Fuhrman in 2008
|Department||Los Angeles Police Department|
Mark Fuhrman (born February 5, 1952) is a former detective of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). He is primarily known for his part in the investigation of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in the O. J. Simpson murder case.
In 1995, Fuhrman was called to testify regarding his discovery of evidence in the Simpson case, including a bloody glove recovered at Simpson's estate. Fuhrman was known to have used a racist epithet toward African Americans during the early 1980s but claimed on the stand that he had not used that term in the last ten years. Simpson's defense team produced recorded interviews with Fuhrman and witnesses showing that he had repeatedly used racist language during this period. Later (with the jury absent), when asked under oath whether he had planted or manufactured evidence in the case, Fuhrman invoked his Fifth Amendment right and declined to answer. According to the defense, this raised the possibility that Fuhrman had planted key evidence as part of a racially motivated plot against Simpson. The audiotape proving that Fuhrman perjured himself — thereby undermining the credibility of the prosecution — has been cited as one reason Simpson was acquitted.
Fuhrman retired from the LAPD in 1995. In 1996, he pleaded no contest to perjury for his false testimony related to his use of racial epithets. Fuhrman has stated that he is not a racist and apologized for his previous use of racist language. Many of his minority former coworkers have expressed support for him. Fuhrman maintains that he did not plant or manufacture evidence in the Simpson case, and Simpson's defense team did not present any evidence to contradict this claim. Fuhrman believes that Simpson is guilty and places blame for his acquittal on the failure of lead detectives to enter evidence into the chain of custody and failure of the prosecution to adequately argue their case.
Fuhrman's parents divorced when he was seven years old, and his mother remarried briefly. In 1970, aged 18, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where he was trained as a machine gunner and military policeman. He served during the Vietnam War era, although the closest he had gotten to Vietnam was the USS New Orleans, an amphibious assault ship stationed offshore. Having attained the rank of sergeant, he was honorably discharged in 1975. After leaving the military, Fuhrman entered the Los Angeles Police Academy and graduated in 1975.
In 1981, Fuhrman requested leave for workers' compensation. During a psychiatric interview regarding this claim, Fuhrman expressed racist sentiments, stating that he stopped enjoying military service because of alleged insubordination from Mexican-Americans and African-Americans, whom he described as "niggers". Fuhrman received workers' compensation and remained on paid leave until 1983.
During this time, Fuhrman attempted to leave the police force permanently and receive a stress disability pension. In a 1982 psychiatric interview, he claimed that he had "tortur[ed] suspects and conn[ed] internal affairs detectives", that he would choke suspects and break their arms and legs "if necessary", and that he had pounded suspects' faces to "mush". Fuhrman claimed that he was afraid he would kill someone if he were returned to street patrol. Although several psychiatrists recommended that he be removed from duty completely, and others recommended that he not be allowed to carry a gun, the City of Los Angeles argued that Fuhrman's statements were merely part of an elaborate ruse to win a pension. In 1983, Fuhrman lost his case, and a subsequent appeal to Superior Court was rejected; therefore, Fuhrman returned to active duty as a police officer.
In 1985, Fuhrman responded to a domestic violence call between a famous retired NFL football player, O. J. Simpson, and his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and in 1989, a statement by Fuhrman about this call resulted in Simpson's arrest for spousal abuse.
Fuhrman was promoted to detective in 1989. In October 1994 he worked to prove the innocence of Arrick Harris, an African-American male who Fuhrman believed had been falsely implicated for murder. Fuhrman retired from the LAPD in early 1995, after serving as a police officer for 20 years.
Fuhrman has married and divorced three times, to: Barbara L. Koop (from 1973 to 1977), Janet Ellen Sosbee (from 1977 to 1980), and Caroline Lody (from the early 1980s to 2000). The marriage to Lody produced two children, a daughter Haley and a son Cole.
Role in O. J. Simpson murder trial
Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle "Ron" Goldman were murdered outside Brown's Brentwood, Los Angeles condominium during the night of June 12, 1994. Robert Riske and his partner were the first police officers on the scene in the early morning of June 13, and Riske found a bloody left-hand glove at the scene. At least 14 officers and supervisors, some of whom arrived on the scene before Fuhrman, reported seeing only one glove.
Fuhrman and his superior, Ronald Phillips, were the first detectives to arrive; Fuhrman's partner, Brad Roberts, arrived later. Fuhrman was familiar with O. J. Simpson and Nicole Brown because of the 1985 domestic violence call. Fuhrman left Brown's condominium with Ronald Phillips and lead detectives Tom Lange and Philip Vannatter, and they went to Simpson's Rockingham residence.
