“It is new and it’s emerging,” Smith told ESPN. “And the fact that we have spent a considerable amount of time, effort, energy and resources on it, yeah, some of it is proprietary. . . . I’m not interested necessarily in letting everybody know all the stuff that we’re doing. So beyond that I’m not going to get into real detail about what we’re doing.”

Texans players wear a tracker around their chests while they practice, allowing the team to track data, although the team declines to say which data is tracked. The Texans are also taking a more scientific approach to monitoring players’ nutrition and sleep patterns.

Many coaches and teams across the NFL are leaning more on sports science departments to provide them with information. Some players, however, are skeptical.

“I think it helps for sure, but I’m from the country,” Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “Just go out there and play football.”

Permalink 25 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Vikings win legal battle over Wells Fargo signage near new stadium

judges-gavel-pic-getty-536231333 Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings sold naming rights to their new stadium to U.S. Bank. So naturally it became problematic for the Vikings when Wells Fargo erected large signs near the new stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

According to Rochelle Olson of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a U.S. District Judge ruled Thursday in favor of the Vikings in a lawsuit alleging a breach of contract by Wells Fargo over a pair of signs erected atop office towers near the downtown Minneapolis stadium.

Judge Donovan Frank ruled that Wells Fargo had violated a contract between the bank and the Vikings over the nature of the signs that could be placed atop their buildings. The contract prohibited signage on the building from being elevated and/or lighted. Wells Fargo did both. The result was a judgment in favor of the Vikings that required the removal of the signs – which cost Wells Fargo close to half a million dollars – and for the payment of the team’s legal fees.

Wells Fargo can still utilize painted signs, but the mounted and lighted options are firmly barred.

Permalink 37 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Aldon Smith to be arraigned Friday on probation violation

Aldon Smith, Gatorade AP

Suspended Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith is due in court Friday for two matters, one being an arraignment on a probation violation, CSNBayArea.com reported Thursday.

The report did not state the origin or exact nature of the probation violation. The arraignment was listed in the Santa Clara County criminal case index, the report said.

Smith is also set Friday to argue a motion to suppress evidence relating to misdemeanor charges of DUI with a prior conviction, hit and run and vandalism. Those charges are related to the Aug. 2015 incident that led to the 49ers releasing Smith. That was Smith’s fifth arrest since 2012, and that incident led to his current one-year suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

He also served a nine-game NFL suspension in 2014 and would potentially be subject to discipline by the league relating to further legal issues. Smith played nine games for the Raiders last season and had 3.5 sacks before getting a calendar year suspension.

Smith has 47.5 career sacks. He’ll turn 27 in September and can apply for reinstatement in November. The Raiders signed him to a two-year contract that includes no guarantees in April.

Permalink 15 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

10 takeaways from the O.J. Simpson documentary

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 8:  O.J. Simpson (L), Johnnie Cochran Jr. (C) and Robert Shapiro (R) watch the jury come into the courtroom 08 May during the O.J. Simpson murder trial in Los Angeles.  The trial is in the DNA testimony phase by expert Dr. Robin Cotton.             AFP PHOTO  (Photo credit should read RICK MEYER/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last weekend, I watched all five parts of ESPN’s O.J. Simpson documentary. Even with high expectations arising from the widespread praise the documentary received, it was riveting.

In 1994 and 1995, after the murders occurred and the trial unfolded, I didn’t understand why things happened they way they did, either because I wasn’t able or inclined to pay extremely close attention to the case or because I hadn’t been practicing law long enough to understand how everything pieced together. Now, seven years after wrapping up an 18-year law practice (yeah, I’m old), I’ve got a much better understanding of how it all fits together, and why the Pro Football Hall of Famer walked away from life behind bars.

So in this sort-of-off-topic post, I’ll share 10 things that became clear to me after reliving in two days a case that was a major part of American life for the better part of two years.

1. He did it.

Part Four of the documentary includes a pair of crime-scene photos that on one hand I wish I’d never seen but on the other hand I’m glad I did.

The image of the damage the killer did to the throat and neck of Nicole Brown Simpson tells me everything I need to know about this case: Simpson did it, clearly, unequivocally, and beyond any plausible or implausible doubt.

