Evidence of Guilt? O. J. Simpson's 'If I Did It' Provoked Major Controversy before the Book Was Canceled. but What Did He Actually Say? an Exclusive Look at the Crucial Chapter

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Miller

The firestorm burned hot and fast: within days of acknowledging one of its divisions was publishing O. J. Simpson's "hypothetical" account of the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, News Corp. reversed course and canceled the book in late November. Rupert Murdoch, News Corp.'s chairman, apologized for the "ill-conceived project." Then the company fired Judith Regan, the hard-charging publisher who acquired the book for her ReganBooks imprint and who had conducted a TV interview with Simpson to air on Fox. All 400,000 copies of the book were recalled for destruction, save for one locked away in a News Corp. vault.

Regan and News Corp. were pressured to drop the project (NEWSWEEK was among the critics) because they were, in effect, paying Simpson at least $880,000 to tell how he might have committed the murders, money that should have gone to satisfy the $33.5 million judgment a 1997 civil jury ordered him to pay to the victims' families. Throughout the uproar, however, almost no one knew what the proposed book, titled "If I Did It," actually said. As always with the so-called trial of the century, there were competing narratives. Regan called the book Simpson's "confession"; his attorney scoffed at the idea that the Juice had admitted to anything. But NEWSWEEK has obtained a copy of the book's key chapter from a source who asked not to be identified because of the ongoing controversy. The narrative is as revolting as one might expect, but it's also surprisingly revealing. What emerges from the chapter is something new in the nearly 13-year Simpson saga: a seeming confession in Simpson's own voice.

To be sure, Simpson never explicitly admits to slicing his ex-wife's neck so savagely that he almost decapitated her. (According to the source, he told the ghostwriter that he could not have his children read such gruesome details of the slashing.) Simpson's Florida attorney, Yale Galanter, said again last week that the account is "purely hypothetical": "In the final manuscript and in the book there is a clear, concise statement disclaiming anything that is contained in the chapter as being fact or close to fact." NEWSWEEK did not obtain the book's six other chapters.

As a correspondent for this magazine, I covered the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman through the criminal trial and acquittal of O. J. Simpson in 1995. What is striking about the chapter I read, "The Night in Question," is how closely it tracks with the evidence in the case--and how clearly Simpson invokes the classic language of a wife abuser. In his crude, expletive-laced account, Simpson suggests Nicole all but drove him to kill her. He describes her as the "enemy." She is taunting him with her sexual dalliances, he says, and carrying on inappropriately in front of their two children.

On June 12, 1994, Simpson attends his daughter Sydney's dance recital. He writes that he is in a foul mood after the performance, stewing over the behavior of his ex-wife. He is due to fly to Chicago late that night. But first he races to Nicole's Bundy Drive condominium in Brentwood. He parks in the dark alley behind her condo and dons the knit wool cap and gloves he keeps handy to ward off the chill on the golf course. He also has a knife in the Bronco, protection against L.A. "crazies." He intends to scare her. He enters through a broken back gate--he's told her a "million times" to get the buzzer and latch fixed--and encounters Goldman, who is returning the glasses of Nicole's mother, Juditha. She had left them at Mezzaluna, where the Brown family dined after Sydney's recital and where Goldman is a waiter. Simpson accuses Goldman of planning a sexual encounter with Nicole, which Goldman denies. Nicole tells Simpson to leave him alone. Goldman's fate is sealed when Kato, Nicole's Akita, emerges and gives him a friendly tail wag. "You've been here before," Simpson screams at Goldman.

At Simpson's criminal trial, to explain how one man could have killed two people, the Los Angeles County coroner theorized that Simpson knocked out Nicole, then quickly slit her throat before turning to Goldman. …