Mark Furman may have been the most pivotal witness in all the months of testimony in the People v. O.J. Simpson. In reading through the information provided by jurors in interviews conducted following the trials’ conclusion, it is clear that Furman weighed heavily in their minds and in deliberations.
Furman originally seemed like a somewhat innocuous individual; LA Detective who happened to collect evidence in one of the most publicized murders in history. But then the pieces started to be put together by the media, the defense team, and by the jurors themselves.
Furman had responded to a domestic violence call at the Simpson/Brown residence years earlier.
Furman was the only detective to around when the alleged “bloody glove” was found on Simpson property, after Furman hopped Simpson’s fence the day following the murder.
Tapes reveling disturbing comments made by Furman were reveled. In an interview that was tape recorded he repeatedly used racist language and noted his distain for interracial couples.
He also gave a glimpse into the world of the Los Angeles Police Department, where he said it was routine for police to lie, plant evidence, and beat suspects, particularly black ones.
Whether or not Mark Furman planted evidence in the hopes of leading to a conviction of OJ Simpson we will never know. Regardless, Furman’s testimony in the case provides an introspective into the world of police conduct and their testimony in court.
Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for Simpson who wrote a book (Reasonable Doubts) chronicling his involvement, points to a more systemic problem in today’s culture where police officers are expected to lie, both in reports and in court, on how they collect evidence and conduct interrogations.
Dershowitz argues from the academy on, officers are taught how to testify in court, molding their testimony to fit the stringent evidentiary requirements laid down by the Supreme Court.
Dershowitz argues Mark Furman did just that in the Simpson trial. Furman came off as cool and confident on cross examination, not bending under tough interrogation over his previous remarks or his involvement in the case. Dershowitz holds that this is exactly what he was trained to do, invent facts and then hold to them under fire.
While Dershowitz defiantly has a bias in the matter, he does have evidence to support his claim. The Mollen Commission, established in 1994 to investigate police corruption, found disturbing trends in police departments where officers are told how to lie in order to make criminal prosecutions easily attainable. They are aided by prosecutors who coach them into further falsifying evidence.
Again, whether Mark Furman engaged in such tactics in the Simpson case we will never know. However, the systemic problem of officers lying under oath is something that must be addressed.
Strict evidentiary requirements have been put in place for a reason; to give the defendant a fair chance at contesting the evidence against him. If police are comfortable with lying, indeed trained to lie, in order to evade these requirements, the adversarial system loses its effect and leads to unfair circumstances for defendants.