Research News

Latest Simpson twist shows interest remains for this case

By RACHEL STERN

Published March 8, 2016

“This story is not at all about the facts. The appeal is independent from facts. What we have now is an enduring mystery.”
David Schmid, associate professor
Department of English

The latest development in the O.J. Simpson case — a knife was reportedly found on the grounds of his former home — is really not much of a development at all, says David Schmid, UB associate professor of English.

“This is really, really sketchy and there is not much of a story here,” says Schmid, who studies culture and is the editor of the 2015 book “Violence in American Popular Culture.” “We don’t know if any parts are true and at the moment, there is no evidence this knife has any connection whatsoever to the murder. Just the smallest possibility is enough for this to be all over the media.

“It’s getting so much attention and so much coverage because this is the perfect storm and has all the elements that make it an appealing story for the public.”

One of those elements is the fact that the new FX mini-series “The People v. O.J. Simpson” has heightened people’s interest in the case as of late, says Schmid. The knife news comes at a time when people who may not have even been alive during the trial are watching it unfold on television, he says.

Another key element that has led to so much interest in this latest finding — no matter how little detail or how little impact it will have — is the criticism of the Los Angeles Police Department, Schmid says. It doesn’t matter that Simpson cannot be tried again under double jeopardy, he says: The L.A.P.D. was criticized back in the 1990s and this brings more heat as to how the department may have handled evidence.

“A guy holding onto a knife, even if this knife has nothing to do with anything, will ring a bell for a lot of people that sounds like more corruption, more cover-ups, and that is another reason why this is getting so much play,” he says. “Our culture is more receptive than ever to stories that imply police wrongdoing or corruption, so this latest development appeals to not only people who remember the original trial, but also to people who have a strong sense that something is pervasively wrong in the criminal justice system.”

While police officials say the knife is being tested for DNA evidence, Schmid says there is really not much content here. And the lack of detail makes this story that much more compelling, he says.

People are addicted to conspiracy theories and part of the appeal is filling in the blanks with their own hunches, he says.

“This story is not at all about the facts,” he says. “The appeal is independent from facts. What we have now is an enduring mystery and that allows stories like this to pop up, and if you take that away, it becomes less enthralling for people.”