Simpson Transcript Describes Murder
By RUSS BUETTNER and EDWARD WYATT
Published: February 3, 2007
In November O. J. Simpson sat for what would have been one of the most unusual interviews in television history — a hypothetical recounting of how, if he had been the killer, he might have murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald L. Goldman more than a decade ago.
The interview, taped in Miami to publicize a book, “If I Did It,” was never broadcast, as public outrage exploded over the idea that Mr. Simpson might profit from the murders that many people believe he committed, despite his acquittal in a criminal trial.
But a partial transcript of the interview Mr. Simpson had with Judith Regan, the publisher of the proposed book, makes vividly clear the disquieting nature of the entire exercise.
At one point during the interview, Mr. Simpson says: “As things got heated, I just remember Nicole fell and hurt herself. And this guy kind of got into a karate thing.” It was then, he says, that “I remember I grabbed the knife.” Later, asked about whether he had taken off a glove before handling the knife, Mr. Simpson says, “You know, I had no conscious memory of doing that, but obviously I must have because they found a glove there.”
According to the transcript, that moment is one of several during the interview in which Mr. Simpson, while maintaining that he is merely recounting a hypothetical narrative, says rather oddly that he cannot remember certain details.
The partial transcript of the interview — six pages transcribed from what were said to be nearly four hours of tape — was given to The New York Times by a person who had been involved in the aborted televised production.
After reviewing the transcript, Yale L. Galanter, Mr. Simpson’s lawyer, said that Mr. Simpson’s remarks matched the hypothetical chapter in the book. In both instances, he said, Mr. Simpson was not recounting his own actions, but simply following a broad “script,” as required by his contract. He stressed that the interview was intended to be entertainment, not a news event.
“It was even more than entertainment,” Mr. Galanter said. “It was entertainment with a purpose, and the purpose was to sell the book.”
But Stanley Arkin, a lawyer for Ms. Regan, who was later fired by her employer, HarperCollins, said she viewed the interview and the book as “tantamount to a confession.”
The book and interview wound up being a fiasco for Ms. Regan, HarperCollins and its parent company, the News Corporation. After days of negative publicity, the corporation’s chairman and chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, who had signed off on the project, called it “ill-conceived” and scrapped both the book and the television production.
Soon after, another book Ms. Regan planned to publish, a work of fiction that portrayed Mickey Mantle in drunken escapades, drew more outrage. In December, after Ms. Regan allegedly used an anti-Semitic remark to accuse a company lawyer and other executives of being out to get her, HarperCollins fired her and shut down her imprint, ReganBooks.
Ms. Regan has denied using the anti-Semitic remark. Mr. Arkin, who said he was in talks with the News Corporation in hopes of avoiding a wrongful-termination lawsuit, attributed the firing to Ms. Regan’s difficult relationship with Jane Friedman, the president and chief executive of HarperCollins.
Andrew Butcher, a News Corporation spokesman, said the company did not wish to comment further on the O. J. Simpson interview or the circumstances of Ms. Regan’s dismissal. He said that the company had recalled and destroyed copies of the book and had never publicly showed the tape.
“The Goldman and Brown families made it very clear that they don’t want the book or the television special made public,” Mr. Butcher said. “We’ve done everything we can to respect their wishes. That is why we killed the project in the first place.”
Mr. Goldman’s family, which has never collected on the $33.5 million wrongful-death civil judgment it won against Mr. Simpson in 1997, filed a federal lawsuit seeking the money that was paid as an advance on the book. Last month a federal judge in California refused to hear that suit and suggested that the Goldmans could pursue a claim in the state courts of Florida, where Mr. Simpson resides.
Some elements of the book and the television production have been made public. The Fox network, a News Corporation division, placed a snippet of the interview on its Web site before abandoning the project. Earlier this month, Newsweek published an article about the chapter of the book pertaining to the hypothetical killings.
The person who provided the transcript to The Times — who would only speak anonymously because those involved in the production were required to sign confidentiality agreements — said that it related a conversation that took about 12 minutes of nearly 4 hours of film that was shot.
The incomplete nature of the transcript makes it impossible to know with certainty exactly how Mr. Simpson might have, at any given point, characterized his participation in the interview, and just how he wanted his remarks to be regarded.
Mr. Galanter said that Mr. Simpson had said in other parts of the interview that he opposed including the hypothetical murder account in the book and that he had undertaken the project to earn money for his children. Mr. Simpson is seeking to regain rights to the story of his relationship with Ms. Simpson, which made up most of the “If I Did It” manuscript, for another possible book, Mr. Galanter said.
The partial transcript of the interview begins with Ms. Regan asking Mr. Simpson to begin his hypothetical account of the night of June 12, 1994.
What follows is a mix of detailed descriptions, claims of faulty memory and several instances in which Mr. Simpson tries to cut off questioning and says that people should just read the book.
Mr. Simpson introduces a new character to the well-known cast: a man identified only as Charlie, someone he had recently met and befriended, and who, in the hypothetical accounts, served as an unwilling accomplice to the murders.
Mr. Simpson says in the interview that Charlie came to his house that night and told him of troubling aspects of Ms. Simpson’s personal life, things Mr. Simpson said “had to stop.” The two drove to Ms. Simpson’s nearby home. He says that he always kept a ski hat in his car for chilly mornings on the golf course, along with a knife to deal with “crazies.” Mr. Simpson says he left the knife in the car, with Charlie.
As Mr. Simpson approached his ex-wife’s door, Mr. Goldman arrived, the two began exchanging angry words, and Ms. Simpson came out and joined the argument, Mr. Simpson says. After she “fell,” Mr. Goldman squared off against Mr. Simpson in a karate stance. Then Charlie showed up with the knife.
Mr. Simpson says he remembered grabbing the knife from Charlie. He says he then blacked out. His next memory is being covered in “blood and stuff.”
Asked by Ms. Regan to describe the bloody scene in greater detail, he at one point suggests that viewers read the book because he found it too difficult to discuss. Moments later, he speaks about it in a way that suggests he holds no more knowledge of the crime scene than anyone else who had watched the televised trials.
Mr. Simpson then talks about bloody clothing and the knife. Ms. Regan asks if he retrieved the bloody bundle from Charlie because he had left his wallet and keys in his pants pocket. Mr. Simpson says he knew that to be “true.”
In the transcript Ms. Regan also asks Mr. Simpson about the infamous glove, the one he struggled to shove onto his hand during his 1995 trial, leading his lawyer, Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., to tell jurors, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
Ms. Regan frames the question by reminding Mr. Simpson that he has written in the book that he removed the glove before grabbing the knife from Charlie. Mr. Simpson answers that he did not recall doing that but concedes that he “must have” because the glove was later found at the murder scene.
The transcript does not contain any remarks by Mr. Simpson about what happened to the bloody clothes or the knife he described in the interview. But in the manuscript Mr. Simpson wrote that he gave a bundle to Charlie with explicit instructions to “make sure it disappears ... forever.”