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The Trial of O. J. Simpson

The Trial of O. J. Simpson through the Eyes of Lange and Vannatter


According to Chapman, the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and a friend Ron Goldman brought out police investigation loopholes (417). He points out that unprofessionalism was exhibited in this murder trial case, especially on the part of the detectives who carried out the murder case investigations. Juan notes that the O. J. Simpson case, which was not based on witness confession, saw the prosecution chamber developing their cases to disapprove the Simpson’s theory of innocence (1). This did not enable the prosecution to prove that O.J Simpson was guilty of the crime. He points out that the ill preparedness and the use of circumstantial evidence were the primary factors which led to the acquaintance of O.J. Simpson in 1995. He notes that this illustrated not only uncertainty and inefficiency of the American criminal justice, but it also demonstrated the impact of detective’s investigations on building out of prosecution evidence.

As pointed out by Chapman, Tom Lange and Philip Vannatter were Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) homicide detectives who led the O.J. Simpson murder case (418). He notes that Lange and Vannatter viewed O.J Simpson as potential suspect based on his personal contact without providing sufficient exonerating evidence that would prove the same. Thus, while addressing the trial of O.J. Simpson, the write up investigates the backgrounds of Tom Lange and Phillip Vannatter. It describes not only the processes of their investigation of the murders but also the advantages and disadvantages of their testifying during the murder cases. Moreover, the write up discusses why their testimonies were not convincing to the juror and further discusses factors that played role in the trial.

Backgrounds of Tom Lange and Phillip Vannatter

As pointed out by Moldea, Tom Lange was born on April 14, 1945 in Milwaukee and was raised in Coral Gables, Florida, but later, after the death of his father in 1960, the family moved to Los Angeles County (1). He points out that Lange involved himself into minor criminal activities in San Fernando Valley, which led to his detention by the police. He notes that, even though Lange was attending a strict Catholic school, he continued to remain rebellious and refused to further his education after graduating from high school. Since Lange was not interested in advancing his education, he joined marine military division. Moldea points out that Lange joined U.S. Marine which enabled him to participate in Vietnam War in 1965 (1). Having intensive combat experience, Lange departed from the Marine in 1966; on returning home, he struggled to obtain a well paid job.

However, as Moldea further points out, Lange got introduced to LAPD cop, who had came to gas up at the service station where he was working (1). He notes that with the encouragement of the LAPD cop, Lange managed to take LAPD test, which he passed with high marks, thereby joining the LAPD Academy, which he graduated in 1968. Then Lange engaged in various assignments as an investigator at Central Juvenile and Central Detectives, which in turn earned him Administration of Justice degree in 1976. He notes that Lange’s involvement in the infamous Skid-Row Stabber Murder cases earned him his membership at Robbery/Homicide Division in 1978, where he was operating under loan times. According to Moldea, Lange was successful in solving these murder cases by effectively identifying murderer palm traces. The remarkable investigations of Lange earned him his permanent membership at Robbery/Homicide Division in 1979, where he met Phillip Vannatter.

On the other hand, Weber points out that Phillip Vannatter was born on April 18, 1941 in Billy’s Creeks, West Virginia (1). He notes that when Vannatter’s father passed on in 1951, he began assisting his mother in running the coal mining farm until the age of fourteen, when he joined his brother in Culver City, California. Due to his talent in football, baseball, and basketball, Vannatter was nominated to the U.S Naval Academy but later was rejected by the institution due to his continued life-long problems (Weber 1). However, this did not deter him from acquiring higher education, as he later earned an associate degree at Santa Monica College; he then joined Humboldt State University but dropped out and started working with auto parts. From this, Vannatter got his Spec-5 job, where he worked as army communication in Korea.

According to Moldea, Vannatter was amused by LAPD recruitment drive and he applied to the Academy; the Academy in 1969 (2). He notes that Vannatter became an investigative officer and worked in West Los Angeles Divisions, and later, in 1989, he was appointed to the RHD.

