THE GRAND DEFENSE STRATEGY
In the following, I describe an interesting, but little known book about the Simpson case, and the interpretation I make of its claims. It is my interpretation that it describes the backbone of a deceptive defense strategy for injecting into the discussion of the trial speculative explanations for the evidence that would be ridiculed if the defense attorneys advanced these ideas themselves.
THE BOOK: I am here talking about Steven Singular's "Legacy of Deception," 1995, Dove Books. I urge my reader to consider Singular's title carefully, "Legacy of Deception." He may be telling us more here than he realizes.
The book is an account of Singular's personal experiences during the period of the investigation and trial of the O.J. Simpson matter. His background is that he is a (White) writer of true crime books and lives in Denver, Colorado. The previous book that he most mentions is "Talked to Death: The Life and Murder of Alan Berg." He is married (to a Latina) and at the time of these events had an infant child. The book itself is very readable and entertaining. As a native Angeleno, it is a rare treat for me to find an author that does not trash my city. In one place he even says that at some hours and seasons, L.A.'s Westside makes one think that this must be what the Garden of Eden was like. Nice. But, fairy tales are soothing, too.
And, what experience could a Denver writer have had that could make a Simpson book? A very remarkable one, to be sure. In August of 1994, six weeks after the murders, he was visited in Denver by a man he calls his "source," who tells him a few amazing insider things about the Simpson case. This connection between the source and Singular is almost mystical. It is as though Singular had gone to the mountain and sat at the feet of the guru; better even, the mountain came to him.
The guru is selfless and idealistic; it is his purpose to get out the truth and thereby avert injustice, and also to correct the evils of the greater society. He has anointed Singular because of "Talked to Death," his book about a murder with racial motivations. Although the source gives Singular some specific information, he talks in riddles on critical topics, or verges off onto virtuous proclamations about law, society, and racial harmony. And, this guru is so thoroughly noble that for him, when men do evil, they do it for virtuous reasons. Heady stuff.
We are led to presume that the source is in the LAPD, or has some very tight connection to the police investigation, but Singular can not be specific about this. The source tells Singular about a stick, found on Simpson's parkway, and a blue bag, found in the neighbor's yard across the fence from the Rockingham glove. In August 1994 these items were not publicly known. Of more immediate interest, the source said that Fuhrman had "known" Nicole, in some unspecified way, and to some unspecified degree, and believed from the moment that he saw her corpse that she had been killed by O.J. To thwart the possibility that expensive defense lawyers would get Simpson off, Fuhrman decided immediately to take steps to "strengthen the evidence" against the person he knew to be actually guilty. He made a preliminary trip to Rockingham before Lange and Vannatter showed up at Bundy, unsuccessfully looking for evidence. On a second trip when all four detectives went to Simpson's estate, Fuhrman carried the right hand glove he had found at Bundy, and after hearing that there had been a disturbance behind Kato's room, planted it there. (In the ultimate version that the source revealed, Fuhrman was supposed to have also broken into the Bronco in some unknown way, and swiped the bloody glove around inside.)
Singular was advised that if these secrets were to help restore truth, justice, and the American way, they would have to be injected into the proceedings. Since the implications tended to strengthen the defense position and weaken the prosecution, he could expect his best reception with the defense attorneys. Singular flew to LA and on August 8, 1994 wrangled a meeting with the second echelon at Bob Shapiro's Century City offices. Singular's primary contact was Carl Douglas, Johnny Cochran's second in command, and his chief nemesis was Shapiro investigator Bill Pavelic. They pumped Singular, the author laid out what he knew, and the defense attorneys rejected him out of hand - but leaving open a crack so that if he could get more, Douglas would take a phone call about it. Singular flew back to Denver.
Thereupon began a relationship that extended into the fall. Douglas in LA would call Singular in Denver and ask a specific question. Singular would call his source in LA and generally get only vague mutterings in response, but occasionally a new input unrelated to what he was asked. Singular would pass this back to Douglas. In this way, Singular's story became embellished with the concept that during the three hours that Simpson's blood vial was in Vannatter's unsupervised custody, it was used to plant the five drop trail at Bundy. And, this could be proven by the presence of the anti-coagulant EDTA in that blood. Once this was established, Singular began a crusade urging Douglas to find a way to have the evidence drops tested for EDTA, thereby validating Singular's source. But, the defense never did do that, relying instead on the prosecution's own tests which were ultimately ambiguous and inconclusive, at best. However, Douglas did come to learn through official channels about the stick and the blue bag, and that showed that Singular's source at least did have inside information.
