If I Did It
The Goldman family
|Original title||If I Did It|
|Publisher||Beaufort Books (Regan Books/HarperCollins, before cancellation)|
|September 13, 2007|
|Preceded by||I Want to Tell You: My Response to Your Letters, Your Messages, Your Questions|
If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer is a book by O. J. Simpson, in which he puts forth a "hypothetical" description of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Simpson was acquitted of the murders in a criminal trial (People v. Simpson) but later found financially liable in a civil trial. Although the original release of the book was canceled shortly after it was announced in November 2006, 400,000 physical copies of the original book were printed, and by June 2007, copies of the book had leaked online.
The book was originally due to be published by Regan Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, which was headed by editor and publisher Judith Regan. It was originally planned that the book would be promoted via a television special featuring an interview with Simpson on Fox Broadcasting Company. Fox and HarperCollins are both owned by the News Corporation. This special had the longer title, O. J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened. Like the original release of the book, the special was canceled.
In August 2007, a Florida bankruptcy court awarded the rights to the book to the Goldman family to partially satisfy the civil judgment. The title of the book was changed to If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer, and published by Beaufort Books. Comments were added to the original manuscript by the Goldman family, the book's ghostwriter Pablo Fenjves, and journalist Dominick Dunne. The new cover design printed the word "If" greatly reduced in size compared with the other words, and placed it inside the "I"; a person glancing at the cover only briefly may have the impression that it is entitled I Did It. In this new form, the book was published in September 2007.
The first part of the If I Did It manuscript details Simpson's early relationship with Nicole and their marriage. The latter part of the manuscript describes details of the murders as they would have occurred had Simpson committed them. However, Simpson's attorney said that there is "only one chapter that deals with their deaths and that chapter, in my understanding, has a disclaimer that it's complete fiction." In Simpson's hypothetical scenario, he has an unwilling accomplice named "Charlie" who tells him to stop the murders, and whom Simpson ignores.
First release and its cancellation
The book was unofficially announced in The National Enquirer in late October 2006, but this was immediately denied by Simpson's lawyer. The book was then formally announced some weeks later in mid-November 2006 for release on November 30, 2006. Intense public criticism led to the cancellation of the book's publication and a related television interview, both from divisions of News Corporation (HarperCollins/ReganBooks and Fox Broadcasting Company, respectively). According to a Newsweek story, all 400,000 printed copies were recalled for "pulping", except for one, locked away in a vault at News Corp. A copy later appeared in an auction listing on eBay in September 2007; the book eventually sold for over $250,000. James Wolcott of Vanity Fair also obtained a "pristine hardcover" copy of the book for a review published in January 2007.
The first version's cover, as released by HarperCollins, showed a photograph of Simpson with the words "I Did It" in red and the word "If" in white. The Beaufort version had the words "I Did It" in large type and the word "If" written in a tiny font and placed at the top of the "I". Neither version of the book has Simpson's name anywhere on the front cover.
HarperCollins Publishers had planned to publish it under their Regan Books imprint on November 30, 2006. The National Enquirer made unproven claims in October 2006 that Simpson would be paid US$3.5 million for the book. Regan was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "This is a historic case, and I consider this his confession."
In one portion of an interview to promote the book, taped before the project was cancelled, Regan said to Simpson, "You wrote, 'I have never seen so much blood in my life.'" Simpson responded, "I don't think any two people could be murdered without everybody being covered in blood."
If I Did It ignited a storm of pre-publication controversy, largely due to the perception that Simpson was trying to profit from the two deaths for which his civil suit verdict had found him liable. "This is not about being heard. This is about trying to cash in, in a pathetic way, on some notoriety," said Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly.
Denise Brown, sister of murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson, expressed her hope that the publisher would take "full accountability for promoting the wrongdoing of criminals and leveraging this forum and the actions of Simpson to commercialize abuse". She went on to say that Simpson's two children would be "exposed to [his] inexplicable behavior and we will provide them with our love and support during this time. It's unfortunate that [O.J.] Simpson has decided to awaken a nightmare that we have painfully endured and worked so hard to move beyond." The proposed book outraged the Goldman family, who criticized the publisher for "helping a murderer get his voice out there". According to lawyers for Ron Goldman's family, the Goldmans planned to attempt to garnish any earnings Simpson might get from the book. Fred Goldman, Ron's father, was awarded $33.5 million by a jury in 1997 for the wrongful death of his son. However, Simpson never paid this judgment due to California law that prevents pensions from being used to satisfy judgments and the bulk of his income coming from his NFL pension. Goldman described the book and television interview as "an all-time low" and "morally reprehensible to me... to think you are willing to give somebody airtime about how they would murder two people." Patricia Schroeder, president and chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, felt that the book would "stir an awful lot of debate and make the culture take a real look at itself, and that may not be unhealthy".
The day after the announcement of its publication, an online boycott encouraged Americans to ignore the book and complain to publishers and booksellers and similar boycotts were held in Australia and Europe. Within four days of the book's announcement, over 58,394 people had signed an online petition developed by Ronald Goldman's family, DontPayOJ.com, declaring their opposition to the book. Bookshops were divided about stocking this title in their stores. Numerous independent stores said either that they would not sell it or would offer limited copies and give away the proceeds. Borders Books and Waldenbooks said they would donate any profits they made from the book to charities which benefit victims of domestic violence, a Borders spokesperson saying that they "believe it is the right of customers to decide what they read and what to buy, but we will not discount the title or promote it". Several stores in Canada said they would only order it for customers, but not stock it.
