So let me start this off by doing one of the shortest film reviews in history, and laying my cards on the table. I’m going to give the docu-series 3/10. It’s not completely terrible, but most of it is unnecessary padding, and there was no reason to make it seem like Jason is the centre of their investigation just because that’s Dear’s belief. In my view, OJ was certainly at the scene of the murder, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the view of his culpability, and he most likely acted alone.
So let’s backtrack to another docu-series that was much better: OJ Made in America. Made in America is a really great multi-award winning docu-series. It gave us a whole biography of OJ’s life. It talked about facts of the case I never knew about, and wouldn’t have known about from Is OJ Innocent such as that most whites in America in 1995 believed OJ was guilty while most African Americans believed he was innocent. It explained quite well how OJ was acquitted – and that was through a very rigorous defence that exemplified all the flaws to be found in the prosecution’s case, and the police investigation. As a result of this case of course, new policies and procedures were put in place by the police to better protect their investigations and the collection of evidence. Made in America also exposes the problem with guilt or innocence being determined by juries. You can learn all of this in Made in America, but in Is OJ Innocent none of this is ever discussed.
Let’s recap. On 12 June 1994, around 2215 Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were brutally murdered. Ron was 25 years old and a 3rd degree black belt in Karate – he had put up a valiant fight. Nicole was OJ’s ex-wife, and 35 years old. The police did a thorough investigation and the forensic evidence proved that the murder was committed by OJ. OJ was acquitted, and William C Dear believes that it was OJ’s son Jason who perpetrated the murders.
Dear’s evidence, at least as presented in this docu-series, never stacked up. For that reason it was just marketing to make this about Jason Simpson, and I think it was terrible to do that. On the positive side though, the other “investigators” in the show Kris Mohandie and Derrick Levasseur did a good job of examining the evidence that Dear provided, instead of slavishly bringing Bill’s book OJ Is Innocent and I can Prove It to the screen. Based on the positive reviews for his book I honestly thought his case would have been stronger. It was a shame that the opinions of Kris and Derrick were intentionally obfuscated until the end of the series, instead of allowing for a natural flow of investigation to take place. If this were done then they could have provided more information to viewers of the hard evidence of the case, such as the shoes which barely got a mention.
Let’s go over some of Bill’s stupid claims. According to Dr Henry Lee who was a Forensic Expert for the defence in the OJ trial, there were two sets of footprints at the scene of the murder. Okay that’s his valid professional opinion, but the opinion of William J Bodziak the Forensic Expert who testified for the prosecution was that there was only one set of footprints, and they came from size-12 Bruno Magli shoes. OJ claimed he didn’t own a pair, yet his civil conviction was secured because a photograph of him wearing the shoes at a Buffalo Bills American Football game was found (later still they unearthed dozens more). Had this photograph been presented at the time of the criminal trial it’s very likely that OJ would have been convicted: According to the company only 299 pairs of that particular shoe had been sold in the US, and Simpson wore size-12 shoes of which only 9% of American men wore. In total there would have been about 27 pairs of those particular shoes in the right size in all of the USA.
This is not at all the only time the docu-series leaves us with only partial information. At one point in the series they talk to Andrea Scott, a friend of Ron’s. She says that she lent her car to Ron and that the police returned her keys caked in blood still sealed in an evidence bag. They then talk about how keys can be used as a stabbing weapon in self defence. They talk to Bill Pavelic (lead defence investigator in the criminal case) who claims that they keys were found in Ron’s hands and that the police would have tested them, and if the blood didn’t match either of the victims or OJ they would have destroyed the evidence! The big problem here though is we’re not given any hard evidence of any of this. How does Pavelic know they were found in Rons hands and not his pocket? Where are the trial notes that would demonstrate this or a photograph of them in his hands? If you have the stomach for it you can google the photos of Ron’s deceased body, and I can tell you – there are no keys visible. If they were in his pocket then it disproves the hypothesis that they were used as a self-defence weapon. Also, if they were used in that way they would have been damaged/broken, and not just caked in blood.
Bill also claims the time card evidence is dubious and wrongly identifies the first entry as Sunday 12 June 1994 when it clearly runs Monday to Sunday, not Sunday to Sunday as Bill kept claiming. You just have to look at it to know that – otherwise there’s no space for Monday on the card (the machine automatically prints each day of the week at a different level on the card). The knife Bill believes is the murder weapon is another lunacy, the experts clearly believe the primary murder weapon was a single-edged knife, and it makes no sense that the killer would use more than one knife in the attack. Especially when no murder weapon was left behind.
Bill claims that the watch Nicole was wearing at the time had stopped working. This, however, contradicts the evidence. In the series they talk to Tom Lange who was a police detective in the original investigation, and he tells them that it was operational – and this does appear in the official records/police notes that were taken. In favour of this hypothesis is that Tanya Brown (Nicole’s Sister) received the watch back “damaged”, something they learn from Bill Pavelic and later confirm by talking to Nicole. Now I’m not sure why this makes a huge difference to the case anyway, the watch displays 9:59, and the police believe the murders happened at 10:15. And again, they never actually test their hypothesis – all they had to do is buy an identical watch, put it on a dummy and let the dummy fall to the ground and see if it stops or not. I suspect it would keep working. And I suspect the reason it “didn’t work” when given to Tanya is because it had been in police evidence for months and the battery had worn out. Or that oxidisation had occurred due to moisture from the blood.
