Double Edged: The knife and Jeopardy
What could come of the dramatic discovery of a knife potentially connecting O.J. Simpson to the deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman? Can he be re-tried on murder charges or tried on other related charges?
News and social media are reporting the discovery of a folding buck knife found by a construction worker at the Simpson estate when it was being demolished a few years after the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman occurred. Reports indicate that the worker turned the knife over to an LAPD officer who, ultimately, did not place it in evidence, but rather kept it as some sort of “souvenir.” A friend of the officer recently reported the discovery to the LAPD. The knife is now being tested for forensic evidence some 22 years later, although preliminary reports indicate it is unlikely to be the weapon used in the murder.
O.J. Simpson was tried by jury for the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman in June of 1994. He was acquitted by a jury in the criminal trial in 1995. Assuming, hypothetically, that the knife has forensic evidence which could be connected to the murder of the victims, can O.J. face the same or new criminal charges?
The 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Arizona Constitution (all States have some constitutional version of the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy) guarantee a person the freedom from being tried more than once for the same offense. “No person shall . . . be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense.” Art. 2, Sec. 10, Arizona Constitution. On the surface, the question of whether an offense is the same offense for double jeopardy purposes seems simple. Murder is murder right? In modern day criminal justice, prosecutors have wide latitude in charging various and different forms of crimes arising out of one set of circumstances. For example, in a murder case a person may end up charged with kidnapping, burglary, or any other crime surrounding the causing of the death of the victim. Additionally, murder can be charged as first degree, premeditated, second degree, manslaughter, or even negligent homicide in certain circumstances. For an interesting and informative discussion on double jeopardy law, take a look at Double Jeopardy Law Made Simple by Akhil Reed Amar, form the Yale Law Journal. http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/fss_papers/943/mons.law.yale.edu/fss_papers/943/
It is highly unlikely that O.J. Simpson would be charged with any sort of serious criminal offense under a double jeopardy analysis. Conceivably, he could be charged with such crimes as Tampering with Evidence or Obstruction of Justice depending on applicable California Law, but after this much time, even that is unlikely.