June 14, 1994 started as any other day in Los Angeles, bumper to bumper traffic, unhappy commuters and the great smell of exhaust fumes coming through my vents. Over the radio came reports of a terrible murder in the Brentwood area of the city. Apparently Nicole Brown Simpson, ex-wife of football star/actor OJ Simpson, and a friend Ron Goldman had been attacked at Mrs. Simpson’s home.
A “Dream Team” of lawyers was being assembled to defend Mr. Simpson. F. Lee Bailey, Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardasian and Ron Shiparo gathered in a secret location to keep the mob and media at bay. I was invited to attend and offer suggestions as to the tract we should take. The majority opinion was to go after the police, the handling of evidence and use Mr. Simpson’s African-American heritage to influence a sympathetic jury of his peers to return a not guilty verdict. A couple of us felt that using the race card could alienate the jurors and public at large, damaging Mr. Simpson’s earning potential if found not guilty.
The press was already announcing the members of the Dream Team to the world, even though Mr. Simpson had not yet be consulted with in regards to a defense strategy. Here is where the history of the events becomes cloudy in the minds of many of my colleagues. On August 1st, it was decided that the Dream Team would lay out their plan of action to Mr. Simpson over the course of a couple of days. I would be given one day to counter their plan and present my simplified plan of defense.
On August 5th, I met with Mr. Simpson in his Brentwood home. We met alone in his office surrounded by years of sports and entertainment memorabilia. OJ was seated behind his desk, and did not get up to greet me. Obviously, my colleagues had laid out their master strategy, and convinced OJ that our meeting was a waste of his time.
After exchanging brief greetings, OJ looked at his watch and told me I had five minutes to make my case. I know gave a smirk, an eye roll, and a shake of my head. OJ asked if there was a problem. I just smiled.
“Mr. Simpson, my associates were given five days to lay out a strategy on your defense that will destroy your reputation, marketability, race relations, and the public’s perception of the legal system for decades, and you want me to counter that in five minutes. I really don’t need that long, but I will use the time, and you will agree that mine is the best course.
“First, your guilt or innocence in not my concern; if hired, I am your advocate and will defend you to the end. My plan is simple, will provide an out that will make all parties, judge, jury, and public comfortable with the result. Your earning potential will return to its normal capacity, after a brief lull. That strategy we can discuss after the trail.
“Let me begin. You are OJ Simpson, Hall of Famer, movie star, celebrity, and most importantly a grieving father who tragically lost his wife. The public can’t believe you would murder Nicole and her friend. The jury, and most of the public, will be rooting for your acquittal.
“However, if you choose to use the ‘race card,’ put the police and the justice system on trial, you will lose the majority of the white population, sports fans, and your entertainment base. You will split the public down the middle, and if my associates’ strategy works, you will become unemployable with Hollywood, and sports media. You will have gained your freedom, but lost your livelihood. You will be a hated man, spending the remainder of your life in the shadows.
“My plan is simple. The prosecution will present days, weeks, possibly months of DNA and medical testimony. Every domestic abuse incident will be broadcast to the jury, and public, not only with Nicole, but any other women you’ve had relationships with over the years. These are things we cannot avoid. You know the evidence against you that is out there DNA and otherwise.
“Our strategy is to embrace the evidence, and use it to our advantage. Remember, the jury we select doesn’t want to convict you, all we need is one person to accept our position and you walk out a free man. I see the doubt in your eyes, but stay with me please.
“Our position and defense will be, that you were at the crime scene, you wanted to talk to Nicole about some personal business, and discovered the bodies of her and Ron Goldman. You panicked, so much blood, and you knew the history you two had had, and how the police always suspect the husband in these situations.
“You took off your glove to stroke her hair, and touched Mr. Goldman to see if he was dead. In your anger and hurt you punched the sidewalk, causing your knuckle to bleed. You hear a car approaching, get up and flee the scene, dropping you glove in your rush to leave.
“Everything else that occurred after, bloody clothes, trip to the airport, the Bronco chase, can be explained as the actions of a man who knew he was going to be the primary suspect in his ex-wife’s murder. Your actions were that of a shocked and grieving husband, and father, trying to buy some time to get his head together.
“Were you wrong? Yes. Should you have contacted the police from the crime scene? Yes. Should you have cooperated with the police and not had the car chase? Yes. But you were not yourself, you were hurt, scared and in survival mode.
“We let the prosecution present their case, agree with the majority of it, present a two, maybe three day defense, to a tired and overwhelmed jury, and give them their reasonable doubt, and out, to acquit you.
“After a couple weeks, you hit the talk show circuit; do Oprah, and rebuild your career. In just over a year you’ll be starring in another “Naked Gun” movie. In the legal system, Mr. Simpson, it’s not about the truth. Sometimes the best truth is the one we can get others to buy into. This strategy will allow you to return to your celebrity status, the other will make you a social piranha, and seen as a divisive figure.”
Simpson smiled and said, “Boy, you’re crazy, but I like it. Would I testify?”
“I’m good either way. We can see how the trial proceeds. I would just recommend that you treat your testimony as a performance, keeping your composure, and at the appropriate time, use the proper emotion, but at all times keeping yourself in check.”
“I’m sorry,” started Simpson as he got up from behind his desk, “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Firefly. Thomas R. Firefly.”
“Well Mr. Firefly, you ready to make some legal history?”
“Absolutely,” we shook hands, and I left.
The rest is history. You know, because you watched it unfold. We played Marcia Clark and company like a fiddle. Their months of testimony and DNA evidence wore down the jury, OJ’s testimony was riveting, and the performance of his life. The jury came back unanimous in our favor. There were no riots, no meltdown in racial relations, and the Justice System remained strong, just as I had predicted.
OJ waited a couple of months and hit the talk show circuit, returned to ABC and ESPN sports, started making movies, commercials, and appearances like the old days. Obviously, I made out as well, also. I became a legal talking head, author, and “personality.” The most satisfying part of the whole affair, besides the acquittal, was OJ and I partnering in a business that provided legal services at an inexpensive rate.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it, “Legal Juice.”