The deep, gaping wound that nearly decapitated Nicole Brown Simpson reveals a level of raw passion and emotion that rarely if ever is mustered against a stranger. It was extreme overkill, committed either by someone with mental faculties sufficiently warped that it should have been easy to catch the killer or by someone who personally knew Nicole Brown Simpson and harbored a torrent of emotions that, in the wrong place at the wrong time, manifested themselves in the worst way possible.

In this case, it was both. Simpson had the requisite passion for the victim and, in that moment, the necessary lack of sanity to do what he clearly, undoubtedly did.

2. The Rodney King case contributed directly to the outcome.

The brutal beating of Rodney King, an African-American man, by L.A. police officers in 1991, and their subsequent acquittal by an all-white jury in California state court, influenced the Simpson case in a significant way. District Attorney Gil Garcetti opted to try the Simpson case in a portion of the county that would ensure a more diverse jury. Without the King case, a decision to nudge the case toward a much whiter jury pool may have been made.

The King case also ensured that the predominantly African-American jury in Simpson’s case would be receptive to evidence of potential police misconduct. There indeed was plenty of evidence of potential police misconduct — including the one piece of evidence that, as explained below, ensured an acquittal.

3. The prosecution was outworked.

Great lawyers excel before a judge and a jury. Most cases are won (or lost), however, by the effort expended (or not) away from the courtroom.

Trial work is exhilarating. When court is in session, the trial lawyer serves as the producer, director, writer, and lead actor in a play that unfolds simultaneously with another play aimed at sending a directly conflicting message to the same audience. Throughout the process, the scripts are being constantly rewritten on the fly, with much of the dialogue becoming improvisation.

For most lawyers, the ability to thrive in those moments comes from a willingness to put in hours and hours and hours (and hours) of preparation. Lawyers must have a full mastery of the entire universe of evidence that could be introduced, along with a specific plan for dealing with any evidence that cuts against their preferred message to the jury. Before trial begins, lawyers must think creatively about every possible avenue that the opponent may explore when searching for facts that would support its own message. At trial, lawyers must be ready to act immediately if the case heads down any of the various possible paths that could emerge.

In the Simpson case, the best example of this dynamic came from Barry Scheck’s extensive cross-examination of LAPD criminologist Dennis Fung. Simpson’s lawyers studied hours of tedious, boring video of Fung and his colleagues collecting evidence. Someone eventually spotted an image of Fung picking up a bloody envelope from the crime scene with his bare hands.

The prosecution clearly hadn’t seen it before trial, because Scheck was able not only to point out the flaw in Fung’s procedures but also to set Fung up for the dramatic moment when the video was played, getting him to testify in advance that he didn’t touch the envelope without a glove on his hand.

How about that, Mr. Fung?” Scheck said when the image of Fung grabbing the envelope without a glove on his hand was displayed, before being nudged by Judge Lance Ito into expanding the statement into an actual question. It was the kind of moment that gets tattooed onto the brains of jurors.

Likewise, Simpson’s lawyers compared the photo of a drop of blood collected from a gate at the crime scene three weeks after the murders to a photo of the same gate taken closer in time to the murders. In the earlier photo, there was no blood on the gate, creating suspicion that blood had been added to the gate later, to enhance the case.

Simpson’s lawyers could have found those two photos only be scouring hundreds of images, reviewing each of them carefully and meticulously.

These are just two examples of specific wrinkles in the evidence that Simpson’s lawyers discovered and then devised a way to use. The prosecution either didn’t know about these nuances or wasn’t sufficiently worried about them to have a convincing rebuttal ready to unleash, if needed.

It’s no surprise. For starters, prosecutors don’t get paid by the hour. They’re on salary, so there’s zero financial incentive to grind and grind and grind some more. Likewise, prosecutors are accustomed to running roughshod over court-appointed defense lawyers lacking the ability or the work ethic to do what Simpson’s lawyers did.

Perhaps most importantly, the prosecutors were so confident in the strength of the overall evidence that they believed they didn’t need to spend the time necessary to ensure that Simpson’s team of brilliant, high-priced defense lawyers wouldn’t piece together, methodically but inevitably, enough moments of doubt to create the kind of “reasonable doubt” that circumvents a conviction.

