June 12, 1999
Mark Fuhrmanís continuing false and misleading statements
Copyright © 1999 by Dan E. Moldea
Today is the fifth anniversary of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman.
I am the co-author of Evidence Dismissed: The Inside Story of the Police Investigation of O.J. Simpson, with LAPD Detectives Tom Lange and Philip Vannatter. (See: Chapter One.)
Last night, on Larry King Live, Mark Fuhrman made a series of false and misleading charges against my co-authors, which originally appeared in Fuhrman's book, Murder in Brentwood.
In response, I reprint my March 25, 1997, letter to Charles McGrath of the New York Times Book Review, regarding its review of Fuhrmanís book in which these charges were addressed. Not surprisingly, the Times refused to publish my defense of my partners.
Charles McGrath, Editor
New York Times Book Review
229 West 43rd Street
New York, New York 10036
Along with nearly everyone else in the media who is still writing about the O.J. Simpson case, Craig Wolff, in his March 23 review of Murder in Brentwood, makes much of former LAPD junior detective Mark Fuhrman's alleged discovery of a bloody fingerprint at the scene of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. As Wolff points out, Fuhrman referred to this supposed evidence in his crime-scene notes.
However, the issue should not be whether Fuhrman believes he saw a bloody fingerprint. The real question is whether this bloody fingerprint ever existed at all.
In his review, Wolff never mentions that Fuhrman, who is currently in the midst of three-years' probation for perjury, made several major mistakes in his crime-scene notes. In fact, the false claim of a bloody fingerprint was just one of the errors Fuhrman made.
For instance, Fuhrman wrongly speculated in his official notes that the two stabbed and slashed victims might have really died from gunshot wounds, and that their killer had possibly been bitten by a dog. Fuhrman also erroneously reported that a menu from a nearby Thai restaurant found under Brown's leg had come from a local pizzeria, and that a simple knit cap next to Goldman's body was a ski mask.
Along with the claim of a bloody fingerprint, all five of Fuhrman's independent observations were wrong. And, incredibly, they were the only new contributions Fuhrman had made to what was already known about this crime scene. Everything else in Fuhrman's notes had earlier been reported by other police officers who had logged in during the two-hour period before Fuhrman arrived.
As a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Wolff should have at least voiced some skepticism about Fuhrman's identification of a bloody fingerprint, considering the other mistakes in the detective's official crime-scene notes. Instead, Wolff embraces Fuhrman's far-fetched story, concealing Fuhrman's errors while touting "Mr. Fuhrman's allegiance to an unemotional step-by-step chronology . . . [that] returns the case to ground zero."
Assuming for a moment that Fuhrman did discover an actual bloody fingerprint, he would have been required, even as a junior investigator on the case, to protect such crucial evidence. But, by his own admission, he did nothing to secure it. He just walked away without even assigning a police officer to guard the area where he had supposedly made this discovery.
More importantly, Fuhrman had a responsibility to flag this alleged evidence, verbally, to a superior. Neither Fuhrman nor his partner, Brad Roberts--who has suddenly corroborated his old friend's discovery in the midst of Fuhrman's book-promotion tour--said anything to their supervisor, Detective Ronald Phillips, about finding a bloody fingerprint. And they certainly did not discuss this matter with the lead detectives, Tom Lange and Philip Vannatter, who arrived at the crime scene two hours after Fuhrman. If this evidence ever did exist, both Fuhrman and Roberts were negligent, at best, for not immediately telling the senior detectives what they had found.
On the morning after the murders, Phillips guided both Lange and Vannatter through their separate and routine "walkthroughs" of the crime scene--during which all of the known evidence was pointed out and described. But Phillips said nothing about an alleged bloody fingerprint--because he was unaware of it. Instead, Fuhrman--who spent the next two hours with Lange, Vannatter, and Phillips but never said a word about a bloody fingerprint--chose to hide his alleged discovery in his error-filled crime-scene notes, which senior detectives justifiably refused to take seriously.
Regardless, to reviewer Wolff, the culprit is not Fuhrman. Instead, he blames Lange and Vannatter, two honest detectives with a combined 56 years of spotless service to the LAPD. "Thus," Wolff writes, "the bloody fingerprint . . . was never pursued, and was ultimately lost."
Yet, according to the official report of the LAPD's Latent Print Section, none of the four fingerprint technicians at the Brown-Goldman crime scene, who made seventeen lifts, found a bloody fingerprint on or near the knob area of the rear gate--where Fuhrman claimed to have discovered it.
