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OJ was found not guilty

1) OJ Simpson was found not guilty in criminal court and then found guilty in civil court regarding the same incident. How can that happen? Shouldn’t it be consistent? Why or why not?


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Cynthia K. | Para Professional with Special Education ExpPara Professional with Special Educatio...
4.8 4.8 (31 lesson ratings) (31)

Hello Charity,

My husband and I argue about this all of the time.  This inconsistency can be addressed by understanding what the burden of proof is in a criminal court and in a civil court.  Though details about these laws may differ per state the general rule is that in a criminal court the standard of proof which the prosecution is expected to offer is that the alleged offender is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that a juror would have to have moral certainty that the offender committed the crime and cannot find a reasonable alternative for why the evidence is as it is.  In a civil court, the demand is less stringent meaning that if the prepronderance (most of the evidence) seems to indicate that the person is responsible for the crime.  For example, if 60% of the evidence points to the person being responsible then he can be held liable in a civil court even if it would not amount to his conviction in a criminal court. 

As an example, let's say that you have a car and you allow an intoxicated person to drive your car and they are involved in an accident in which someone is killed.  The person driving could be convicted in a criminal court because the evidence could point to his/her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  And you could be found civilly responsible because you could have prevented the crime by not allowing this person to use your vehicle.




John M. | Analytical assistance -- Writing, Math, and moreAnalytical assistance -- Writing, Math, ...
4.8 4.8 (154 lesson ratings) (154)


There are also differences in what evidence can be presented in civil vs. criminal cases.  For example, OJ did not testify in the criminal case, and the jury was instructed that it could not use that as evidence against him.  But in the civil case he either had to testify or have his invocation of his 5th amendment right of silence used against him.  OJs testimony also makes his history of abusing Nichole relevant, in a way that would be more limited in a criminal case because we don't want juries sending people to jail just because they're "bad."  There are other differences as well, but along with the burden of proof, I think it explains how there can be two "different" results, that are somehow logically consistent. 

Regina O. | English/Social Studies Tutor for NYS Regents, GED, SAT, ACT and SHSATEnglish/Social Studies Tutor for NYS Reg...
4.8 4.8 (230 lesson ratings) (230)


In addition to the decree of proof needed in a criminal versus a civil case, there were political issues surrounding the criminal trial of OJ that many think affected the criminal verdict.

They included where the trial should take place.  The District Attorney at the time chose to conduct the trial in the main courthouse in downtown Los Angeles rather than Santa Monica which had dramatic effects on the jury pool.

Los Angeles is huge geographically.  It is about 50 miles east to west and 60 miles from north to south. There are over 20 district courthouses. Criminal trials can take place in central courthouse in downtown Los Angeles or the district court where the crime took place.  Ms. Brown's home was in West Los Angeles.  Her district courthouse was in Santa Monica., the beach town of Bay Watch fame.  The west side of Los Angeles County is heavy white with many wealthy communities such as Beverly Hills and Bel Aire where OJ had his home.  The central district downtown had a jury pool of lower income and more diverse people.

The jury consisted of 9 blacks, 1 hispanic and 2 whites.  It had 10 women and 2 men with  2 college graduates.  Johnny Corcoran, the main defense attorney, exploited the long history of problems between the LAPD and the minority community to influence the testimony of police investigators.  If the trial had been conducted in Santa Monica, this strategy would not have been possible.

The other big issue was DNA testing.  We are so comfortable with it now thanks to CSI but it was very new back then and OJ got the 2 best attorneys in the country to help him dispute the testing results.  The assistant district attorney who was originally scheduled to try the case, an expert on DNA, got sick.  Marcia Wallace and Chris Darnan were less experienced and were not able to overcome the work of those two men.

Distrust of the police and poor presentation of DNA were the two issues that gave jury members doubt over OJ's guilt.

The civil case was in the suburban Santa Clarita courthouse in the northern edge of the county.  It was an area where many police officers lived at that time and was mainly white in composition.  As the previous writer said, the burden of proof is less.  OJ did not have all those big guns this time around and there was sympathy for Mr. Gold's family as he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.