At the Simpson residence, Fuhrman found a number of blood drops in and on a white Ford Bronco parked outside. Fuhrman then climbed over the wall of the property in order to let the other detectives in. They later testified that they entered Simpson's estate without a search warrant due to exigent circumstances — specifically, a concern that Simpson himself might have been harmed.
In Simpson's guest house, detectives found Kato Kaelin, who told detectives that he had heard thumping sounds earlier in the night. An investigation of the property by Fuhrman produced a second bloody glove, which was later determined to be the right-hand mate of the glove found at the murder scene. The glove found on the Simpson estate, which — according to DNA testing — was soaked with the blood of both victims, was considered to be one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the prosecution. (When Simpson was asked to put on the gloves during the trial, they appeared to be too small for him. The reasons for this have been debated.)
In an article by Jeffrey Toobin in the July 25 issue of The New Yorker, the defense revealed that they planned to play "the race card". Specifically, Simpson's defense team alleged that Fuhrman planted the glove found at Simpson's estate as part of a racially motivated effort to frame Simpson for the murders. The article detailed Fuhrman's prior use of racist language and claims of violence made during his 1981–1982 psychiatric interviews. Although Fuhrman's psychiatric reports were later ruled inadmissible in the case because they were determined to be too old to have direct relevance, the New Yorker article was published before jury selection was finalized or jury sequestration had taken place. Potential jurors were asked how much exposure to the Simpson case they received from The New Yorker (among other media outlets) as part of the jury selection process. They were also asked their opinions of Fuhrman and other witnesses who had testified at the preliminary hearing.
The trial began on January 24, 1995, and Fuhrman took the witness stand for the prosecution on March 9. During cross-examination on March 15, attorney F. Lee Bailey asked Fuhrman whether he had used the word "nigger" in the previous 10 years, to which Fuhrman replied that he had not. The defense tried to introduce witnesses and audiotape evidence to prove that Fuhrman had lied under oath, that he had a particular animus against interracial couples, that he had a history of perpetrating violence against African-Americans, and that he had a history of being willing to fabricate evidence or testimony. In accordance with the California Evidence Code, the prosecution sought to exclude this evidence by arguing that it was too inflammatory and could prejudice the predominantly black jury. Although they conceded that Fuhrman used racial epithets on the tape, the prosecution suggested that the remainder of the material was merely exaggerated "puffing and blowing".
On August 31, Judge Ito ruled that evidence could be introduced to prove that Fuhrman had lied about use of the word "nigger", but that claims of violence and police misconduct were inadmissible. On September 5, the defense produced multiple witnesses and audiotape to establish that Fuhrman had used the word "nigger" within the last 10 years. The tape eventually resulted in a perjury charge against Fuhrman, to which he pleaded no contest.
First, Laura Hart McKinny took the stand. Between 1985 and 1994, Fuhrman gave taped interviews to McKinny, a writer working on a screenplay about female police officers. Fuhrman was working as a consultant for McKinny on the understanding that he would be paid $10,000 if a movie were produced. The recordings contain 41 instances of the word "nigger" used as recently as 1988, including references in which Fuhrman claims to have perpetrated violence against African-Americans. In the recordings, he also says he thinks it is sometimes necessary to lie as a police officer and that he has given testimony about events he did not actually witness.
After McKinny, witness Kathleen Bell testified. She had met Fuhrman at a Marine recruiting station in 1985 or 1986, where she claimed that he expressed animus against interracial couples and said, "If I had my way, all the niggers would be gathered together and burned." Then, witness Natalie Singer, whose roommate had dated Fuhrman around 1987, testified that Fuhrman had told her, "The only good nigger is a dead nigger." On the television show Leeza, Singer later said that Fuhrman had also said, "Yeah, we work with niggers and gangs. You can take one of these niggers, drag 'em into the alley and beat the shit out of them and kick them. You can see them twitch. It really relieves your tension." However, Judge Ito restricted her from giving her complete statement during the trial. Roderic Hodge then testified that while he was in police custody in 1987, Fuhrman had said to him, "I told you we would get you, nigger."
