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Brent E. Turvey
December, 1995

An Overview of the Medicolegal Evidence Regarding: The State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, Case: BA097211,"

Turvey, B., "An Overview of the Medicolegal Evidence Regarding: The State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, Case: BA097211," Knowledge Solutions Library, December, 1995, Electronic Publication, URL:

Note: Brent E. Turvey, MS is a full partner of Knowledge Solutions, LLC.
He can be reached for comment or consultation by contacting:
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Authors note: Each student in Dr. Gaensslen's class was randomly, I presume, assigned a number which corresponded with his or her required paper topic regarding the Simpson case. Some people were assigned to advocate an element of the defense position, some for the prosecution. I was assigned A3; objective medicolegal overview.

The Medical Examiner's Office is notified in all cases of death that are classified as one or more of the following: Death associated with trauma of any kind; Death in the workplace; Suspicious death; Unattended death; Deaths that may cause or contribute to a threat to public health (McDonough [10]). The circumstances surrounding the deaths of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman were determined to be suspicious. This was due to immediate scene tangibles such as the victims' ages, the victims' location at the time of death, the large amount of blood readily visible at the location of their deaths, and the fact that it was a multiple death scene. The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office was notified and Medicolegal investigations into the deaths of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman were conducted.

This work is an attempt to summarize the consistent Medicolegal evidence generated by the L.A. County's Medicolegal investigation regarding the above mentioned cases, in addition to other consistent related data. The disposition of this work is neither to the prosecution or the defense of Orenthal James Simpson, who was tried and acquitted for both murders in the County of Los Angeles in September of this year. This work's only intent is to relay how Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman interacted with their environment in such a way that it caused their deaths, using methods supported by the tenants of forensic pathology.

There are many areas of interest in a Medicolegal investigation of death. The areas that this work will focus on, regarding the deaths of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman, will be victim history, location of death, time of death, cause of death, manner of death, mechanism of death, injuries and injury interpretation. Each section will be so headed and will have appropriate sub-sections as necessary.

Ron Goldman
Ron Goldman was born on July 2, 1968 in Illinois. His family moved to the Los Angeles suburbs in 1987, when Ron was 19.

Ron was a part-time model and an aspiring actor. He worked as a waiter in a restaurant called "Mezzaluna".

On the night he died, Ron Goldman had been working at Mezzaluna. Nicole Brown Simpson and nine others ate dinner there that evening, leaving by 8:30PM, but were not served by Ron Goldman. At 9:30PM, a woman who ate dinner with Nicole telephoned Mezzaluna about Nicole's lost prescription sunglasses. They were located at the restaurant and put into an envelope. At 9:35PM, Nicole Brown called Mezzaluna about her sunglasses. She spoke with waiter Ron Goldman, who was a friend, and who agreed to bring her sunglasses over to her condominium, just a few blocks away. At 9:50PM, Ron Goldman left Mezzaluna to return Nicole Brown's sunglasses. At 12:10AM, June 13th, Ron Goldman was found dead with Nicole Brown just inside the front gate of her Condominium by neighbors. Witnesses describe seeing blood "flowing like a river." (Vito[15]).

At the time of his death, Ron was wearing a long sleeved shirt/sweater that was extensively bloodstained. Ron was also wearing Levi jeans, bloodstained. Ron was also wearing sweat socks and canvas boots on both feet. He was 5'9" tall and weighed 171 lbs. Ron Goldman died on June 12th, 1994. He was 25 years old (Golden[6]).

Nicole Brown Simpson
Nicole Brown was born in 1959, in West Germany. She eventually moved to the United States. In 1977, Nicole worked as a waitress in a Beverly Hills nightclub called the Daisy, where she met Mr. O.J. Simpson, a celebrated sports figure. Nicole was then 18 years old. Nicole moved in with Mr. Simpson when she was 19. Nicole and Mr. Simpson were married when she was 26 years old, on Feb. 2, 1985. In 1989, Nicole made a 911 emergency call, stating that Mr. Simpson was threatening to "beat the shit out of me". He could be heard yelling in the background. Nicole pleaded for police intervention. Nicole divorced Mr. Simpson in 1992 (McDermott[9]). The relationship between Nicole and Mr. Simpson went through many reported break-ups and reconciliations after the divorce. Nicole also saw a therapist regularly, Dr. Susan Forward, who stated of Nicole's relationship with Mr. Simpson, "She was battered incessantly, regularly, all the time." [9]

According to witness reports, Nicole had recently broken up with Mr. Simpson again, and was trying to lease out a recently purchased townhouse. Nicole received $10,000/month in child support from Mr. Simpson for the care of their two children, as part of the divorce settlement.