By October, Singular had got sucked into the process to the point where Carl Douglas was insisting that the author try to cozy up to crime lab technician Andrea Mazzola (whom Singular did not know) and get her to confirm for the record the source's tale that she had been asked to prepare blank swatches with Simpson's reference blood that were sent to Cellmark Laboratories, as though they were evidence swatches. Singular came to LA and tried, but the plan carried the danger that it would expose Singular's connection with defense lawyers, and the author dropped it before it had succeeded. Douglas wanted much from Singular and would give nothing in return but vague assurances about eventual help with a book. If an operation such as that with Mazzola were to blow up in Singular's face, Singular would be hung out to dry, Douglas told him. If Singular didn't like that arrangement, he could walk.
Singular was non-committal to Douglas, but saw that he could not look to the attorneys for his own future. He gathered up his notes and wrote a 20 page book proposal which he sent to Michael Viner at Dove Books (who was about to make a big splash with Faye Resnick's book) with a note requesting the utmost confidentiality for the document. A couple of weeks later, Singular phoned Douglas to ask a question about blood evidence, and Douglas interrupted him with "We're finished." The book proposal outlining the story of Singular's connection with the defense team was being circulated throughout the legal participants, and Douglas treated this as a betrayals by Singular. In this way, Singular came to learn that doing business with LA lawyers is a matter of giving everything to them, expecting nothing in return, and when you try to make your own way, being treated like scum.
Ultimately, the concepts in Singular's proposal, which he had learned from his "source" became the backbone of the defense logical arguments. When combined with Cochran's inflammatory racial rhetoric and a non-white jury, the total strategy prevailed, and Simpson was acquitted. And, in the end Singular did write his book (which I have just reviewed) and made a little money thereby, I suppose.
ANALYSIS: There are two obvious and fundamental problems with Singular's tale. 1) Is any of it more than a fantasy that he has concocted by carefully watching the proceedings on television? 2) Even if every word he says is an accurate report of his own experiences, what is the significance of those experiences?
Singular claims that he met or talked to Carl Douglas, Johnny Cochran, Bill Pavelic, Barry Scheck, Peter Neufield, Andrea Mazzola, and others. Has any of these many people ever confirmed Singular's participation in events (or denied them.) This is a rhetorical question, perhaps there is some confirmation. But, very often in a book like this there will be a foreword or other comment by another party, and none is seen here. Without some confirmation we do not know that there is a shred of truth for any of this.
There is an indication that the words on the page of this book are to some extent true. Within the story, Singular claims that he submitted a 20 page book proposal to Viner at Dove Books in confidence, and then two weeks later found that it had been circulated to exactly those people he did not want to see it prematurely. Nonetheless, Dove later published his book. In publishing this book, Viner is giving implicit confirmation of Singular's claims in the book concerning Dove Books. Viner is going to have to answer to his friends and business associates when they ask, "Is it really true that you got a book proposal and circulated it?" If he says, "No," then he has admitted that he makes a practice of knowingly publishing books that contain important lies. On this basis, I think that the information in "Legacy of Deception" is true at least through the events of October 1994 when Singular submitted the proposal. And, those are the most significant and questionable parts of his tale. My conclusion: Singular did not make this up; it really happened to him.
Accepting that Singular has accurately reported what happened to him (and that is probably true) what shall we make of it? He very strongly invites us to take the position that his source was a man connected with LA law enforcement, who was dissatisfied by the system, had inside information about the Simpson case, and was using Singular as a conduit to set things right. This is the way that Carl Douglas and the defense attorneys apparently interpreted Singular's story. But, Singular does not explicitly confirm that this is true. All we know by implication is that the source was an insider. He could have been a cop, he could have worked for the DAs office, or he could have known such a person... Or, he could have been a plant by the defense attorneys.
Of course, Douglas, Pavelic, and the others expressed surprise and doubt about Singular's story (and even his own legitimacy) so there is an implicit denial that the defense fed the story to Singular. But, this is Hollywood, and things here are not always as they seem. It is not at all incredible that in the first week of August, Shapiro and company knew about the stick and the blue bag, even though the public did not. And, as Singular himself finally realized, the defense attorneys' initial disbelief in the concept that there would be EDTA in the planted blood was bogus: Thano Peratis had himself mentioned this in the preliminary hearing on July 7th.
We also notice that at the time these events with Singular began (the first week of August) it was already well established that the defense was going to move heaven and earth to build a case that Fuhrman's claim of "finding" the glove at Rockingham could not be relied on. On July 13, author Jeff Toobin, working on a lead supplied to him by defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, visited Los Angeles and found Fuhrman's disability suit records from 1983 in the archives of the country courthouse. That file contained Fuhrman's own claim of tendencies of violence toward minorities, and a hatred of them. Armed with this helpful bit of information Toobin wrangled a chat with Shapiro himself that same day, and thereby determined that the defense already had Fuhrman in their sights. And, Toobin says that Pavlic at that time recalled Fuhrman's connection to an incident of racial violence in the LAPD. All of this was published under Toobin's byline in the July 18th issue of New Yorker magazine. But, on August 8th this same Pavelic in a meeting with Singular expresses scorn with the idea that there could have been ANY relationship between Nicole and Fuhrman. One would expect that considering the conjecture around the office he would have been salivating at the mention. As Dr. Henry Lee would say later, "Something wrong."
