25 years ago today: O.J. Simpson tries on the bloody gloves

Jordan Cohn
June 15, 2020 - 1:31 pm

There's a reason that courtroom dramas are so successful. The compelling speeches, the jaw-dropping revelations brought to light by new evidence, the emotion and passion coming from all sides... everything comes together to create the perfect storm of must-watch, heart-wrenching content.

Of all the court cases that have captured the hearts and minds of Americans, especially sports fans, O.J. Simpson's stands above the rest. The standout running back had been the face of football at multiple levels -- as a USC Trojan in the late 60s, and as an MVP and perennial Pro Bowler for the Bills and, to a much lesser extent, the 49ers -- but had suddenly become the focal point of a deed so malicious that it was almost unimaginable. And the key moment, of all the memorable occurrences throughout the proceedings, may have been when Simpson, 25 years ago today, was asked to try on a pair of gloves recovered from the scene.

In a bold move from the prosecution, Chris Darden asked Simpson to try on a pair of bloody black leather gloves, one of which was found at the murder scene and the other at Simpson's residence. What followed was simultaneously one of the least conclusive examples of concrete court case evidence and potentially one of the most impactful displays throughout the whole trial.

Simpson's facial expression takes on that of a wincing grimace as he tirelessly tugs on the gloves, attempting to get them to fit snugly around his fingers. The shrugs, the exasperated gestures, the confident way in which he shows how tight they are... all of it undeniably altered the outcome of the case. As attorney Johnnie Cochran claimed toward the end of that day's court session, "if it doesn't fit, you must acquit," and Simpson had indicated that, if nothing else, the gloves were not a perfect fit.

But after Darden's move, which many saw as a mistake in the trial, controversy surrounding Simpson's display spread like wildfire. Darden later said that the moment made him realize that Simpson was "a better actor than I thought he was." Marcia Clark echoed that sentiment, claiming that she thought the whole act put on by the star running back was just that -- an act -- but that she wasn't aware of and didn't agree with Darden's decision in the first place.

"It didn't feel good, let me tell you, sitting there and watching that happen and it was also very predictable," Clark said on "Late Night with Seth Meyers". "Have you ever tried to put gloves on somebody who doesn't want to put them on? It's so easy.

"And then he's wearing latex underneath. And the gloves had been frozen and unfrozen, not good for leather. And so it was all very predictable. At the same time, I thought 'we can handle this,'... I'll get a pair of the right gloves that haven't been frozen and unfrozen and have him put them on without latex. And we did... and they fit! But nobody cared."

Another factor that could have come into play? Arthritis medication. LA district attorney Gil Garcetti told "Good Morning America" that the ESPN film "O.J.: Made in America" revealed a new factoid that could have changed everything (via Katie Kindelan).

"What we didn’t know until I saw it on this film was that O.J. Simpson was taking arthritic medication for his hands and he was told, 'If you stop taking this arthritic medication, your hands will swell. Your joints will stiffen.' My God," Garcetti said.

There were also alleged undertones of racism present surrounding this aspect of the trial, making it even more intriguing. There were rumors that detective Mark Fuhrman planted the bloody glove on Simpson's property and that he had previously been accused of racist behavior, which he denied (via CNN; h/t Lindsay Dinninger of Bustle). Tapes were played later in the trial that revealed Fuhrman using racial slurs.

Recently, Fuhrman was part of a Fox News broadcast in which he was brought on to analyze the nationwide reactions to the George Floyd killing that took place in late May. Simpson strongly took exception to this appearance and voiced his opinion on his oft-controversial Twitter account, which is nearly at one million followers.

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