On the day of Nicole's death, she went to see her daughter Sydney's dance recital at Paul Revere Junior High School. Mr. Simpson was also in attendance, but separately. Nicole left the recital at 6:00pm. At 6:30PM, Nicole and nine other friends had dinner at the Mezzaluna restaurant in Brentwood, a few blocks from her condominium. Nicole left Mezzaluna at 8:30pm. At 9:35PM, Nicole called Mezzaluna to inquire about her misplaced prescription sunglasses. She spoke with Ron Goldman, a friend and waiter at the restaurant, and he agreed to bring the sunglasses to her at her condominium later that evening. At 12:10AM, June 13th, Nicole Brown Simpson was found dead along with Ron Goldman just inside the front gate of her Condominium, by neighbors. [9]

At the time of her death, Nicole was found to be wearing a short black dress, blood stained, and a pair of black panties. She was 5'5" tall and weighed 129 lbs. Nicole Brown-Simpson died on Sunday, June 12th, 1994. She was 35 years old.(Golden[5])

It is imperative that the forensic pathologist visit the scene of any suspicious death. Where a victim dies is quite relative to how a victim dies. The pathologists concerns at the scene include time of death, exact location of death(was the body moved), climatic evidence, and evidence as to the manner of death (Mason[8]).

The bodies of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman were discovered at the hour of 12:10AM, on June 13th, 1994 at the location of 875 South Bundy. The residence belonged to Nicole Brown-Simpson. The bodies were located inside the front gate of the residence, at the base of the stairs.

The space within which both victims were killed was small and not readily accessible (People...[14]). The two possible methods of entry into this area are either through or over the rear gate, and either through or over the front gate where Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman were killed, shown in the photograph to the right. The amount of space will be more important later during the interpretation section of this work.

Cause, Mechanism & Manner of Death
The Cause of death is defined by Adelson[1] and DiMaio & DiMaio[2] with relative agreement as: "...the injury, disease or combination of the two responsible for initiating the train of physiological disturbances, brief or prolonged, which produced the fatal termination."[1].

Nicole Brown-Simpson's cause of death was multiple sharp force injuries, including multiple stab wounds to the neck, which include a fatal deep incised wound to the neck that cut through the trachea and esophagus injuring the vertebrae.[5]

Ronald Goldman's cause of death was multiple sharp force injuries, the fatal wounds identified as sharp force injuries to the neck involving a transection of the left internal jugular vein, and stab wounds of the chest and abdomen causing intrathoracic and intraabdominal hemorrhage [6].

The Mechanism of death is defined by Adelson[1] and DiMaio & DiMaio[2] with relative agreement as: "...the physiologic derangement or biochemical disturbance incompatible with life which is initiated by the cause of death."[1]

Both Ronald Goldman's and Nicole Brown-Simpson's Mechanism of death was cardiac arrest, each having been initiated by their own particular constellation of sharp force injuries.

The Manner of death is defined by Adelson[1] and DiMaio & DiMaio[2] with relative agreement as: "...the circumstances in which the cause of death arose. Your prime concern will be with deaths with are of natural manner. Cases involving the other four manners (accident, suicide, homicide, and undetermined) are reportable to, and will be dealt with by, the Medical Examiner, Coroner or Justice of the Peace as the case may be according to State and local law."[1]

Both Ronald Goldman's and Nicole Brown-Simpson's Manner of death were determined to be Homicide. Homicide is defined as death at the hands of another[2]. Due to the physical nature of the wounds and due to other circumstantial factors, as will be discussed later, it was determined that neither of the victims had inflicted their own injuries (suicide). Additionally, the deliberate nature of both victim's sharp force injuries precludes the possibility of accidental death.

Both Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson received multiple sharp force injuries which initiated their deaths. Both were determined to be in excellent health, aside from these fatal sharp force injuries. Definitions for key terms are provided below. A wound summary and diagram for each victim is presented below the definitions section.

Stab wounds[2] result when pointed instruments penetrate the skin. The length of the wound track into the body exceeds the width in the skin. The edge are sharp, without abrasion or contusion.

Incised wounds(cuts)(Watanabe et al[16]) result when a sharp edged object, such as a knife, razor blade, piece of glass or sword is applied tangentially against the skin surface. General characteristics are as follows: Linear wound margins; edges of wound are sharp and gape variably, producing slit or elliptical shape; edges are not abraded; angle or corner of wound is acute; surfaces of cut are smooth; a cross-section of the wound is V-shaped. Length of wound is greater than it's depth.

Blunt force injuries (Geberth[4]) are shown by lacerations and bruising. However, internal damage to organs and tissue may occur without external signs of violence when blunt force is applied.

