By CHRISTOPHER PETROWSKI
The murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman took place on June 12, 1994, and the resulting investigation and eventual trial of the suspect, NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson, became one of the hottest topics of conversation for the next couple of years and continues to arouse interest and passions 20 years later.
John Paolucci, a retired New York Police Department crime scene detective and current independent forensics investigator, has put together a presentation entitled “O.J. Today. Could the ‘CSI effect’ have swayed the jury?” He gave his talk at the Larchmont Public Library on April 12.
Paolucci spent a good portion of his career looking at exactly the kind of evidence presented at the Simpson trial and was involved in many major cases in New York. He has also been recognized for his service by the mayor of New York City and by the president of the United States.
Among his many cases, he searched for bodies and DNA evidence in the John Gotti investigation and was involved in the case of the alleged sexual assault and attempted rape by Dominique Strauss-Kahn of a maid at the Sofitel hotel in New York City.
In the Strauss-Kahn case, Paolucci explained that, in the course of collecting biological evidence from the hotel room of the five-star Sofitel, the police used a particular kind of light to expose semen and blood stains. At one point, the police lab asked him if they could stop testing a particular piece of carpeting. Their reason for the request was “so far, we found semen from five different males and none of them are the accused.”
Paolucci’s advice to the audience was, “When you stay at a hotel, never use a comforter on the bed. Those things light up like a Christmas Tree.”
In his presentation, Paolucci doesn’t discuss the racial aspects of the Simpson case, nor does he critique Judge Lance Ito or lead prosecutor Marcia Clark; he sticks to what he is an expert in, forensics. His main point is, in 1994, “juries had to be educated about DNA evidence and today—because of the CSI type shows on television—they have to be nullified about it.”
What he means by that is today’s jurors come to court knowing a lot about DNA evidence and are expecting a “smoking gun” and a dramatic presentation, similar to the kind they see on TV.
Paolucci quotes Dr. Edmond Locard, a pioneer in forensics who was known as the Sherlock Holmes of France. Locard said, “Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot perjure itself, it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it can diminish its value.”
Paolucci contends that, “the Simpson jury’s failure to understand [physical evidence]” was what got Simpson acquitted of the Brown and Goldman murders. He contrasted other real life forensics and those found on TV by comparing all the very good looking actors with the looks of real-life investigators and talked about how, on the shows, things like fingerprints usually have a match in police records and are admissible in court.
In reality, Paolucci said, usable fingerprints are only found about 5 percent of the time and 95 out of a 100 of them are of no help to an investigation.
Paolucci also explained DNA is collected and tested in new ways that are much more exact, but require far less material. In 1994, a whole vial of blood was needed and the Simpson defense team was able to suggest that some of that blood could have been taken from the lab and planted by police to frame their client. Today, DNA is taken by
swabbing the mouth of the suspect and only a minute quantity is needed for matching.
DNA testing in 1994 could narrow a suspect’s sample down to one in so many million. Today that DNA could single out a person from trillions of others, meaning it includes not only the current world population, but everybody who ever lived. Also, today’s testing would have allowed a piece of used chewing gum at the murder scene to be identified.
That level of testing did not exist 20 years ago.
Paolucci does point out a couple of things that possibly would have made it harder for Simpson’s defense team to suggest police misconduct.
He explains the same detectives who arrived at the Bundy location, where the bodies were found, also went to the Rockingham location, where Simpson resided. He said a separate team should have been dispatched so no cross contamination could have occurred.
In Paolucci’s article at crimemagazine.com, he writes, “Failure to control police personnel causes investigators to be distracted, and this confusion could be responsible for the crime scene technician to miss significant evidence, such as a bloody fingerprint from the rear gate of the Bundy crime scene that was never collected.”
This particular piece of evidence is what Paolucci believes should have made the prosecution’s case as it contained the victim’s blood in the suspect’s fingerprint, which could have only occurred if the suspect was at the murder scene either during or after the fact.
This evidence was removed by a locksmith who was hired by the family after the murders.
Paolucci is currently the president of Forensics 4 Real Incorporated. He trains students and law enforcement in forensic evidence and crime scene investigations. He also provides consultations with movie and television writers, directors and developers working on true crime shows and dramas.
Paolucci’s website is: