WHAT DID ALLAN PARK SEE?
As with nearly all of the testimony in the Simpson trial, the fairly simple experience of limo driver Allan Park was rendered complicated and filled with uncertainty by the attorneys. In the following review and analysis I try to restore the simplicity that Allan Park's testimony warrants.
ALLAN PARK IN THE GRAND JURY: (Examined by Marcia Clark.) In the grand jury on June 21st limo driver Allan Park said that he arrived at Simpson's estate by driving up Rockingham at 10:25pm. (When all testimony from all sources and proceedings is considered, this is taken to be 10:23pm.) He made a right turn on Ashford, a U-turn, and then parked facing west until some time between 10:35 and 10:40, when he repositioned the limo. This he did by driving the few yards to Rockingam, turning left to go down and inspect the Rockingham gate, then backing up past Ashford, turning left on Ashford, going down to Simpson's Ashford gate, and pulling in there with his front bumper almost to the gate. Eventually, he was admitted, loaded Simpson and his luggage, and departed by continuing down the driveway as it curved to an exit on Rockingham. There, he left the Simpson property with a left turn to go south on Rockingham toward the airport. This departure occurred at about 11:15, he said.
There was no testimony as to whether he saw a vehicle parked by the Rockingham driveway when he arrived at 10:23. At the time he repositioned the limo "just before 10:40" (this is taken to be 10:39) he said there was no vehicle at the Rockingham driveway, and he said "I would have saw it if it was there." Of the situation at the time he left for the airport, he said he looked left and right before he entered Rockingham from Simpson's drive, and "There were no cars... I'm pretty sure." But he was looking for oncoming traffic, not parked cars. When asked, "There might have been a car parked there and you didn't see it?" he answered, "Correct."
ALLAN PARK IN THE PRELIMINARY HEARING: (Direct examination by Marcia Clark, cross examination by Robert Shapiro.) In the preliminary hearing, July 5, 1994, Park essentially gave the same information about the possible presence of the parked Bronco that he had given in the grand jury. Specifically, he was asked if, when he repositioned the limo at 10:39, he "noticed any white Ford Bronco parked on the Rockingham side near the gate?" and he said, "No, I didn't." But, he believed that the circumstances of his observation would have caused him to see it if it were there.
He repeated his grand jury testimony that he left Simpson's estate by turning left onto Rockingham from the south driveway at about 11:15. He was asked, "Did you look to see whether any cars were parked on the right side as you faced the driveway of Rockingham outside the residence?" To which he said, "I didn't look to see." As in the grand jury, there was no inquiry in the preliminary hearing as to whether he saw the Bronco when he arrived at 10:23.
ALLAN PARK IN THE CRIMINAL TRIAL: Park testified in the criminal trial on March 28 and 29, 1995 (direct examination by Marcia Clark, cross examination by Johnny Cochran). The time at which Park arrived at Rockingham is re-evaluated as being "10:22 or 10:23." The obvious question, not asked in earlier proceedings, was finally asked: When Park first arrived at Simpson's estate, he did not see a car parked in the position that the Bronco was seen the following morning. Prosecutor Clark made a great point of showing that he had to see the house number on the curb to know that he was at his destination, and that was only five feet or so from the Bronco's back bumper. The implication was that if Park saw the tiny house number (4-1/2" tall), he should have seen a vehicle that was so near to it. However, Park also admitted that he was "going by a little bit fast when" he first got to Rockingham, and was "driving and looking at the [numbers on the curb] as [he] went past [and he] went on up to Ashford," fifty yards beyond. But, for whatever reason -- whether because it was not there or because he overlooked it -- he did not see the Bronco at 10:23.
Concerning the 10:39 repositioning, Park is asked, "and as you pulled down Rockingham this time going southbound on Rockingham and looked into the Rockingham gate, did you see any car, white Bronco, parked to the left of the gate as you faced it?" To which he says, "No, I didn't." He is then asked, "And was that location in your field of view at the time you looked into the Rockingham gate?" To which he says, "Yes."