Lacerations [2], [4] are a tear in the tissue due to blunt force. They may be external or internal. Torn edges of the skin will be abraded, crushed and bruised, and bridges of connective tissue may stretch across the gap.(Cuts will not have bridges)

Defense wounds[2], [4], [7], [16] are usually incised stab wounds, usually delivered to the upper extremities. They are incurred when an individual attempts to ward off an attack from a sharp, edged weapon. Found generally on the backs of hands, on the inside of the palms, and the ulnar forearm.

Abrasions[10] are injuries to the surface of the skin, generally directional in nature. They are point of contact wounds, indicated by piling of the epithelium. They must be explored to determine hemorrhaging and extent of damage to other tissue.

Nicole Brown-Simpson, re: Irwin Golden[5]
1- Incision to the neck. The neck is sliced from left to right injuring the C3 vertebrae. It exposes the larynx and the vertebral column. It is 5 1/2"L x 2 1/2"W. Associated with transection of left and right carotid arteries and incisions of the left and right internal jugular veins with exsanguinating hemorrhage. Note: Determined to be the only fatal wound.

2- Stab wounds to the neck. Stab wounds appear on the left side of the neck over the sternocledomastoid muscle. They extend to 3" below the external auditory canal. All stab wounds in this area show a pointed end on the posterior aspect and a squared end anterior. All stab wounds in this area are smooth edged.

A. 1st stab wound is 1 1/2" to 2" minimum depth. It may have penetrated as deep as the common carotid artery.

B. 2nd stab wound is 1/8", superficial.

C. 3rd stab wound is diagonally oriented, 1/2" in length. The wound is 1 1/2" to 2" minimum depth. It may have penetrated as deep as the common carotid artery.

D. 4th stab wound is diagonally oriented, 7/8" in length.

3- Stab wound to scalp, left parietal region. Diagonally oriented. 1/2" long. 3/8" to 1/2" deep. No cranial penetration. Deep scalp hemorrhaging.

4- Stab wound or cutting to scalp, right posterior-parietal-occipital region. Transversely oriented. 1 1/2" long. 3/8"-1 1/2" deep. Deep scalp bruising.

5- Stab wound or cutting to scalp, right parietal-occipital region. Vertically oriented. Superficial.

6- Blunt force injury to head. Right side of scalp, 4" above right external auditory canal. Non-abraded. Non-lacerated. 1"x1". Deep scalp hemorrhage measures 2"x1 1/4". No associated skull fracture.

7- 5/8" incised wound, right index finger.

8- 1/16" punctate abrasion, dorsal surface of right hand.

9- 1/2" superficial incised cut, top of left hand.

Note: wounds 7-8 are classified as defense wounds.

Note: all wounds are consistent with, that is could have been delivered by, a single-edged knife.

Constellation of injuries to Nicole Brown-Simpson:

Total discriminable wounds to Nicole Brown-Simpson: 12

Ronald Goldman, re: Irwin Golden[6]:
1- Sharp force injury to neck, left side. Complex stabbing and cutting wound. Transects left internal jugular vein.

Note: This is determined to be a fatal wound.

2- Sharp force injury to neck, right side. Complex stabbing and cutting wound. Diagonally oriented. 5/8" long, 1/16" wide, and 2" deep.

3- Superficial incise wound of neck. Transversely oriented. 3" long, skin only.

4- Superficial incise wound of neck. Transversely oriented, adjacent to wound #3. Skin and some subcutaneous tissue involved.

5- Stab wound to right earlobe. Vertically oriented.

6- Cluster of 5 superficial incise wounds on right side of face. Skin only.

7- Superficial incised wound to back of neck, right side. 3/4" long.

8- Non-patterned abrasion to right cheek, 1 1/2" x 3/4".

9- Superficial incise wound to left ear.

10- Sharp force wound to scalp, diagonally oriented. 5/8" long, 1/4" - 3/8" deep into scalp. 2"x2" diameter subgaleal hemorrhage. No associated fracture to skull. Could be stab or cutting wound.

11- 1/4" superficial incise wound to posterior-parietal region, mid-line of scalp.

12- Abrasion, 1/4" x 1/8", to left posterior parietal region. Ovoid.

13- Stab wound to right side of chest. 5/8" long. Right 7th rib incised. 4" wound path. Consistent with single edged knife.

Note: This wound is fatal, associated with perforation of right lung.

14- Stab wound to right side of chest. 1 1/2" long, diagonally oriented. 8th intercostal space penetrated without rib damage. 2"-3" wound path. Consistent with single edged knife.

