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Sudden Death:

The Murder Of O.J. Simpson


By Chris Oakley


Part 3


adapted from material previously posted at Othertimelines.com




Summary: In the first two chapters of this series we charted the timeline for the murder of former NFL star O.J. Simpson and the arrest of Simpsonís killer, Jonathan Bricker, and dealt with the American publicís reaction to both events. In this episode weíll look back at Brickerís trial and conviction.


Just as some people had viewed the Simpson double murder trial as a referendum on race relations in America, the case which was officially known as State of California vs. Jonathan Philip Bricker would be seen in many quarters as a judgment on the condition of American mental health care. One theme consistently hammered home by Brickerís defense attorneys in their opening statements was the belief that the ex-USC student had never received anything even close to adequate psychological care in battling his personal demons.

The prosecution in the case countered this strategy by pointing out that Bricker had in many of his actions up to and including the day of O.J. Simpsonís murder shown rather precise, methodical thinking; they asserted that Brickerís apparent mental troubles were little more than a cleverly orchestrated camouflage to get out of facing the death penalty. They brought in a battery of psychiatrists to testify that Bricker had in fact been of sound mind at the time he gunned down O.J. Simpson, Johnnie Cochran, and Robert Shapiro-- an assertion that would have come as a surprise to those who recalled his rantings about David Koresh and Yasser Arafat in the pages of The Voice of Truth.

When opening arguments were heard in the case of State of California vs. Bricker on January 17th, 1996 both the prosecution and the defense put the issue of Jonathan Brickerís mental health-- or lack thereof --front and center in their opening statements. Uniformed and plainclothes LAPD officers were on standby outside the courtroom in the event that the Aryan Nations showed any sign of violating the restraining order Brickerís defense attorney had taken out against the notorious neo-Nazi group.

The Aryan Nations never showed up, but legions of tabloid reporters did. They knew a hot story when they saw one, and the trial of Jonathan Bricker promised to be positively volcanic; even before his indictment, Bricker had already been the subject of three quickie paperback books about his turbulent life and a lengthy profile on the TV series Inside Edition. Insideís chief archrival in the tabloid TV wars, Hard Copy, had already devoted a full weekís worth of programs to Bricker and was planning to do more during Brickerís trial.

Even normally more respectable TV news outlets like 60 Minutes were getting caught up in the three-ring circus that was the Bricker trial. Andy Rooney, the showís resident curmudgeon, may have best summed up the mood of a Simpson-weary public when he said in his commentary on 60ís January 21st edition: "The Bricker trial is going to be like watching the remake of a movie that wasnít all that great the first time around." The next day, in a rare flippant mood, Nightlineís usually sober host Ted Koppel warned his viewers at the start of his broadcast that "those of you who tuned in hoping for a break from the Bricker trial will be sorely disappointed...God knows I am."1

Such people would have even further cause for disappointment in the days ahead; broadcast and cable TV networks alike would devote increasingly large chunks of their airtime to the Bricker trial. One Los Angeles public access station devoted so much of its programming schedule to the Bricker case that a local TV critic mockingly dubbed it "the Jonathan Bricker network"2. Another public access outlet saw its subscriptions double almost over night when it announced it would go "Bricker-free" until further notice.


It was over his defense attorneyís strenuous objections that Jonathan Bricker took the stand in his own defense on January 24th, seven days into his trial. The defender had been worried that Bricker would incriminate himself with his testimony; before the trial was over, Bricker would prove that his lawyer had legitimate grounds to be concerned. While he was on the stand, Bricker trotted out nearly every one of his old conspiracy theories and introduced some highly baffling new ones. He also spoke at length about what he regarded as his "holy" mission to do away with everyone connected with the original Simpson criminal trial and warned that by prosecuting him the LA County courts were taking a chance on letting what he called "demonic evil forces" take over the earth.

He gave little if any indication of feeling remorse for his actions on the day he shot O.J. Simpson and Simpsonís attorneys. If anything, one Los Angeles Times reporter would later recall that the former USC undergrad seemed to be extremely proud of his violent acts. He spoke of having performed what he referred to as "a sacred mission to purge the earth of Satanic agents" and said he wished he could have done more to "purify" Los Angeles. Some journalists covering the trial observed that Bricker seemed to have a demented look in his eye when he talked about his actions on the day he killed Simpson.

The jurors would later recall feeling a cold chill when they got a glimpse of Brickerís facial expression as he was leaving the witness stand. He had, the jury forewoman remembered, the look of a fanatic single-mindedly committed to his purpose at the expense of everything else. "The picture I got in my head," another juror said to the Los Angeles Times after the trial was over, "was of a suicide bomber getting ready to blow himself up." While Bricker had never had any intention of taking his own life, he certainly shared a suicide bomberís dedication to his insane purpose.3 At the defendantsí table, there was little that Brickerís defense attorneyís could do besides cast worried glances at each other and hope that they could somehow managed to perform some kind of damage control during their closing statement.

They couldnít. What little hope of acquittal Bricker might have been able to cling to after he left the witness stand was effectively destroyed when the prosecution delivered its closing statement three days later. Challenging Brickerís self-portrait as a tool of righteous vengeance against a brutal murderer and the sleazy defense lawyers who had tried to get him off, the chief prosecutor in the case painted a contradictory image of Bricker as a Ď90s reincarnation of "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz; his dismantling of Brinkerís alibis for his deadly shooting spree struck a number of responsive chords with the jury in the case.

After three days of deliberations, the jury in the Bricker trial found the defendant guilty on twelve of the thirteen criminal counts against him; the thirteenth count was dismissed when the jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on that one. Due to Brickerís history of mental illness the prosecution was unable to obtain the death sentence it had originally sought for him, but the ex-UCLA dropout would still pay a heavy price for his crimes-- he was sentenced to life in prison without hope of parole.

And it would turn out to be a short life indeed...


To Be Continued



[1] Koppel was later reprimanded by his bosses at ABC News for that comment, but due to his stature in the TV news profession and his many years of dedicated service to the network no further disciplinary action was taken. And the truth was that some ABC News executives secretly shared Koppelís disgust over the fact that the Bricker trial was getting so much coverage at the expense of other major world events.

[2] Quoted from an article in the entertainment section of the February 2nd, 1996 Los Angeles Times.

[3] In later years, the Department of Homeland Security would use Brickerís psychological profile as a template for gauging the mindset of a fanatic.


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