A version of this article originally appeared on ATL Redline
Okay: let’s start with a brief review of “double jeopardy.” Double jeopardy refers to our prohibition against trying people twice for the same crime. It arises from the Fifth Amendment. The text reads, “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”
No matter what happens with the alleged O.J. Simpson murder knife, O.J. cannot be re-tried for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson or Ron Goldman. Period.
This is suddenly very relevant, because as you may have heard, a retired police office apparently obtained a knife from O.J. Simpson’s former property, after the property had been demolished. Recently—and we still don’t know when—the officer tried to get the knife engraved with the O.J. Simpson case number, because this is how the LAPD apparently thinks about things.
The retired officer didn’t recover the knife personally. He obtained it…somehow…from someone…and kept it for some time until he wanted it engraved. Now, the LAPD has it.
Now let’s have a brief review of “chain of custody.” Chain of custody refers to documentation of the “seizure, custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical evidence.” If the police can’t establish that evidence has been under the proper control and care from the time it was recovered to the time it is offered as evidence, it cannot be used in a criminal trial. A trial which, of course, can’t happen, because of double jeopardy.
This entire OJ saga is now in M. Night Shyamalan territory. It’s not evidence, it’s a twist.
The LAPD blows it…again
All these years later, the LAPD remains, almost comically, inept. As I was typing this, the LAPD was giving a press conference about the discovery of a knife that conveyed absolutely no relevant information about the knife. The police spokesperson can’t describe the knife, can’t tell if this is evidence or not, doesn’t know if the story is a hoax, and hasn’t done any analysis on the knife to show if it has any relevant DNA evidence. He even incorrectly called the case “the O.J. Simpson case,” before correcting himself to say “the Nicole Brown…uhh…case.”
Why, oh why, are they having a press conference? The spokesperson had such nuggets as, “I’m not a lawyer, but as a police officer I understand that in this situation double jeopardy would have attached.” And, “If you think you are the person who recovered this knife, we’d like to talk to you.” Frank Drebin would be conducting a more professional investigation of his old friend, Nordberg, than this farce.
As watchers of The People v. O.J. Simpson already know, while we might all think that O.J. Simpson did it, the rank incompetence of the LAPD provided ample reasonable doubt. Even now, 20 years later, the LAPD cannot figure out how to build a case against this man.
To sum up: they just had a press conference about evidence before they could even establish it as evidence, against a man that they can no longer convict. At this point, Ron Goldman’s family murdering O.J. in his jail cell would feel more like “justice” than anything coming from Los Angeles cops.
Stay tuned for more developments.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Avvo.
Image courtesy of chicagotribune.com