Note: This wound is fatal, associated with perforation of right lung.

15- Stab wound to right flank. Diagonally oriented, 3/8" long. Superficial.

16- Stab wound to left thigh. Transversely oriented, 2 1/8" long. 3 1/2" wound path. Consistent with single edged knife.

17- Stab wound to left side of abdomen, 3/4" long. 5 1/2" wound path.

Note: This wound is fatal, associated with perforation of the abdominal aorta with severe hemorrhaging.

18- Stab wound to upper right chest, lateral to right clavicle, 1/2" long. Superficial.

19- Multiple defense wounds to palmar surface of right hand.

20- Multiple abrasions to both hands and forearms consistent with defense wound injuries.

Constellation of injuries to Ronald Goldman:

Total number of fatal wounds: 4

Total discriminable wounds to Ronald Goldman: 20 (not including defense and lesser wounds/ too numerous)

Injury Interpretation
Sharp force injuries
The fatal injuries delivered to both descendants were all sharp force, either stabbing wounds or incised wounds[5],[6]. Some of the wounds were caused by a single edged knife, as indicated by a squared off end and a V-shaped end in the injury to the skin [2],[8],[16]. Some of the sharp force wounds to Ronald Goldman had varied shapes, and irregular configurations due likely to three things: Langers lines(the grain of the skin), twisting of the knife by the suspect, and movement of Ron Goldman as the blade was withdrawn [2], [4], [8], [16].

The depth, width, and length of the individual sharp force wounds is not a predictor of knife-type. Each stab or cut is a hypervariable incident of it's own nature, dependent upon force applied, direction, angle and tissue/bone obstructions. The same knife will therefore produce variable types of injuries due to these and other factors mentioned.

Given these eventualities, and the circumstances of the killings, the most likely inference is that the sharp force wounds to both victims are consistent with having been caused by a single edged blade.

The place where Ron and Nicole were killed was a confined area. When an assailant is wielding a knife, a victim will try to escape. If you don't have space to move around and escape, it allows the assailant to deliver all of the sharp force injuries on target. It also allows for a rapid succession of injuries. That being true, the injuries to both Ron and Nicole could have been delivered within a few minutes[14].

Speculative reconstruction and interpretation
Due to the positions of the bodies at the scene and the circumstances surrounding her meeting with Ron Goldman (People...[11]), Nicole was likely facing the gate from her stairway, looking out to Ron Goldman when the assailant attacked them. The glasses Ron intended to return to Nicole were in his hand, and remained there until his body was discovered and removed by the authorities.

The angle and location of the blunt force injury to the back of Nicole's head indicates that she was likely attacked first, from above and behind[11]. This is likely because if Ron Goldman were attacked first, Nicole would have likely turned away and ran, and there would likely have been screaming that might have alerted the neighbors and her blood and signs of struggle at other locations. Also, Evidence supports scenario where Nicole is attacked first and incapacitated, but not killed, because of the time and deliberation the assailant took inflicting Ronald Goldman's injuries, and because Nicole was still alive when she received her fatal sharp force injury.

Ron Goldman was set upon by an assailant with a knife after Nicole Brown-Simpson was incapacitated. The evidence suggests that the assailant delivered a number of sharp force injuries to Ron Goldman's front, including three lethal stab wounds. The contorted nature of the wounds indicates that Ron Goldman was turning and trying to avoid the blows, acquiring defense wounds on his inside palms and upper forearms.

After receiving the fatal blows, Ron Goldman could have lived for approximately a minute, perhaps a minute and a half, hemorrhaging internally. Ron Goldman was rapidly incapacitated for that time period by these injuries (People...[13]). Evidence further suggests that Ron Goldman was turned around by the assailant, and held stationary while the superficial cuts were made to his face and neck. It is likely that the final sharp force injury was the fatal incise wound to the neck, which would be consistent with the assailants later treatment of Nicole. The injuries to Ron's neck and scalp are consistent with having been delivered from behind and above[13].

The injuries sustained by Ron Goldman could have all been delivered in that confined space within a minute or two[14].

The assailant then likely turned attention back to Nicole. The presence of defense wounds on the hands indicates that Nicole struggled while being forced to the ground. The superficial stab and cut wounds to the scalp and neck are consistent with being delivered from behind, due to their angle and her necessary position. The blood splatter and blood flow onto the ground are consistent with Nicole being face down on the concrete, her neck hyperextended at the time the sharp force injury was delivered to her throat. The assailant held a conscious Nicole face down on the concrete, hyperextended her neck, likely by pulling her hair[11]. The assailant then delivered six deliberate, superficial sharp force wounds to Nicole's neck and scalp, and finally cut her throat. The cut to her throat was clean, indicating limited struggle[11]. This is consistent with immobilization. The angle and depth of that injury is consistent with a very strong right handed person. The amount of blood loss due to the transection of all the major arteries and veins in her neck lead to her death in less than a minute (People...[12]).

