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Vol. 5, Iss. 11
November 9, 2016

O.J. Simpson: Running Back To Court
When Judges Must Address Simpson In Their Own Cases


On one hand, the impact of the trial in The People v. Orenthal James Simpson was quite narrow -- O.J. Simpson would not spend a lifetime behind bars for committing a double murder. But, of course, the case has been felt well-beyond the L.A. courtroom epicenter. The case raised wider issues concerning cameras in the courtroom, intense media coverage of trials, celebrity defendants, race in the judicial system (and the nation as a whole) and more. It is hard to imagine that the Simpson case has not been discussed in countless college and law school classrooms – and as part of a wide variety of topics.

These overarching impacts of the Simpson drama are well-known. Less-known is that O.J. and Co. have also played a role in other cases. In cases throughout the country, that had nothing whatsoever to do with People v. Simpson, courts have found themselves required to confront it. Consider this sample of cases where O.J. went, er, running back to court.

People v. Neal, 1997 Mich. App. LEXIS 2220 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 21, 1997): A prosecutor’s reference to Kato Kaelin, when objecting to a statement made by a witness, did not deny the defendant a fair trial. The comment did not liken the defendant to O.J. Simpson. Moreover, the appellate court pointed out that the trial judge admonished both parties for their conduct and warned them that he would not tolerate such behavior “unlike ‘Judge Ito.’”

LaMar v. Ishee, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135506 (S.D. Ohio July 30, 2010): Criminal defendant was not denied adequate voir dire by not being permitted to ask prospective jurors whether they believed O.J. Simpson to be guilty.

People v. Miller, 2007 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3422 (Cal. Ct. App. Apr. 27, 2007): A prosecutor, in an attempt to discredit a defendant’s expert witness, pointed to Simpson’s expert pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, as an example of being able to hire an expert who will say anything. The prosecutor listed some of the physical evidence in the Simpson case and pointed out that, despite it being beyond any doubt that Simpson was guilty, Baden was able to damage the State’s case. The court concluded that the reference to the Simpson case had no place in the case. However, the trial court had sustained the defendant’s objection and the defendant did not request that the jury be admonished.

United States v. Lentz, 282 F. Supp. 2d. 399 (E.D. Va. 2002): Statements by a defendant to his wife, that O.J. Simpson had the right idea and O.J. could happen again, were inadmissible in the defendant’s trial for kidnapping resulting in the death of his wife. Among other reasons, any probative value would be outweighed by prejudice to the defendant.

Caan v. United States, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6886 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 26, 1999): Taxpayers not entitled to a $400,000 casualty loss tax deduction for loss in value of their Brentwood home that was in close proximity to O.J. Simpson’s. The alleged loss was on account of “buyer resistance” in the neighborhood surrounding Simpson’s home -- and not the requisite physical injury to the taxpayer’s home to warrant a casualty loss deduction.

Smith v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 173514 (N.D.W.Va. Dec. 16, 2014): In a case involving allegations that an insurer did not adequately investigate claims of racial animus against an insured, the court considered the deposition testimony of the claims adjuster and its discussion of the Simpson case.

O.J. Simpson waked out of one courtroom 20 years ago – and, likely unbeknownst to him, has been walking into others ever since.

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