Ultimately, the jury was allowed to hear only two excerpts from the Fuhrman tapes, which did not include the inflammatory violent content or material related to potential misconduct. Jurors heard Fuhrman say, "We have no niggers where I grew up," and "That's where niggers live." With the jury absent on September 6, the defense asked Fuhrman whether he had ever falsified police reports or planted or manufactured evidence in the Simpson case. Although he had earlier responded "No" when asked this question, this time, on his lawyer's advice, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
During his closing argument, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran called Fuhrman "a lying, perjuring, genocidal racist", likening him to Adolf Hitler. He argued that Fuhrman had planted the bloody glove on Simpson's estate as part of a racially motivated plot against Simpson, which could be traced back to Fuhrman's first encounter with the interracial couple in 1985. Although there was no evidence to suggest that Fuhrman had planted the glove, his perjury about his use of the word "nigger" was widely seen as severely damaging the prosecution's credibility in front of the mostly black jury (especially in the wake of the Rodney King trial) and has been cited as one of the main reasons Simpson was acquitted.
Fuhrman's words on the tapes resulted in his being widely condemned, including by the prosecution. His use of racial epithets and accusations that he had planted evidence became a focal point of the trial and attracted enormous media attention that for a time eclipsed coverage of the crime itself, such that Ron Goldman's father reminded the media, "This is not the Fuhrman trial ... This is a trial about the man who murdered my son."
After the trial, there was widespread pressure on Los Angeles County district attorney Gil Garcetti to bring perjury charges against Fuhrman. Garcetti initially refused, saying that Fuhrman's use of racist language was "not material to the case", a major element of proving perjury. But many members of Garcetti's office made public statements on the issue, and Garcetti, citing the high emotions in his office about the case, opted to give the decision to prosecute to Attorney General Dan Lungren, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
On July 5, 1996, Lungren announced that he would file perjury charges against Fuhrman and soon thereafter offered Fuhrman a plea bargain. On October 2, Fuhrman accepted the deal and pleaded no contest to the charges. He was sentenced to three years' probation and fined $200.
In an October 1996 television interview with Diane Sawyer, Fuhrman said he did not plant evidence in the Simpson case. He said he is not racist, and apologized for his use of racist language. He said he had forgotten about the existence of the audiotapes and that they were merely part of a misguided effort to have a fictional screenplay produced. A police investigation of the claims of violence on the tapes found that Fuhrman had grossly exaggerated, and many of his minority former coworkers have expressed support for Fuhrman and said they do not believe he is racist.
In his book Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder, Vincent Bugliosi argues that planting the glove would have required a far-reaching (and unlikely) conspiracy between Fuhrman and other police force members. Anyone involved in such a conspiracy would have been risking their life, because Article 128 of the California Penal Code states that anyone who fabricates evidence in a death penalty case — as the Brown and Goldman murder case might have become — can be sentenced to death themselves. Bugliosi further argues that Fuhrman was one of the victims in the case and that his lying under oath about racial epithets did not rise to the level of indictable perjury, because it was immaterial to the actual facts of the case.
Murder in Brentwood
After retiring from the LAPD in early 1995, Fuhrman moved to Sandpoint, Idaho. He wrote a book about the Simpson case, called Murder in Brentwood (1997, ISBN 0895264218), which includes a foreword by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor of the Charles Manson case. In the book, Fuhrman apologized for the racist remarks on the audiotapes, terming them "immature, irresponsible ramblings" made because of a desire to make money; he contends that the tapes were merely part of a screenplay. He argued that Lungren had charged him to garner black support for a planned campaign for governor of California, in 1998.
Despite being told that Lungren's case was "flimsy at best", Fuhrman said he pleaded no contest because the odds were so greatly stacked against him that it wasn't worth having his family being hassled by the press. He stated he could not afford to defend himself effectively; he already owed thousands of dollars in legal bills, and the city's Police Protective League would not help him pay them. He also claimed he could not afford living expenses for a trial that would take several months (or years, in case of an appeal), said he did not think he could get a fair trial in the racially charged climate of the time, and thought an acquittal would cause a riot similar to the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Fuhrman has said he believes the LAPD could have arrested Simpson on the afternoon of June 13, based on the blood evidence and his apparently contradictory statements during questioning. However, he believes senior LAPD officials didn't want to take a chance on being wrong about Simpson and wanted to wait until the preliminary genetic evidence came in.
Fuhrman argues that several errors made by his LAPD colleagues permitted the defense to allege that there was suspicious police conduct at Nicole Brown Simpson's residence. For instance, Fuhrman claims that the initial search warrant submitted by one of the detectives on the case, Phillip Vannatter, was too short and did not include enough details of the probable cause and evidence on hand at the time. Fuhrman also argues that major pieces of evidence were mishandled and believes his colleagues did not realize that their every move would be scrutinized in court due to the nature of the case.