4. Mark Fuhrman wasn’t properly grilled during pre-trial meetings.

Trial preparation consists of more than methodically searching for needles in the opponent’s haystacks. It also requires taking the time to search for potential land mines in your own backyard.

Mark Fuhrman had plenty of them. And the prosecution had reason to know about all of them. However, the prosecution failed to find the worst of them.

Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, acting on a tip from his former law professor and Simpson defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz, found the first one. Fuhrman had filed a claim for an early pension from the LAPD based on the notion that the impact of the job had caused him to harbor horribly racist thoughts and attitudes. Toobin’s work culminated in a July 1994 article in The New Yorker outlining the defense team’s plans to paint Fuhrman as sufficiently motivated by race to plant one of two bloody gloves from the crime scene at Simpson’s house.

Amazingly, one of Simpson’s attorneys admitted that the defense team was developing this theory, barely a month after Simpson was arrested and six months before the trial began.

“Suppose he’s actually found two gloves at the murder scene,” the attorney told Toobin. “He transports one of them over to the house and then ‘finds’ it back in that little alleyway where no one can see him.”

It was a Babe Ruth gesture to the centerfield wall by Simpson’s lawyers. In response, the prosecution grooved a fastball through the middle of the strike zone and stood back to watch what would happen.

Here’s what should have happened. As soon as Toobin’s article was published, Garcetti, Marcia Clark, and the rest of the prosecution’s team of lawyers should have summoned Fuhrman for an extended meeting during which Fuhrman would have been pressed aggressively to disclose anything and everything that he has said and/or done that ever could have been characterized as reflecting a racial bias. If done properly, this effort would have resulted in the prosecution knowing about the horribly over-the-top racial remarks made on tape recordings created during Fuhrman’s meetings with a screenwriter.

Instead, the prosecution simply didn’t know about the tapes. Garcetti said so when asked at a press conference about evidence that turned the trial upside down.

“We were not aware of the tapes,” Garcetti said. Asked if Fuhrman should have told prosecutors about the tapes, Garcetti replied, “We were not aware of the tapes.”

Garcetti presumably evaded the question of whether Fuhrman should have told them about the tapes because Garcetti knew that someone would have argued that the prosecutors should have asked Fuhrman the type of questions that would have caused Fuhrman to admit to their existence.

Marcia Clark can blame Fuhrman all she wants for the existence of the tapes, but she should have been aware of them. As the lead prosecutor on the case, Clark should have done everything possible to learn about every shed of evidence that could have supported the obvious plan to create reasonable doubt by suggesting that Fuhrman’s racial biased caused him to try to frame Simpson.

Being aware of the tapes may not have changed the outcome of the case. But the prosecution definitely would have been able to avoid what ultimately became the one specific moment where the case was conclusively lost.

5. Fuhrman’s Fifth Amendment debacle sealed the case.

With F. Lee Bailey masterfully pinning Fuhrman down to a claim that he hadn’t referred to any African-American with the worst racial epithet in the English language, the door was open for Fuhrman’s denial to be contradicted by evidence that he had used the term. Originally, the plan was to have other witnesses testify that Fuhrman used the word. Then came the tapes, and Mark Fuhrman was contradicted by Mark Fuhrman himself.

The defense team then brought Fuhrman back, ready to confront him with the information contained on the tapes. Fearful of a perjury charge, Fuhrman promptly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and declined to answer. It quickly became apparent that Fuhrman would invoke the Fifth Amendment in response to any and all questions. as a result, Fuhrman was asked the one question that, as a practical matter, ensured an acquittal.

“Did you plant or manufacture any evidence in this case?” Fuhrman was asked.

“I assert my Fifth Amendment privilege,” Fuhrman said.

With Simpson’s lawyers required only to prove reasonable doubt, Fuhrman’s refusal to answer the question of whether he planted evidence was all the jury needed to set Simpson free. While it’s possible, as suggested during the documentary, that Fuhrman framed a guilty man, that would have been a very difficult argument for the prosecution to sell.

6. The prosecution lacked anyone who could truly talk to the jury.

The argument that Fuhrman had framed a guilty man may have been easier to sell if the prosecution had at its disposal a lawyer with the ability to talk frankly and persuasively to a jury of non-lawyers. Johnnie Cochran possessed that skill. Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden, nor anyone else representing the State of California could match it.