The time at which Park believes he left Simpson's estate bound for the airport now slips a little from the original estimate of 11:15. Now it becomes "11:10 to 11:15" when talking to the prosecutor, and "11:05 to 11:15" when talking to the defense attorney. We will consider that this happened at 11:10. He says that as he was about to enter Rockingham, there was a car approaching from the north, his right - the direction in which he would have to look to see the Bronco. He was also aware of a car parked at the curb some distance down Rockingham to his left. He waited for the southbound car to pass before proceeding. In the course of this maneuver, he says, "something was obstructing my view over here on the right, and I edged out and I let the [southbound] car go by." He could not further identify this obstruction to his view, but it was in the general position in which the Bronco was seen the next morning. Then Park "followed [the southbound car] down" the hill.
Park also established, through phone records, benchmarks in the time he did particular things. While he was parked at the Ashford gate waiting to be admitted, he alternated his time between the intercom box, where he would push the page button two to four times in one episode, and sitting in the limo with the driver's door open (the side of the car away from Rockingham), some of which time was occupied on the phone. In particular, there were the following calls:
(Try the intercom)
* 10:43:44 (unknown duration, but brief) to his boss's pager
(Try the intercom)
* 10:46:30 (for 2:20) to his home to get his boss's home phone number
* 10:49:07 (unknown duration, but brief) to his boss's home: unanswered
(Try the intercom)
* 10:52:17 (for 2:55) incoming from his boss
On cross examination, Park is asked about what he heard, as well as what he saw. He said that the night "was very quiet." He was able to hear routine street sounds in his vicinity, and in fact did hear and see cars pass by (presumably on Rockingham, which is the more traveled street), but he "never heard a car pull up and stop." He did not hear a door (as a car door) slam, and he did not see an indication that there was a nearby car whose lights were suddenly turned off . However, Park points out that between 10:23 and 10:39 he was outside the limo, with that car between him and Rockingham.
He also said that at the 10:39 visit to the Rockingham gate he looked down the driveway and saw two cars, one of which was the Bentley, and the other of which was a smaller dark colored car. Of this observation, he says, "I'm pretty sure, not positive, but that is what I observed." He does not have a recollection, one way or the other, of parked cars in the driveway at the time he left for the airport. He says that he believes the limo he was driving that night was about 28 feet long.
On re-direct examination it is established that when Park went down Rockingham at 10:39 to examine the south gate, he traveled in about the middle of the street. Insofar as Rockingham is a three lane street, including parking lanes, this would have caused him to pass within inches of the Bronco if it were present. And yet, Park was not aware of a vehicle there. (From the place where he stopped to look down the south driveway, Park would have been about ten feet from the Bronco's position.)
ROSA LOPEZ IN THE CRIMINAL TRIAL: There is an additional witness that was technically not part of the trial, but testified in court on videotape, an appearance that was never presented to the jury. Ms. Lopez was the Salvadoran housekeeper for Simpson's neighbors to the south. Although her testimony has been treated as a joke by many, she is a person who was in a position to know the whereabouts of the Bronco, and she did testify to the fact.
She said that on that Sunday night at 10:00 she left her television set to fix herself a cup of tea, and when that was done, put a leash on the dog, and took him out in the front yard for a few minutes. From some parts of the front yard she could see the place where the Bronco was found the next morning and she said that during that episode, she did see the Bronco, a vehicle that was familiar to her. The actual time of this observation is uncertain; the defense attorneys tried to make it to be as late as 10:20, but 10:10 seems to be a more reasonable value. Therefore, we take her testimony to mean that she did see the Bronco at the Rockingham gate at 10:10.
THE ATTORNEYS AND THEIR GAMES: The basic strategy of the attorneys was predictable. The defense tried to persuade that the Bronco had been all night in the same location that it was found the following morning, and that since this is presumably the vehicle that Simpson would have used to go to Bundy, he did not go there. (We know that is untrue by Shively's testimony.) It was the prosecution's objective to show that the Bronco was away from Rockingham for a substantial time during the critical hour of 10 to 11pm, and so presumably Simpson was away, too. We will make our own determination.