Fuhrman asserts that the police and the prosecution made other errors that reduced the chances of a guilty verdict. For example, Fuhrman and his partner, Brad Roberts, found a bloody fingerprint on the north walkway gate of Nicole Brown Simpson's house. According to Fuhrman, at least some of it belonged to the suspect, as there was enough blood at the scene to suggest the suspect was bleeding. This was potentially critical evidence; Simpson claimed that he'd cut himself on the night of the murders but hadn't been to his ex-wife's house in a week. Had the fingerprint been tied to Simpson in any fashion it would have been a crippling, and possibly fatal, blow to his defense. It also could have contradicted the defense's allegations that Fuhrman planted the glove, since Fuhrman did not know or have reason to know that it was Simpson's blood. However, the fingerprint was destroyed at some point and was only mentioned superficially at trial. In fact, Fuhrman later discovered that Vannatter and Vannatter's partner, Tom Lange, didn't even know the fingerprint was there because they never read Fuhrman's notes. Roberts could have offered testimony to corroborate that the fingerprint was there but was never called to testify – something that rankled Fuhrman almost as much as the fact that Vannatter and Lange never read his notes. Fuhrman also claimed that Roberts could have corroborated many of his other observations, but Marcia Clark didn't call him (to avoid embarrassing Vannatter on the stand).
Fuhrman has said that he feels the prosecution abandoned him once the tapes were made public. He said that he pleaded the Fifth Amendment after he couldn't get the prosecution to call him to the stand for a redirect prior to the tapes' being played for the jury. Once the tapes came out, Fuhrman said, his reputation as a credible witness would have been nearly beyond rehabilitation.
Fuhrman felt that Judge Lance Ito allowed the defense to control the trial. For instance, like Bugliosi, Fuhrman insists that relevant case law demanded that Ito forebear the defense from asking him about racial slurs, because of the possibility of prejudice to the prosecution's case.
Fuhrman also asserts that Ito should have never been assigned to the case in the first place, as Ito was married to Margaret "Peggy" York, an LAPD captain who had been Fuhrman's superior officer in the past. In the Fuhrman tapes recorded by Laura McKinny, Fuhrman disparages York's appearance and suggests that she used her sex to advance in the police force. Fuhrman felt that Ito should have been challenged by the prosecution or voluntarily recused himself from the case on that basis. In fact, prosecutors did request that Ito step down, though they later withdrew the request out of fear that it would result in a mistrial.
For his next book, Murder in Greenwich (1998, ISBN 0060191414), Fuhrman investigated the then-unsolved 1975 murder of Martha Moxley and presented his theory that the murderer was Michael Skakel, nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Senator Robert Kennedy. Skakel was convicted of Moxley's murder in June 2002. The book was adapted for a 2002 television movie starring Christopher Meloni as Fuhrman.
In 2001, Fuhrman published Murder in Spokane: Catching a Serial Killer (ISBN 0060194375), which investigated a serial killer's spree on the West Coast. In 2003, he published Death and Justice: An Expose of Oklahoma's Death Row Machine (ISBN 0060009179), on the subject of capital punishment.
In 2005, Fuhrman published Silent Witness: The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death (ISBN 0060853379 ), which emphasized gaps in the medical and legal records that might allow for the possibility that Schiavo was murdered.
In 2006, he published A Simple Act of Murder: November 22, 1963 (ISBN 0060721545), about the John F. Kennedy assassination. In it, Fuhrman advanced a theory debunking the Single-bullet theory while still maintaining that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. He claimed that the Warren Commission was forced to ratify the Single-bullet theory for political reasons. However, he said that a dent in the chrome above the windshield of the presidential limousine used that day vindicated the story told by John Connally that the first shot that hit President John F. Kennedy did not also hit him.
In 2009, he published The Murder Business: How the Media Turns Crime Into Entertainment and Subverts Justice (ISBN 1596985844), which addressed the fine line between crime reporting and entertainment.
Radio and television commentary
Fuhrman is a forensic and crime scene expert for Fox News, and he has been a frequent guest of Fox commentator Sean Hannity. He was also the host of the Mark Fuhrman Show on KGA-AM in Spokane between the hours of 8am-11am Pacific Time. The show covered local and national topics and included guest callers, and was a casualty of the sale of the station by Citadel Broadcasting Corp. of Las Vegas to Mapleton Communications, LLC of Monterey, California.
In popular culture
- In Murder in Greenwich, Mark Fuhrman is portrayed by Christopher Meloni.
- In American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson, Mark Fuhrman is portrayed by Steven Pasquale.
- He will be portrayed by Alexander Man in Joshua Newton’s upcoming 2019 film Nicole & O.J..
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