Further Reading


Los Angeles Times, Friday, June 24, 1994

Perspectives on the Simpson case; What O.J.'s letter didn't say

Stanton Peele


O.J. SimpsonWhen O. J. Simpson's "to whom it may concern" letter was read on television after he went on the lam, his supporters were relieved to hear his denial that he'd killed his former wife, Nicole. Others, however, noted that the letter expressed no sympathy for her family. (It did express empathy for the family of the other victim, Ronald Lyle Goldman.)

Also, it was odd that, if O. J. believed some stranger had murdered Nicole, he expressed no curiosity about the actual killer or killers. Nor did he exhort the police to locate them.

But the deficiencies in O. J.'s letter go considerably deeper than omitting sympathy for his wife's family and interest in her killers. The letter is strangely lacking in any feeling for Nicole. O. J. only mentions her in connection with himself. Nowhere does Simpson express despair over the death of the woman he claimed to love. He seems not to appreciate that her existence is ended. His concern about Nicole in the letter is only that people misunderstood their relationship.

Simpson seems much more concerned not to overlook his friends, teammates and golfing buddies (22 of whom he mentions by name). And it can only be considered tacky that he addresses his new amour in this letter.

Although O. J. mentions his two children, he seems to have a hard time identifying with their emotional loss. He does not reflect on the fact that they will not have a mother, nor perhaps a father. His only expression of paternal care is to ask the press to leave his children alone.

Simpson's main preoccupation is to claim that any stories about marital difficulties between Nicole and him were exaggerated or made up by the press. Simpson twice in this brief letter indicates that the conflict between them was "no more than what every long-term relationship experiences."

Of course, he and Nicole were divorced. And it was she who reported to police that O. J. had beaten and threatened to kill her. But O. J. dismisses "all this press talk about a rocky relationship." He also claims that the press "totally made up" the information implicating him in the murder of his wife.

If this were so, Simpson would seem to have the resources to set the record straight. He is a popular figure who elicits much sympathy. He can hire the best lawyers and experts to fortify his position. But O. J. does not seem inclined to set the public straight on a factual level.

He also claims that the only reason he pleaded no contest to wife abuse in 1989 was that he "was advised it would end the press hype."

O. J. Simpson seems incapable of accepting responsibility for his behavior.

The portrait of Simpson as a man who recognizes only feelings that directly impact him and blames other people for his problems is disturbing. Worse, O. J. consistently portrays himself as the victim. He laments that he had "done most of the right things, so why do I end up like this?"

In particular, Simpson blames Nicole for his problems. He says: "All her friends will confirm that I have been totally loving . . . ." (He began the letter by claiming, "If we had a problem, it's because I loved her so much.")

Most chillingly, Simpson asserts, "At times I have felt like a battered husband or boyfriend." Is this sense of injury an all-purpose excuse?

Some legal commentators suspect that O. J.'s defense could shift from the claim that he didn't kill the victims to one of temporary insanity or irresistible impulse. His letter already reflects the detachment and self-absorption that such a defense would be built on.