The prosecution began their misrepresentation with a distorted map of the vicinity (see Figure 1). This gives the idea that a northbound traveler on Rockingham is forced to turn right onto Ashford when he gets to that point; that is not true. Rockingham continues for another block north of Ashford; however, Ashoford does not continue west of Rockingham. The map also implies that Rockingham is narrower than Ashford; the two streets are actually of comparable width, and if either is wider it is Rockingham. Considering the care to detail that is put into other parts of the map, these errors are inexplicable.
The prosecution also presented a photograph of the Bronco parked at its Rockingham place. I was not able to find the prosecution's picture, but show an equivalent photograph from Court TV in Figure 2. An arrow pointing to the ground five feet behind the Bronco has been added to show the location of the house number painted on the curb. As we shall shortly see, even though this photograph accurately portrays what it purports to show, it is one of the most misleading exhibits in the trial.
The defense antics consisted largely in defaming the witness, Park. They leaked a rumor (later reprinted by Bosco) that the cigarette Park smoked while he was waiting on Ashford for the time to page Simpson was marijuana, not tobacco. Presumably, his powers of observation would have been impaired by this. However, there has never been any witness to raise this from the level of rumor. Then, they portrayed Park as a spineless mamma's boy (also in Bosco) because he phoned his mother when he was not able to rouse Simpson on the intercom. However, Park first tried to get his boss through a pager number, and failing that wanted to call him at home. But Park did not have Dale St. John's home phone number with him, and called his own house to have whoever answered the phone get if for him from his records. That happened to be his mother, and after she supplied the number Park hung up, and called St. John directly. On that account he is portrayed as being a mamma's boy.
Park has also been criticized for coming to court with his mother, and consulting with her before making any arrangements with the prosecutors or defense attorneys. Some have said that while he was on the witness stand, he turned to his mother for non-verbal advice, and they have characterized this as his having been "coached" by his mother. Perhaps that is true, but it happens that Park's mother is an attorney, and she came to court in the capacity of a legal representative, not a mother. Park is hardly the only Simpson case witness that consulted with an attorney about his appearance. Kato's attorney in the grand jury caused him to refuse to testify until Marcia Clark took him before a judge where he could get concessions to her steamrollering tactics. And, of course, Mark Fuhrman had an attorney that instructed him in the ultimate stonewalling -- he took the fifth amendment. Other witnesses also had attorneys.
However, goofed up maps, misleading photographs, and engineered character assassinations of witnesses are not really the best basis upon which to understand Park's testimony. It is better to try to understand the circumstances of his observations, and interpret his words within that context.
MY OWN OBSERVATIONS: In November 1998 I visited the location of Simpson's former estate, both during the daytime and at night. The situation was far different than the impression I got from the court proceedings. The most dramatic difference is the darkness, especially at the location where the Bronco was found Monday morning. Although there are some decorative lights on the fronts of a few of the houses in that neighborhood, the only effective lighting on the street at Simpson's estate comes from the street light at Rockingham and Ashford, and the headlights of passing cars. Otherwise, the scene is pitch black. When I was there, a dumpster was parked at the Bronco's position, and when it was not illuminated by my car's headlights, it was invisible.
I have prepared diagrams which show the lighting schematically. Figure 3 shows the situation as Park drove up Rockingham on his initial approach to the house. The path ahead of him is illuminated by his own headlights. To determine the angle of dispersion for typical headlights, I measured my own, and found that the main beam falls off abruptly 2-1/2 feet from the axis of the headlight at a point ten feet in front of the car. I have used this proportion of 1:4 in all of my diagrams, and I have showed shades of gray to indicate regions illuminated by the limo's headlights.
The sodium vapor streetlight at Rockingham and Ashford casts a pinkish glow. The light is on a utility pole on the north-east corner, and surrounding trees block the light in several directions, however this light does shine in full strength on the Ashford gate to Simpson's estate. On my diagrams I have shown the region illuminated by the streetlight as pink, and scalloped the south edge of this to indicate the boundary caused by tree shadows. Points south of the pink area are not illuminated by the streetlight. I have not attempted to show the shadow boundary north of Ashford.
There are also exterior lights on Simpson's house. Though I did not see the effect of these myself, they are alluded to in Park's testimony. There is both one or more porch lights, and a light pointing north on the garage roof, and Park says that these are effective out to about twenty feet or so. I have tried to estimate the region illuminated by these, and show that region in shades of yellow.