Lange and Vannatter’s Investigation of the Murders

According to Jones, Lange and Vannatter led a police investigation process of O.J. Simpson murder case, which lasted five days (2). He notes that Lange’s way of investigation resulted into investigation loopholes. He points out that, even though Lange arranged for coroner investigators, his departure from the crime scene was seen to limit the preservation, collection, and documentation of evidences. For instance, he notes that Lange was more interested in finding his evidence at the Simpson’s Rockingham estate rather than investigating the main crime scene. However, the arrival of coroner investigators gave Lange an opportunity to review and update the documentation of the crime scene evidence (Jones 1). Moreover, he points out that Lange ensured that the important evidence was taken and that both bodies of the deceased were effectively wrapped in light plastic after being thoroughly photographed.

While Lange was busy working with coroner criminalist Dennis Fung in obtaining the necessary leading evidence, Vannatter was trying to get search warrant for Simpson’s home (Jones 1). He points out that the unprofessional act of drafting search warrant letter was one of the weaknesses of his crime investigation process since such acts could lead to the nullification of evidence. He notes that since the detectives had chosen O.J. Simpson as their prime suspect, their primarily role was to back up such assumption by their investigation. According to him, Lange and Vannatter agreed with Simpson’s attorney his interrogation. He points out that Lange and Vannatter were widely criticized on the way they interrogated Simpsons. He notes that instead of engaging in official interrogation of Simpson, Lange and Vannatter just deployed discussion with the suspect, which did not give them adequate evidence that would link Simpson to the murder act. Moreover, he points out that Vannatter’s act of contaminating the crime scene with the Simpson’s blood so as to create evidence illustrated his unethical and conspired working conduct. Furthermore, the transportation of blood sample by Vannatter to criminalist in an unsealed envelop put the evidence at risk. It amounted to violation of investigation rules.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Lange and Vannatter’s Testifying

According to Adler, the testifying of Lange and Vannatter was beneficial in limiting defense speculative arguments towards the cases (220). He points out that Lange and Vannatter testimonies relied only on the evidence obtained from the crime scenes and the credibility and quality of the data collected. He notes that this barred the defense chambers from engaging in arguments that were not within the content of the case. For instance, Lange took a position of not knowing if there was a domestic dispute between Simpson and his ex-wife but confirmed the presence of blood and footprints at the scene (Adler 220). He notes that, even though domestic dispute between Simpson and his ex-wife was publicly known, Lange undermined the defense case development by simply restricting his factors to evidence collected.

However, Adler notes that the disadvantage of Lange and Vannatter’s testifying was the fact that the defense challenged the credibility of the investigations (220). The cross examination of these detectives revealed a foul play of their investigations and unprofessional manner of collecting evidence. For instance, the cross examination of why Lange did not conduct forensic investigation of the body of the deceased ex-wife questioned the credibility and integrity of the investigators and evidence presented. Moreover, Weber points out that the cross examining of Vannatter on the subject of blood evidence falsification negatively impacted the prosecution process (1).

As pointed out by Adler, Lange and Vannatter’s testimonies were unable to convince the jury because their evidence was circumstantial and lacked clear proof (220). He notes that apart from the theoretical argumentative evidence in their testimonies, Lange and Vannatter lacked credible and reliable physical evidence to support their claim. This did little to convince the jury, who in turn dismissed their testimonies and evidences.

Factors that Played a Role in Simpson’s Murder Case

According to Horveath, racism was a significant factor that played a role in O.J. Simpson’s murder trial (1). She notes that the manipulation of evidence by Vannatter, LAPD detective, so as to exonerate Simpson was seen to have been contributed by racial factors. She points out that defense team utilized the black jurors’ composition as a race card, especially when they interrogated the white LAPD detectives. For instance, they dismissed Lange’s evidence that connected the blood stain that linked Simpson to the crime on the basis that the white detectives were acting in planting such evidences. Moreover, she points out that the racial composition of the jury adamantly influenced the prosecution decision in the Simpson’s case. She notes that with a bench mark of 9 blacks, 1 Hispanic, and 2 whites, rendering a prosecution decision against Simpson was bound to fail.

On the other hand, gender was also a distinct determinant in Simpson’s case (Horveath 4). Horveath points out that since the jury consisted of 10 women and 2 men, the men juror’s decisions were overpowered by their female counterparts’.


Thus, from the Simpson’s case, it is clear that crime investigators need to follow ethical and integrity standards, especially in identifying and presenting the evidences from the crime scenes. Moreover, it is critical for the jurors to exercise their jurisdiction mandate objectively and without influence of race and gender aspects. 

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