Fuhrman in Jacksonville, NC - 2008
February 5, 1952 |
Eatonville, Washington, U.S.
|Department||Los Angeles Police Department|
|Years of service||1975–1995|
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 Ronald Lyle Goldman in the O.J. Simpson murder case.
In 1995, Fuhrman was called to testify regarding his discovery of evidence in the O.J. 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 suggesting that he had repeatedly used racist language during this period. Later (with the jury absent) when asked under oath if he had planted or manufactured evidence in the case, Fuhrman invoked his Fifth Amendment rights 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 why 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, although his record was later expunged. 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 O.J. Simpson case, and Simpson's defense team did not present any evidence to contradict this claim. He 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 was born in Eatonville, Washington and attended Peninsula High School in Gig Harbor, Washington. His parents divorced when Fuhrman was 7 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 in Vietnam and was honorably discharged in 1975, having attained the rank of sergeant. After leaving the military, Fuhrman entered the Los Angeles Police Academy, also graduating in 1975.
In 1981, Fuhrman requested leave for workers' compensation. During a psychiatric interview regarding this claim, Fuhrman expressed racist sentiment, 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". He claimed that he was afraid that 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 his 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 the African-American football player O.J. Simpson and his Caucasian 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 1994, Fuhrman successfully worked to prove the innocence of Arrick Harris, an African-American male whom 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 and earning more than 55 commendations.
Fuhrman has married and divorced three times, 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. He has a younger brother, Scott.
Fuhrman was a collector of various war memorabilia and decorations of bravery, including Nazi German decorations from World War II, which has sometimes been misreported as him having "collected swastikas".
Role in O.J. Simpson murder trial
Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman were murdered at Brown's Brentwood 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 who 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 the Simpson 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, 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. (However, Simpson attempted to put on the gloves during the trial, and they appeared to be too small. 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 Simpson 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 opinion of Fuhrman, among 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 past ten 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 tried to exclude this evidence by arguing that it was too inflammatory and could prejudice the predominantly black jury against them. 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 ten years. The audiotape eventually resulted in a perjury conviction for Fuhrman.
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, under the understanding that he would be paid $10,000 if a movie were produced. The recordings contain forty-one instances of the word "nigger" used as recently as 1988, including references in which he claimed to have perpetrated violence against African-Americans. In the recordings, Fuhrman also describes how, as a police officer, he thought lying was sometimes necessary and claims that he has provided testimony regarding events that he did not actually witness.
After McKinny, witness Kathleen Bell testified. She met Fuhrman at a Marine recruiting station in 1985 or 1986, where he expressed animus against interracial couples and stated, "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 would later state that Fuhrman had also claimed, "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 only allowed to hear 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 if he had planted or manufactured evidence in the Simpson case. Although he had earlier responded "no" when asked this question, this time he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on his lawyer's advice.
During his closing argument, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran referred to Fuhrman as "a lying, perjuring, genocidal racist" and he analogized Fuhrman to Hitler. He argued that Fuhrman had planted the bloody glove on O.J. Simpson's estate as part of a racially motivated plot against Simpson, which could be traced back to his first meeting with the interracial couple in 1985. Although there was no evidence to suggest that Fuhrman had planted the glove, his perjury regarding 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 it has been cited as one of the key reasons that Simpson was acquitted.
Fuhrman's words on the tapes resulted in him 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 the father of Ron Goldman 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. However, many members of Garcetti's office made public statements on the issue, and Garcetti, citing the high emotions in his office about the Simpson case, opted to tender 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. He is the only person to have been convicted of criminal charges related to the Simpson case. Fuhrman's probation ended early in 1998, and his conviction was expunged 18 months later.
In a television interview with Diane Sawyer in October 1996, Fuhrman claimed that he did not plant evidence in the Simpson case. He stated that he is not a racist and he apologized for his use of racist language. He said that 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 claimed that they do not believe that he is a racist.
Vincent Bugliosi, in his book Outrage on the Simpson trial, argued that planting the glove would have required a far-reaching (and unlikely) conspiracy between Fuhrman and other police. Anyone involved in such a conspiracy would have been risking their life, because California law at that time stated that anyone who fabricated evidence in a death penalty case—as the Brown and Goldman murder case might have become—could be sentenced to death themselves. Bugliosi further stated 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 retired to Sandpoint, Idaho. During 1997, he wrote a book about the Simpson case, called Murder in Brentwood (1997, ISBN 0895264218). It 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 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 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 area'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). He also 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 events of 1992.
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 house. 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. He also argues that major pieces of evidence were mishandled. Fuhrman believes his colleagues did not realize that their every move would be scrutinized in court due to the nature of the case.
Fuhrman also argues that the police and the prosecution made other errors that reduced the chances of a guilty verdict. For example, Mark 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 he 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 his 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, he would have been nearly beyond rehabilitation.
Like many critics of the prosecution, Fuhrman felt that Judge Lance Ito allowed the defense to control the trial. For instance, like Bugliosi, he insists that relevant case law demanded that Ito foreclose the defense from asking him about racial slurs because of the possibility of prejudice to the prosecution's case. However, Fuhrman also says that Ito should have never been assigned to the case in the first place. Ito was married to Margaret 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 a first shot at President John F. Kennedy did not 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
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