When one compares the reality of so much unilluminated area with the picture of the Bronco in Figure 2 that Clark showed the jury, he can see how misleading that photo is. Allan Park never saw, and never could have seen, anything resembling that picture because of the lighting conditions. Referring to that picture, Clark said that if a person could see the house number, then he could see the Bronco. While that is true in the daytime, as in her picture, it is not true there at night. The only things that can be seen are those things which are artificially illuminated, and that state needs to be defined before any other discussions are meaningful.
In addition to the darkness, another unusual thing about that Rockingham neighborhood is that there is little traffic and very little parking on the street. The lots are very large, and there is much parking on the properties. So, except when someone is having a party, or there is some other kind of overflow, residents do not park on the street. In some blocks there is not a single car parked at the curb; in others there are only one or two. For this reason, it is not inconvenient that the streets are narrow (3 lanes) by other standards. In most places a traveler has all three lanes to himself. For this reason, when Fuhrman said that the Bronco stood out because it was parked "askew," and few of us thought that it looked at much of an odd angle, he was not verbalizing the whole reason for his suspicion. The very fact that a car was parked at the curb in any condition was somewhat unusual for that neighborhood. In Simpson's case, there was a good reason for this: two guest houses occupied (Arnelle and Kato) and the garage not used. But, the appearance on the street was unusual.
APPROACHING 360 N. ROCKINGHAM: In Figure 3 we see the situation as Park first drove up Rockingham to Simpson's estate. At some distance from the south driveway, the curb address was illuminated by Park's headlights, and from my experience there I would say that the address would be readable from a distance of about 150 feet, up to the point where it was no longer in the headlight beam (probably about 30 feet, if Park was driving near the center of the roadway, which is common there.) If the Bronco was there, the back of it would be flooded with Park's headlights and because there was so little in the surrounding dark field, it would be very conspicuous. And, the simple fact that it was a car parked at the curb in that neighborhood would make it noteworthy.
At the time he arrived, Park tells us, he did not yet know how he would enter Simpson's property -- whether by the Ashford gate or from Rockingham. One would expect that in this frame of mind he would be gathering clues about the situation, and one of these would be the proximity of an obstacle to the entrance he might use. So, the Bronco as he approached would not only be conspicuous, but might be something that he would be slightly inclined to remember for the moment. And yet, he did not see it. I consider this to mean that it was not in that place at 10:23 when he arrived.
REPOSITIONING THE LIMO: If the limo in Figure 3 is turned around facing south, and positioned in the intersection, the situation is that in which Park approached the Rockingham gate during the repositioning maneuver. The Bronco's parking place is again in Park's full headlight beam as he approaches the south gate, and because there is so little else illuminated, it would be conspicuous. And, if it was there, it is unlikely that he would drive down the middle of the street to check out the south drive, as he said he did, but would have gone farther to the right where he could avoid coming close to the Bronco. Both because he did not see such a conspicuous object, and did not adjust his path to avoid it, I conclude that it was not there at 10:39 when Park repositioned the limo.
We also see from the Rockingham illumination charts that Park made a terrible blunder in his testimony that when he said he peered down the south driveway during the repositioning maneuver he saw two cars. From his position on the street, he is not projecting his own headlights down the drive. (He was asked specifically whether he pulled up to that gate with the front of the limo, and he said he did not.) It would be surprising if there was enough light in that view to see more than an occasional glint reflected from chrome, and it would have surely been impossible to tell how many cars or what kind they were from that position. It must be concluded that he mixed into his actual observations on Sunday night things he later saw on television, when cameras looked down that same driveway during the daytime and saw the Bentley and Arnelle's car.
PARK AT THE ASHFORD GATE: In Figure 4 we see the illumination at the time when Park was at the Ashford gate trying to rouse someone in Simpson's house. The front of the house is illuminated both by the house's exterior lights, and by Park's headlights. Because the Ashford driveway is at an angle to the front of the house, Park's headlights point south-east, and do not illuminate the south end of the driveway. None of the house lights reach this area either, and as Park testified, he could not see from his vantage the region down by the garage and farther. It is in this area where would have traveled a person who went to pound on Kato's wall, and who would go to the place where the glove was dropped. The lighting did not permit Park to see such a person, as Figure 4 illustrates. However, this same lighting gives an excellent view of anyone crossing the driveway to go into the front door of the house.