During the trial, Clark consistently came off as strident, aloof, irritated, and lacking in self-awareness. (She had a much more pleasant demeanor when speaking on camera during the documentary, even though she was inclined to blame everyone but herself for the outcome of the case.) Darden, an African-American who curiously showed up only after a jury consisting primarily of African-Americans was selected, badly wanted, as explained during the documentary, to “out-Johnnie Johnnie.” Darden simply didn’t have the chops to do it.

The only person who may have been able to deliver a conviction would have been Cochran himself, since he probably would have been able to sell to this specific jury the very simple notion that a killer shouldn’t walk away because, as Cochran may have said, “A bad cop tried to trump up a good case.”

7. Judge Ito was trying to make the conviction “appeal proof.”

Plenty of questions have been raised about the decisions of the presiding judge to allow the Fuhrman tapes into evidence and to exclude information regarding Simpson’s clearly incriminating slow-speed getaway. Ito made those decisions, presumably, for one reason: To seal off potential avenues for reversing a conviction of O.J. Simpson on appeal.

The evidence of Simpson’s guilt seemed to be overwhelming. In cases like these, a decision by the judge to make every key evidentiary ruling in the defendant’s favor leaves the defendant with no viable basis for getting a guilty verdict thrown out later by a higher court.

The problem in this specific case is that Ito’s rulings opened the door for an acquittal, with a man who committed two brutal murders eventually set free.

8. Cochran’s closing argument was over the top — like many closing arguments are.

The documentary included some strong opinions about Johnnie Cochran’s closing argument, which contained at one point a comparison of Mark Furhman to Adolf Hitler.

It was over the top, they said. It was unethical, they suggested.

That’s fine, but the prosecution at no point objected to Cochran’s tactics. So they can’t credibly complain now if they weren’t willing to fight Cochran in the moment.

An objection wasn’t made at the time because the prosecution surely realized that attorneys are given very broad discretion when making closing arguments. A decision by Judge Ito to overrule an objection to this specific aspect Cochran’s closing would have only emphasized the point he was making — and it would have given Cochran one final victory just before the jurors retired to deliberate.

9. The system works (sort of), if you have money.

The American system of criminal justice stacks the deck in favor of the defendant, in order to ensure that innocent people don’t get wrongfully imprisoned. This makes it easier for the guilty to avoid responsibility — if, of course, they have the money to purchase the kind of legal representation that takes full advantage of the various aspects of the system that can deliver freedom to those who don’t deserve it.

Simpson had the money to afford $50,000 per week in fees. He was already loaded, and many learned for the first time through the documentary that Simpson generated roughly $3 million more while signing autographs in jail during the trial.

Most criminal defendants don’t have the resources to mount an effective defense, and few if any have the ability to make money for legal fees while being held without bail. As a result, plenty of innocent people end up being convicted because their court-appointed lawyers lack the skill or the motivation (or both) to fight for a verdict of not guilty.

10. Fred Goldman is the reason O.J. Simpson is behind bars today.

The families of the victims brought a wrongful death civil lawsuit brought against Simpson. Ron Goldman’s father, Fred, pushed it aggressively, resulting in a staggering $33 million verdict after that jury determined, under a much lower standard of proof and with Simpson unable to avoid testifying (where he was caught in numerous lies), that Simpson committed the murders. Fred Goldman then made it his mission to get every last cent out of Simpson, which prompted Simpson to do everything he could to protect his property, wherever it may have been.

This eventually included an effort to recover in Las Vegas memorabilia that had been stolen from him. With the grace of the Keystone Cops and the cognitive skills of Lou Costello, Simpson arranged an armed heist that was sufficiently clumsy to allow the powers-that-be in Nevada to put Simpson where he already should have been — behind bars, for a long time.

Absent the commitment with which Fred Goldman pursued Simpson, Simpson may never have been in the position to act so brazenly, desperately, and recklessly. Few fathers have worked more diligently to honor the memory of their sons, and anyone who believes in true justice should be grateful to Fred Goldman for applying the same kind of zeal used by Simpson’s lawyers to secure his freedom 20 years ago to push him until he squandered it.

Permalink 87 Comments Feed for comments Back to top