Legal experts theorized that Simpson might be able to avoid paying the Goldmans or Browns any money. "I think it's going to be difficult if [Simpson] arranges to have [book profits] deposited abroad," said lawyer Tom Mesereau, who successfully defended Michael Jackson in his child molestation trial in 2005. "It's one thing to enforce a judgment in America, and another to enforce it overseas." Mesereau said Simpson also might have profits "paid into a trust offshore or a corporation in a different name."
Fox Television interview
Fox Television was to air a related, two-part, taped interview with Simpson, conducted by Regan, in which Simpson would allegedly describe how he would have committed the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman, "if he were the one responsible". The interview was scheduled to air on November 27 and November 29, 2006, timed to coincide with the publication. The program would not have been a "news" show under the auspices of the Fox News unit; the broadcast network's alternative programming department, headed by Mike Darnell, would have been responsible. The network released this statement on November 15, 2006:
- "O.J. Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes. In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade."
On November 16, 2006, Regan issued a statement claiming that her reason for recording the interview and releasing the book was an attempt to find closure after having been a battered woman herself. "The men who lied and cheated and beat me – they were all there in the room," she said. "And the people who denied it, they were there, too. And though it might sound a little strange, Nicole and Ron were in my heart. And for them I wanted him to confess his sins, do penance, and to amend his life. Amen."
Screenwriter Pablo Fenjves, a witness at Simpson's 1995 trial, ghostwrote Simpson's book. Fenjves stated in interviews that Simpson actively collaborated on the manuscript, and that Fenjves "knew" Simpson was "a murderer".
Fox affiliate reaction
By November 19 or 20, 2006, before the special was cancelled, over a dozen Fox affiliates had either refused to carry it or decided to air it but devote local time to public service announcements. Stations in Springfield, Missouri, and Johnstown-Altoona-State College, Pennsylvania area were the first to turn down the special on November 17, 2006, along with two other stations in Spokane, Washington and Louisville, Kentucky.
The largest station group to show refusal to air the special was LIN Television with Fox affiliates in six markets: Mobile, Alabama, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Toledo, Ohio, Providence, Rhode Island, Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Pappas Telecasting was second in line, and said they would pre-empt the program on their Fox stations in four markets along with Fox stations in Bismarck-Minot, North Dakota: Fresno, California, Sioux City, Iowa, Lincoln, Superior and Grand Island, Nebraska, Omaha, Nebraska.
Fox affiliates KCPQ in Seattle, Washington—owned by Tribune Company—and XETV-TV in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California—owned by Mexican media giant Televisa and operated by Entravision under a Local Marketing Agreement—were both reportedly undecided, but each indicated that if they aired the special, they would not sell local ad time, instead giving that time to local domestic violence organizations to air public service announcements.
On November 20, 2006, News Corporation issued a statement saying that the book and television special had been cancelled. In the statement, NewsCorp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said, "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project. We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson."
Because the interview exists on tape, executives at Fox and News Corporation said it is likely to turn up somewhere, perhaps on the Internet.
On November 21, 2006, Denise Brown accused Fox of trying to stop the Goldman and Brown families from criticizing the project by offering millions of dollars for their silence surrounding the project: "They wanted to offer us millions of dollars. Millions of dollars for, like, 'Oh, I'm sorry' money. But they were still going to air the show," Brown said. "We just thought, 'Oh my God.' What they're trying to do is trying to keep us quiet, trying to make this like hush money, trying to go around the civil verdict, giving us this money to keep our mouths shut."
Denise Brown told NBC's The Today Show that her family's response was: "Absolutely not." Fox confirmed that the Brown and Goldman families were offered profit participation deals for the projects but denies that it was hush money. "Last week, when concerns were raised by the public that we were profiting from this guy's story, we tried to work out some arrangement with the family. Never was there any suggestion of them being barred from talking about it. We would never suggest that," said News Corp spokesman Andrew Butcher.
Leak on the Internet
On June 13, 2007, a PDF version of the book was leaked on the Internet through Rapidshare and appeared the next day on various BitTorrent websites. The original Rapidshare post was announced through a video posted on YouTube, which showed a hardcover version of the book followed by a computer screen on which appeared the Firefox browser with the Rapidshare address.
On August 14, 2007, it was reported that a literary agent for the Goldman family, Sharlene Martin, had made a deal to publish the book under the new subtitle "Confessions of the Killer". All of Simpson's writing was to remain intact, with the addition of "key commentary." The book was released about a month later, on September 13, 2007. Some of the proceeds benefit the Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice. The Ronald Lyle Goldman Justice Foundation was planned in 1995 to fund civil legal action against Simpson.
In February 2007, a Canadian publisher, Barclay Road Inc. expressed interest in publishing the book. Barclay Road CEO Herbert Becker said that public opinion turned against the book without anybody really knowing of its contents. He said his company would look into obtaining the rights to the book.
Transfer of rights
In June 2007, a federal judge ruled that Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman's father, could pursue the publishing rights to Simpson's book. In July 2007, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the rights to the book to the Goldman family, who receive 90 percent of profits to help satisfy the $38 million wrongful death civil suit judgment against Simpson. After Goldman had won the rights to the book, he arranged to publish it under the new title If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. The Goldman family's lawyers also announced intentions to pursue new publishing, film, or TV deals in order to receive some of $33.5 million awarded to them in the civil case.
Fred Goldman sued Lorraine Brooke Associates, a shell corporation, for the publishing rights after it filed for bankruptcy. After Goldman purchased the rights from the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, Nicole's father, Louis H. Brown, sued Goldman, attempting to stop the publication but lost.
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