To be fair, the production company did a really good job of getting interviews with people connected to the case. Interviews that could have made for a really great series had they let these people tell their stories openly and produced and presented that instead. Don’t get me wrong, it appears they were at least mostly respectful with how they treated their guests, but they didn’t let them tell their stories! Unfortunately, Kato Kaelin (a friend of OJ and Nicole) and Fred Goldman (Ron’s father) don’t add very much to this docu-series, and that’s because their stories are not directly relevant to “examining Bill’s theory”.
Possibly the lowest moment in the series, is when Dear announces he has discovered a new eyewitness who can put Jason at the scene on the night of the murders. Interestingly this isn’t just some whack-job that the producers hired, he actually spoke to Dear as early as 2014 well before this docu-series was produced as evidenced by this facebook post. ‘My name is Michael Martin and I am the witness in this video. It has been a long journey in finding the courage to come forward to the world with all that I witnessed that night. I will now not stop until justice is given to Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. I wrote this quote during one of my many dark moments while dealing with my depression and guilt over this long held secret. “Times spent in memory of the violent acts from the past will leave a scar that is carried on by all those who were forced to endure what they should never have witnessed.” M M’ But there are problems with eyewitness statements, that this docu-series never mentions. They’re highly unreliable – they’re the least reliable form of primary evidence in a courtroom! They’re unreliable because we misremember things that have happened in the past, and we can be made to do so by events in the future. He might be remembering an entirely different night. Sunday a week earlier. If he was there the night of the murder how come he didn’t know a murder had occurred? Wouldn’t he have heard the blood-curdling screams of the murder victims? Another example of why we can’t trust eyewitness testimony is when they talk to the silent owner of Jackson’s (the restaurant where Jason worked), he identifies the top entry as Sunday 12 June 1994 (leaving nowhere for Monday’s entry). But notice that they ask him a leading question, they don’t ask where is Sunday, they tell him that line is Sunday in their question! Yet on the very same time card we see Sunday at the bottom, and clear blank lines for the days not worked (Thursday and Friday). Yet another witness is Carlos Ramos, a former worker at Jackson’s, emphatically claimed the chefs would have finished work and left by 9PM at the latest on a Sunday night, yet this claim is also clearly disproved by the time card itself as it has Sunday’s entry clearly stamped out at 10:20 PM.
Actually, strike that, the lowest moment of the entire series is when they decide to psycho-evaluate Jason Simpson based purely on his diaries that Bill has. Diaries that any decent person would return to Jason. They don’t take into account what the people who know him have to say about him (even though they talked to them in the series), it’s just one-sided and largely speculative. That was absolute trash, and I don’t think it tells us anything valuable about his character, it just unfairly defames and slanders an innocent third party for no valid reason other than to make the viewer think they really are interested in “investigating” Bill’s farcical conspiracy theory. We actually see Tanya Brown get really upset about the fact that Jason faces allegations by Bill; and they’ve clearly been less than truthful with her by not revealing the true nature of their documentary or the fact that they are working with Bill Dear. Look in the end they do exonerate Jason (well Bill doesn’t but that’s because nothing will deter his belief in his hypothesis), but not before spending five of the six episodes treating him as their prime suspect.
Where is the evidence?
I must say I was expecting Dear to present much better evidence. All of Dear’s evidence was highly speculative. For example, Dear claims that the beanie belonged to Jason because he is photographed with a similar one. The “investigators” go and ask Tom Lange why the hair in the beanie wasn’t tested for DNA and he tells them what they should already know – you can’t get DNA from hair. That was true at the time of the investigations, although you could do so now. The handwriting analysis was absolutely farcical – they looked nothing alike. And finally, the docu-series ignored most of the trial evidence, including the shoes which are really a smoking gun in this case, in my opinion.
The other thing never talked about in the entire docu-series is the issues of means, motive, and opportunity. The killer had to have all three, and with OJ as a suspect we do have all three. He was in the prime of his life – 46 years old, physically fit, well trained and strong. He was possessive and violent, and had been stalking Nicole. His whereabouts on that night provided him the opportunity to commit the crime. On the other hand while we do know Jason had an arrest or conviction for violence, we don’t have evidence brought to us by Bill that he was well trained and could have successfully won a fight against a Karate black-belt. So his means are at best plausible. He didn’t have a motive, from what we hear he loved Nicole very much and she loved him like a son. And he has a solid alibi for the whole duration of the time of the attack, so he didn’t have the opportunity. We can never say anything in life with absolute certainty, but I have to say that even if the police planted evidence (which is unlikely), the evidence of OJ’s guilt is overwhelming.