Also notice that from Park's place at the Ashford gate he has a grazing view of the front of the house. If there are interior house lights on near the front windows, he will see them. But if there are lights on in the house, back away from the front windows, they may not have an effect that is very obvious to him. Such lights, however would be visible to anyone on Rockingham with a high enough perch to look over Simpson's walls and through the windows deeper into the rooms. This allows us to understand how some after-the-fact reporters said that even when there were lights on inside Simpson's house they could not be seen from the Ashford gate. Lights toward the middle and back of the house would have this effect. But, if as Park was watching, interior lights near the front windows were turned on, he would perceive that "the lights inside the house went on." Thus, there is no conflict between some reports that say you can see interior lights from the Ashford gate and others that say you can not.
THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE: These maps of Simpson's estate also allow us to evaluate Park's observation that he did not hear the Bronco arrive. Cochran made a point of the fact that during part of Park's stay there he was out of the car and in a position to hear and see things nearby. But, this was during the time before the reposition maneuver, and we know that the Bronco did not come back during that interval, since Park did not see it at 10:39. It is more relevant to ask what was his ability to hear during the following period. In that interval, he shifted his position from the intercom box, on the far side of the limo from Rockingham, to the interior of the limo where he made and received cell phone calls. In particular, analysis of the Heidstra and Shively observations leads to the conclusion that Simpson got back to Rockingham in the minutes just after 10:44, and this was a time when Park says he was engaged in telephone business inside the limo, trying to reach his boss at home. He was probably looking at things within the limo (like the cell phone) or at the house (for signs of life) and not over his right shoulder at Rockingham.
The Bronco parking place is about 150 feet from where Park was at the Ashford gate, and there are two solid walls covered with ivy between the two points. There are several large trees in Simpson's front yard, and much foliage in the neighborhood to soak up sound. So, direct sound between the two points is blocked by walls, and reflected sound is prevented by foliage. If Simpson arrived at a moment when Park was inside the limo and on the phone, it is almost certain that he would not be noticed. It is simply a red herring to compare this situation -- as Cochran did -- with that of ten or twenty minutes earlier when Park was sitting on the curb with nothing else to do but watch an occasional Rockingham car go by.
LEAVING FOR THE AIRPORT: Figure 5 shows the situation as Park was pulling out of the south driveway and preparing to enter Rockingham; it is the most revealing of the illumination charts. Notice that unlike the two previous occasions when he was on Rockingham and his headlights pointed along that street, now Park is positioned so that his headlights are transverse to the street. The Bronco at its parking place is outside the beam of his headlights, and he can not see it by direct illumination. If one is in a leisurely state (as Rosa Lopez was) she might see the Bronco silhouetted in the soft glow of the streetlight 70 yards farther on. Or, if he was in a hurry, he might see that a Bronco as an "obstacle" that blocked the view of a car approaching from the north, and prompted him to edge out farther into the street in preparation for making the turn, as Park said he did. But unless he was familiar with the Bronco and expected to see it there, it is unlikely that in these lighting conditions he would be able to tell what it was. This, I think, accounts for Park's vagueness on what the situation was when he left Simpson's estate for the airport, but still allows him to be so sure about the situation at two earlier times.
CONCLUSION: From the foregoing, I conclude that the Bronco was at the Rockingham parking place when Rosa Lopez was in her front yard at 10:10; it was not in its place when Park first arrived at 10:23; it was not in that place when he repositioned the limo at 10:39; but it was in that place when he left for the airport at 11:10. Furthermore, if Simpson arrived at a time when Park was inside the limo and occupied with the cell phone (as he was at several times after 10:43), Park would not have noticed the arrival.
This conforms satisfactorily with my own understanding in which Simpson left his estate bound for Bundy at 10:22, and arrived back at Rockingham at 10:44.
Dick Wagner Van Nuys, CA (11/16/98) NG_515