The fate of O. J. Simpson court evidence

And that of John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Menendez brothers

Items of clothing from a homicide, particularly contaminated evidence like the glove, could not be put up for sale.
  • Items of clothing from a homicide, particularly contaminated evidence like the glove, could not be put up for sale.
  • Image by Rick Geary

Mr. (or Ms.) Alice: Now that the trial of the century has ended, and Mr. Simpson has apparently convinced the jury that the hat and gloves probably weren't his, what happens to those items and other pieces of evidence? I would have to believe that there are people out there who would pay handsomely for a piece of judicial history (and L.A. County could certainly use the cash). Guy Tapper, SIO, La Jolla

No question that scores of taste-challenged folks would love to display the bloody glove or hairy watch cap on their coffee tables, for whatever ghoulish reason. And there’s no abyss so low that someone in L.A. would not crawl into it to retrieve a buck or two. We’ve seen enough ugliness on both sides in People vs. O.J. to keep patrons of the tabloid arts in bidding wars for years. But in the memorabilia category we might call Homicidal Chic: Gear for the Hip Double-Murderer, there is some hope.

The L.A. Superior Court and D.A.’s offices were more than willing to chat about your hypothesis. Their spokesfolks sounded almost giddy, like troops freed from their foxholes after 12 months of relentless Uzi fire. The LAPD was quite another story. Snarly, abrupt. Underlying theme: The press? Simpson evidence? Take a hike. Although they phrased it, “We’ll get back to you.” No, they won’t.

At the moment, the clerk of the Superior Court in LA. is cataloging the evidence—examining it, listing it, describing it, making sure it’s all accounted for. (When the evidence was seized, it went into the LAPD property room; once it was presented and numbered during court proceedings, it came under the clerk’s control.) When the inventory is complete, it goes to Judge Ito, who determines the fate of each item. From what we’ve seen of the whimsical jurist, who knows what he’ll do. If he follows protocol, he’ll release back to the D.A. all evidence submitted by that office, and to the defense their evidence. Any personal items (the golf bag, the Bronco, etc.) can be reclaimed by their owners. But of course, no one’s going to leap forward to claim the glove and cap. Well, in a sane world, nobody would. But this is L.A.... Anyway, items of clothing from a homicide, particularly contaminated evidence like the glove, could not be put up for sale. They’d be destroyed as biohazardous material. That’s not to say that somehow, through whatever subterfuge, the items won’t weasel their way onto the memorabilia black market. But L.A. County (that is, the ordinary folks who paid the salaries and production costs for this sideshow) won’t benefit from it in any event.

There’s also the question of the O.J. evidence being needed in the civil suits now pending against him. That may affect the timing of the final disposal. And of course, if the verdict had gone the other way, the evidence would have been held indefinitely, pending an appeal. The unclaimed fruits of burglaries are generally auctioned to the public. The SDPD unloads bikes, electronics, jewelry, cameras, and the like several times a year, with proceeds going into the city’s general fund. But homicide evidence usually involves weapons, contaminated articles, and other nonsalable property, so give up those dreams of placing the winning bid on the steak knife or phone cord that finished off some famous victim.

But to reassure you that the Geraldo-ing of the (inquiring) American mind is still in full swing, consider what you can buy, if you’re so inclined. Like to enhance your collection with a painting by John Wayne Gacy? Clown Descending a Staircase perhaps, or Whistler’s Mother’s Killer or La Grande Jatte (“Lurking in the Park with John”). Got a spare 10K? Sociopath art is all the rage. Gacy cleared about $100,000 from his cell before Illinois put him out of business.

But more to the point is the outfall from the Jeffrey Dahmer case, in which the victims’ families are attempting to receive compensation through the sale of evidence. Still in Milwaukee police custody are Dahmer’s refrigerator, an 80-quart kettle, surgical instruments, cutlery and dishes, handcuffs, hatchets, and all the other hardware and some photographs seized as evidence. Victims’ families won $80 million in court-ordered restitution from Dahmer but have yet to collect anything. Dahmer’s father said he’d share with them the proceeds of his book about his son, but he never did. So now their attorney wants to sell the evidence. Legally, the property belonged to Jeffrey, and he said he had no objection to selling it to benefit the victims’ families. Since his death, as part of his estate, it’s likely destined for his father’s hands. Papa Dahmer claims he wants it destroyed, not auctioned. But for the moment, the county D.A. still controls it.

The victims’ attorney already has a tentative agreement with a grade school teacher from Brooklyn who is a part-time auctioneer to conduct the Dahmer evidence sale in New York City. Herman Dravick, a specialist in autographs, is gaining a reputation as a dealer in crime memorabilia since he recently auctioned Jack Ruby’s gun for $220,000 and gaveled home $8800 for the toe tag from the corpse of Lee Harvey Oswald. Dravick probably sensed the direction of contemporary American lusts a few years ago, when he was taking bids on documents, including some by Washington, Lincoln, Twain, and Dickens. At that auction, an Al Capone signature drew more interest than any of the others.

So, stay tuned for the Menendez Brothers’ new parlor game, Patricide. The person who whines the most wins. And does anybody know where I can pick up one of those neat Heidi Fleiss action figures?

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