There were a number of controlled superficial wounds to the face of a sadistic nature (Douglas[3]). The location and intensity of Nicole Brown-Simpson's wounds, and more particularly Ron Goldman's wounds, suggests a great deal of anger on the part of the assailant [3].

Determination of manner: Homicide
The nature of the sharp force injuries to both Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson were of a common homicidal constellation for multiple stab wounds; face, neck, chest, mid to upper right torso, and defense wounds to the hands[7]. Also of note is that no murder weapon was found at or near the scene, meaning that it was taken from the scene by an individual.

Additionally, the sheer number of sharp force wounds indicates a motive most commonly consistent with jealousy[7]. Also, the amount of anger directed at the victims, particularly evident in the sadistic and deliberate nature of Ronald Goldman's sharp force injuries, indicates an assailant that knew the victims well[3].

These are all elements consistent with a homicide.

It is my opinion that the entire ordeal lasted under five minutes total duration, allowing time for the extensive sharp force injuries to Ronald Goldman.

It is my opinion that the time of death for Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson lay somewhere shortly after 9:55PM. This is due to the fact that Ron left Mezzaluna at 9:50, according to witnesses[15], and had to travel only a few blocks to get to Nicole's Condominium. Also, it is due to the fact that Nicole's sunglasses were still in his hands when he died, indicating that he had just met her at the bottom of the stairs and had not yet handed them over. That would likely have been their first interaction as Ron had them out.

It is my opinion that both Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson were killed with a single edged knife. All sharp force injuries are consistent with single-edged knife wounds, and some of the sharp force injuries could have only been made with a single-edge knife.

It is my opinion that both Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman were killed by a single assailant. This is partly due to the consistent constellation of wound patterns on both victims' neck and head, and to the fatal incision delivered to both victims' necks[3]. This is also due to the evident anger; the excessive victim damage and the scene's consistency with a jealousy type motivation[7]. The single assailant theory is also supported by the likelihood that the sharp force injuries on both victims could be inflicted by a single-edged knife.

It is my opinion that the assailant was a male, due partly to the jealousy motivation consistency, and partly to the sheer strength it would take to over power both of these young, otherwise healthy individuals and deliver such deliberate wounds of the above described nature in such a short period of time. This is also due to the strength required to deliver the amount of damage evident from those wounds.

It is my opinion that both Ron Goldman and Nicole-Brown Simpson knew their strong male assailant well, due to the possible jealousy motivation and the severe anger present at the scene and in their injuries.


1)Adelson, Lester, The Pathology of Homicide, (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas - Publisher, 1974)

2)DiMaio, Dominick & DiMaio, Vincent, Forensic Pathology, (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1989)

3)Douglas, John, Mindhunter, (New York: Scriber, 1995)

4)Geberth, Vernon, Practical Homicide Investigation, (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1993)

5)Golden, Irwin, MD, "Autopsy Report #94-05136: Brown-Simpson, Nicole," Dept. of the Coroner, Los Angeles, CA, June 14th 1994, 0730 hours

6)Golden, Irwin, MD, Autopsy Report #94-05135: Goldman, Ronald, Dept. of the Coroner, Los Angeles, CA, June 14th 1994, 1030 hours

7)Karlsson, Thore & Ormstad, Kari & Rajs, Jovan, "Patterns in Sharp Force Fatalities-- A Comprehensive Forensic Medical Study" Journal of Forensic Sciences, JFSCA, Vol.31, No.2, April 1986, pp. 529-542

8)Mason, J.K., Forensic Medicine, (New York: Chapman & Hall Medical, 1993)

9)McDermott, Anne "The Victims" CNN: Nicole Simpson Profile, http:// victims, Jan.19, 1995

10)McDonough, Edward T., Assistant M.E., State of Connecticut, at the University of New Haven, Course: "Medicolegal Investigation & Identification" Lecture notes, April 5, 1995

11)People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, Proceedings, June 6th, 1995

12)People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, Proceedings, June 7th, 1995

13)People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, Proceedings, June 8th, 1995

14)People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, Proceedings, June 9th, 1995

15)Vito, Bob "The Victims" CNN: Ron Goldman Profile, http://, Jan.1, 1995

16)Watanabe, Tomio & Baden, Michael M.(ed.), Atlas of Legal Medicine, Philadelphia: J.B.Lippincott Company, 1968)

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