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On the night of June 12/13th 1994, we were staying with friends in the hills above Santa Monica. After supper I sat on the low stone wall behind the swimming pool and looked down over the twinkling dark bowl of West L.A. communities. Suddenly, and almost simultaneously, all the dogs in the grid-lit vista before me appeared to begin barking and howling at the same time.
A few days later, we drove down the hill and joined the Interstate 405 highway to San Diego, a stop-off before continuing on to Mexico. The television news was full of the murder on Sunday night of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Their bodies had been left in the entrance to her home in the Brentwood area, under the Santa Monica hills. On June 17th, her former husband, the American football star and actor OJ Simpson, left the home of a friend and later police saw his white Ford Bronco being driven by another friend, going north on the 405. As they approached, the driver yelled that Simpson had a gun to his own head…..what ensued has become known as “the slow chase.” By evening, Simpson had been charged, accused of the double murder of Brown and Goldman.
It was not just because I was in the area at the time of the crime that I had a particular interest in the case known as “The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson,” it was because of the evidence used to obtain an acquittal in the most publicised criminal trial in American history. My interest centred on a pair of brown leather gloves alleged to belong to OJ Simpson, and an antique wooden glove stretcher, belonging to me.
During the trial, defence attorney Johnnie Cochran goaded assistant prosecutor Christopher Darden into asking Simpson to put on the leather glove that was found at the scene of the crime. The defence team argued the glove wasn’t his size, saying “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must aquit.” The glove had been a) left outside overnight, covered in fresh blood, b) frozen for 12 months to preserve the evidence and defrosted for the demonstration. Cochran insisted that his client wear latex gloves underneath for reasons of hygiene. Simpson struggled to get the gloves on, saying, “They’re too tight.” Three weeks later, after a trial that had lasted over nine months, he was acquitted of double murder.
In his final summation to the jury, Cochran had said “You will always remember those gloves”….. “when Darden asked him to try them on and they didn’t fit. No matter what they do, they can’t make them fit.”
I have an antique wooden glove stretcher which belonged to an aunt (no self-respecting Edwardian would have been without a glove stretcher to re-form their hand-stitched white kid gloves after the gloves’ daily washing.) I still use the glove stretcher to re-shape my modern leather gloves if they become wet in rain, or if one falls as I get out of the car in the dark, to be retrieved from the gravel damp and shrunken, the next morning.
Glove stretchers were used to open up the fingers of gloves before they were put on. The stretchers are two strips of wood with rounded ends. They are hinged in the middle so that when the stretcher has been put into the glove-finger it can be opened up, stretching the finger out.
I know therefore that a leather glove which got wet and has dried, will not fit even the hand to which it has moulded through wear, unless it is stretched; most efficiently on a instrument specifically designed for this purpose. If the prosecuting counsel, the Judge and the jury in the OJ Simpson case had also known this, might it have changed the course of American legal history?