As everyone who followed the Simpson case knows, the killer wore gloves, one of which came off his left hand, which was injured in the midst of a struggle with Goldman. Would the killer, who is known to be right-handed, have handled the knob on the rear gate with his injured and ungloved left hand or with his gloved right hand?
Readers of the New York Times Book Review wouldn't know any of these discrepancies, because Wolff fails to mention them in his review. Wolff does express some healthy skepticism about Fuhrman's repeated denials of his racist past; but then, inexplicably, he accepts Fuhrman's account about crime-scene matters without question.
In short, the evidence remains overwhelming that Fuhrman and Roberts were simply mistaken in their identification of a bloody fingerprint--which came in the dead of night, at about 2:30 a.m., approximately four hours after the murders. It simply defies belief that these two junior detectives spotted evidence that no one else saw--particularly in view of the other mistakes in Fuhrman's crime-scene notes and the junior detectives' failure to notify their supervisor, as well as Lange and Vannatter, of this evidence.
Also, on page 17 of his book, Fuhrman describes this alleged bloody fingerprint as "identifiable, comparable, and high in quality," and, on page 218, Fuhrman continues, "The print was no doubt Simpson's, and it would have irrefutably connected him to the scene with his own blood, and possibly that of the two victims." Yet, during his sworn trial testimony in 1995, Fuhrman was nowhere near as sure, simply saying: "I saw a partial, possible fingerprint that was on that knob area."
How did a "partial, possible fingerprint" suddenly become "identifiable, comparable, and high in quality" that "irrefutably" connected Simpson to the crime scene? Didn't Wolff find this clear discrepancy rather odd? Wasn't it, at the very least, worth noting in his review?
In his book, Fuhrman makes other claims--which are not contained in his notes. He insists that he found blood streaks on the lower outside door panel of Simpson's Bronco, black sweat clothes in Simpson's washing machine, smudges of blood on a light switch near the washing machine, and an empty Swiss Army knife box on Simpson's bathtub.
But, once again, Fuhrman told no one in authority about these discoveries--assuming that they were any more real than his phantom bloody fingerprint or his wild speculation that Brown and Goldman might have been shot to death.
Wolff also fails to note that Fuhrman was only in charge of the Simpson case for about a half hour. Then, to his chagrin, Fuhrman was replaced by Lange and Vannatter of the LAPD's elite Robbery/Homicide Division, who, together and individually, had investigated over 500 homicides. After being taken off the case, Fuhrman did little more than stand and pout in the street outside the perimeter of the crime scene, waiting for the detectives from Robbery/Homicide to arrive.
Fuhrman remained under Lange and Vannatter's direct supervision for a two-hour period, between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m. During that time, Fuhrman performed well, finding a speck of blood above the outside door handle of Simpson's Bronco, as well as the famous bloody right-hand glove on a walkway on Simpson's estate. But, unlike his discovery of the alleged bloody fingerprint, Fuhrman, with considerable excitement, gave separate tours to Lange, Vannatter, and Phillips to show them the glove and to explain how he found it. Why didn't he do the same when he supposedly found the bloody fingerprint?
After 7:00 on the morning after the murders, Fuhrman's role was reduced to general detail work, far from the investigative and decision-making processes. In his book, Fuhrman is absolutely delusional about his importance to the Brown-Goldman murder investigation after that. Nevertheless, Wolff accepts without challenge and even praises Fuhrman's statements--many of which are wholly inaccurate--about details of the Simpson case in which he was not involved.
Demonstrating how truly uninformed he is about the overall Simpson investigation, Wolff concludes "that something was lost when Mr. Fuhrman fell out of the case. . . [which] he had worked so hard to build."
Significantly, Fuhrman had earlier applied for a transfer to the Robbery/Homicide Division, but his request was rejected by the LAPD's high command just before the Brown-Goldman murders. Even though Fuhrman--who was destined to remain a junior detective for the remainder of his twenty-year career--was angry and bitter after his promotion was denied, Wolff didn't bother to mention that either.
However, this rejection best explains the motive behind the unfounded attacks on detectives from the LAPD's Robbery/Homicide Division by Mark Fuhrman, an admitted perjurer who chose to take the Fifth Amendment rather than defend his brief role in this investigation.
The success of Fuhrman's book--as well as his own remarkable rehabilitation with the help of an uncritical media--is a classic victory of style over substance. But his newfound public acceptance--now with the help of the New York Times Book Review--has done nothing more than add to the confusion, disinformation, and circus atmosphere revolving around this bizarre murder case.
Dan E. Moldea