An experiment to determine the interaction between a knit cap and an agapanthus plant is described elsewhere ("AGAPANTHUS & CAP".). They are shown and described here.
BACKGROUND: The subject of agapanthus and knit cap is of interest because these objects were parts of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. It was claimed by prosecutors that Simpson was wearing a knit cap while he was attacking victim Ron Goldman with a knife, the cap became dislodged, and fell through the leaves of a nearby agapanthus plant where it was later found by investigators. Subsequently, the cap was tied convincingly to Simpson by hair and fiber traces on it. A glove also was found beneath the leaves of the agapanthus, and was said to have got there in a similar way, but I did not conduct any experiments with a glove.
I had believed that it was impossible for such a cap to fall through the leaves of the plant naturally, and therefore that it had been planted to frame Simpson. I conducted the experiment to verify that expectation. The result of the experiment did not show that it is impossible for the cap to fall through the leaves, but that it is unlikely that such a thing will happen.
The situation is shown in Figure 1 which is the famous
"Fuhrman-points-to-glove" photo taken in the pre-dawn hours of June 13, 1994. The agapanthus is the plant with the slender floppy leaves beneath which he is pointing. The plant is against the fence of Nicole's front yard at the gate. Fuhrman is squatting in the alcove where Goldman's body was found; The back of Nicole's body is seen in the foreground. If one walked away from her body, along the walk toward the top of the picture he would be walking toward the sidewalk, which is about 13 feet away. Figure 1A shows an enlarged view of the agapanthus plant, and Figure 1B shows an enlarged view of Nicole's right shoulder. The tiles on the walkway are 11 inches on an edge (roughly 1 foot). Notice that the entrance to the alcove Fuhrman is in is bounded on the west (bottom left in the picture) by the wall supporting a railing that separates the alcove from the walk, and it is bounded on the east by the agapanthus plant. The entrance to the alcove between these two objects is narrow, not more than 20 inches.
THE EXPERIMENT: In December 1997 I bought and planted in my back yard an agapanthus plant, and by June it had grown to the approximate size of the plant at Nicole's gate. I acquired a knit cap, and undertook to "fling" "toss" and "drop" the cap at/on the plant to see whether it would fall through the leaves. Figure 2 shows the experimental situation. I recorded the relative location of the cap's resting place as North, South, East, West, or Center. In some cases the cap bounced off the plant and landed in a place where it was not in contact with the plant. These were recorded as "Bounced." The corresponding position of the cap on Nicole's plant is shown by the star in Figure 2.
Also shown in Figure 2 are some of the resulting arrangements that are seen between the cap and a leaf of the plant. In order to account for the fact that several leaves may be involved in the final picture, results were recorded in such forms as, "On top of all leaves," or "Over two leaves, under three leaves."
FLINGING: It was thought that a person could stand a yard or two away from the plant, reach low, and fling the cap toward the ground at the edge of the plant to get it under the leaves, To test this, the cap was "flung" 50 times at the plant. Figure 3A shows the usual result in which the cap was completely covered by the leaves, and they were not entangled in the cap. This is the situation seen at the crime location. In one case (Figure 3B) the leaves were conspicuously bent back by the cap, and even to a casual observer it would appear that the cap was flung at, and not dropped upon the plant. There were a large number of ambiguous cases in which a careful observer could have detected that the cap was flung, but it was still dark when Fuhrman disturbed the leaves for the photograph, and it was considered that under these conditions of observation there was only 1 of the 50 trials in which the result of "flinging" would have been detected. The conclusion was that flinging would give the result seen at Bundy.
TOSSING: It is recognized that somewhat different results will be
seen whether there is a horizontal component of motion when the cap contacts the plant. To simulate cases in which there is a horizontal component of motion, the cap was "tossed" from 8 feet or so onto the plant. To simulate cases in which there was not a horizontal component of motion, the cap was "dropped" from 8 feet onto the plant. (To facilitate photography, the trials of "tossing" and "dropping" were conducted with white painted pegboard below and behind the plant.)
The most conspicuous thing one sees of the cap coming in contact with the plant is that the event is often like watching the ball in a pinball machine. Sometimes the cap bounces completely off the plant (Figure4A). Occasionally, it stays where it hits (Figure 4B).
But, if it falls through the leaves, the cap never winds up beneath the point at which it initially contacts the plant, but bounces on the leaves first.
Sometimes it comes to rest completely under the leaves (Figure 4C) and sometimes it comes to an ambiguous result (Figure 4D), over some leaves, and under others.
Overall, the results of 50 tosses are that 11 cases clearly gave the result seen on Bundy, 20 cases gave a result clearly different than seen there, and 19 cases gave an ambiguous result. The ambiguous cases were arbitrarily distributed equally to be interpreted as like and unlike the Bundy observations. The result then is that in 28-1/2 cases out of 50 trials (57% of the time) the cap does not end up in a position like that seen at Bundy.
DROPPING: The individual results of dropping were very much the same
as those of tossing, but the proportion of particular outcomes was somewhat different. Figure 5 shows a typical result of a dropping trial rated as "ambiguous."
Overall, the results of 50 drops are that 3 cases clearly gave the result seen on Bundy, 30 cases gave a result clearly different than seen there, and 17 cases gave an ambiguous result. Arbitrarily distributing the ambiguous cases between the other two, one finds 38-1/2 cases out of 50 (77% of the time) the cap does not end up in a position like that seen at Bundy.
CONCLUSION: Since we do not know if there might have been a
horizontal component to the cap's motion, we take as our final result, the
average of "tossing" and "dropping." Thus, we conclude that there is a 33% probability that a knit cap lost in a struggle WILL come to the same result as the police found at Bundy. There is a 67% probability that it WILL NOT give this appearance. That is, it is twice as likely that a cap lost in a struggle will not give the appearance seen as that it will.
THE FRAGILE AGAPANTHUS: I was surprised at how beat up the poor agapanthus got during this experiment. I do not consider that a knit cap tossed from 8 feet is a particularly harmful missile. But, the agapanthus plant is apparently as fragile as crystal. In Figure 6A we see the plant a little more than half-way through the tossing trials (it is the odd-ball case where the cap landed on an edge). In Figure 6B we see the plant after the end of the dropping trials the next day. It is obvious that it has suffered greatly. Nicole's plant in Figure 1 does not appear to show any such injury, and seems quite perky. Of course, we would not expect the plant to show an obvious injury from a single contact with the cap and a single contact with a glove. Those objects could bounce, and fall through
the leaves without leaving a trace.
It would, however, be obvious if a person had stepped on part of the plant, or if a leg had been flung against it. We previously noted that the opening to the alcove where Goldman's body was found is less than 2 feet wide without contacting the agapanthus, and the prosecutor claimed that Goldman and Simpson, locked in a life-and-death struggle, passed through there. We see that if they did pass through there they did so without contacting the plant. Under the circumstances of such a struggle, this is simply not believable. The struggle did not progress into the alcove where Goldman's body was found, the killer heaved his corpse in there while standing on the walk near Nicole's head. (There are several other indications that Goldman's corpse was heaved into its final resting place, but the survival of the agapanthus is one indication.)
Dick Wagner Van Nuys, CA (6/24/98) AG_PHOTO