It is also remarkably tidy how the story that Singular's "source" tells is so exactly the story that the defense ultimately told to the world. While Singular himself may like to think that this validates his source, and shows how useful he was to the course of events, the opposite is as much warranted. It can also be interpreted that the concepts originated with someone in the defense community, were fed to Singular, and he brought them back as a purported original concept to the defense. In that way, Shapiro and company could advance the ideas of EDTA, a Fuhrman/Nicole connection, bogus blood swatches, and all the rest as more than wishful fantasies. The concept is made perfect by engineering a rift with Singular so that at the end, he is promoting these ideas on his own, without further contact with the defense. (By that time, he has invested much, and is motivated to try to get something for himself out of his investment.)
HOW SHAPIRO DID IT: My conjecture for Singular's experience is that he was an unwitting tool of the defense attorneys, and that the little play that he was drawn into unfolded in a way similar to the following.
In the first week after the crime, the most compelling problem for the defense was Jill Shively, and Shapiro enlisted his contacts among entertainment executives to engineer a combination of events between Hardcopy and American Journal that was fatal to her credibility. In doing this he exploited a pre-existing conflict that Shively had with an ex-boyfriend, and also manipulated events in the DA's office through other contacts. In a matter of days, he had faked out Marcia Clark to the point where she had denounced the most valuable single witness she would ever have. (See my article, "Conjecture" for details.)
With the only eye-witness disposed of, Shapiro and Pavelic turned their attention in mid-July to the physical evidence, which was abundant. The most dramatic of this was the right hand glove found at Rockingham, and with sketchy background information about Fuhrman, who had discovered the glove, they considered that they might eventually be able to find enough to portray him as a "rogue cop." But, the blood in the Bronco, the five drop trail, and the bedroom sock also presented problems. For each of these, an explanation could be concocted, whether there was any factual support or not. However, Shapiro realized that while the public might swallow one or two concocted hypotheticals, this case would require half a dozen, and except for a few kind grandmotherly types, most Americans would not swallow that many coming from the defendant's own attorney. So, it had to be made to look like these ideas came from outside. Enter the concept of Singular's "source."
For the "source," I think that Pavelic found an old and trusted friend (probably associated with the LAPD at an earlier time, like Pavelic himself) who would go to his death denying any connection with the defense. (Eventually, the "source" is also motivated to silence to avoid an obstruction of justice charge.) Then Pavelic fed him the defense fantasies, together with some insider facts that would astonish Singular, and a pretty motivation for the source ("truth, justice, and the American way, but I can't talk about it myself for risk of my career"). When Singular approached the defense, Carl Douglas played hard to get, but not TOO hard to prevent a meeting at which all defense personnel (including Pavelic himself) could express astonishment and skepticism. In fact, it is quite possible that among the defense team only Shapiro and Pavelic realized the truth, and Douglas and the others believed that there was an LAPD source that was feeding Singular. But, Pavelic overacted a bit when he was so quick to deny the possibility of a Nicole/Fuhrman link, and pretended ignorance about EDTA.
In the end, Bob Shapiro's fantasies could be advanced in the case without arousing the skepticism that would be produced if he himself announced them. Bob Shapiro is very well suited to be an attorney in Hollywood, a place where profitable illusions are created every day.
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From all of this, I now understand the title of Singular's book, "Legacy of Deception." The deception was the portrayal by defense attorneys that Singular was being supplied with information by a shadowy source from within the LAPD. In fact, some defense attorney himself was feeding Singular. The legacy is that after all of this experience -- which was based on a deception -- Singular had enough to write a book and advance his career (slightly). Hence the title, "Legacy of Deception."
Sometimes people tell you more than they realize, if you will only listen carefully to what they say.
* * *
REALLY TRYING? It has been suggested that Viner was in cahoots with the defense attorneys (he circulated the proposal against Singular's wishes) and that he bought the rights more to suppress than publicize Singular's experience. In support of this, people have said that "Legacy of Deception" was not promoted as other books with advertising, public appearances on talk shows, and a book tour. And, it was one of the first of the Simpson books to fall off the list at Amazon.com. Furthermore, the publisher chose to put on the cover a picture of Mark Fuhrman, an unattractive figure to people on both sides of the Simpson debate, and give the book the misleading sub-title, "An Investigation of Mark Fuhrman and Racism in the L.A.P.D." These do not seem to be measures that Michael Viner would have taken if he really wanted the book to sell well. But, it has also been pointed out that the concept in this book is an unpopular one, and the poor showing could be explained by the public disinterest in the whole idea. And, some commentators have said that the book is still available in 99¢ remainder stacks at backwater used book stores. So, the issue is not clear.
Dick Wagner Van Nuys, CA (2/14/99) NG_514.TXT