Audio Of The Fuhrman Tapes Shows Why They Were Such A Turning Point In The O.J. Simpson Trial — LISTEN
The "Trial Of The Century," in which O.J. Simpson was tried for and acquitted of the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, took place in Southern California at a time when instances and accusations of police brutality and institutionalized racism had tensions between law enforcement and citizens extremely high. If you've been watching The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, you've seen the series highlight how encouraging a lack of trust in the Los Angeles Police Department became one of the key strategies of Simpson's defense team. If one person represents the defense's success in driving home their point, it's former detective Mark Fuhrman. The jury heard audio from the Fuhrman tapes, in which he used offensive racial language (including the n-word) and displayed a general lack of compassion that severely affected his credibility as a witness.
Though the conversations took place long before the victims were killed, CNN reported that the defense submitted hours of recorded interviews between Mark Fuhrman and screenwriter Laura Hart McKinny. The two met by chance in a cafe, where McKinny asked Fuhrman if he would talk to her on tape about her current subject: female police officers. According to CNN, McKinny "said Fuhrman told her he had strong feelings on that issue and that he belonged to a group called 'Men Against Women.'" When she testified at the trial, McKinny stated that she engaged Fuhrman "to help give me some ideas from the point of view of some men who might belong to this particular group, 'Men Against Women,' and how men would be frustrated by some of the actions of some women." According to Vanity Fair, the conversations took place between 1985 and 1994.
Across the years, these recorded talks expanded far beyond the main topic. According to The Los Angeles Times, Fuhrman spoke to McKinny about 29 alleged acts of police brutality, 17 of which LAPD investigators claimed were fabricated and not connected to any known incidents. In a partial transcript hosted by CNN, Fuhrman said, "Most real good policemen understand that they would just love to take certain people and just take them to the alley and just blow their brains out."
CNN also reported that McKinny answered in the affirmative when asked under oath if Fuhrman used the n-word in their conversations. Fuhrman had denied using the n-word within the past 10 years when questioned by defense attorney F. Lee Bailey earlier in the trial. The Chicago Tribune reported that Bailey claimed no foreknowledge of the tapes and chose 10 years as a random span of time. Still, the dates of the recordings directly contradict Fuhrman's testimony and because of this, he plead no contest to perjury one year after the Simpson trial, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
CNN reported that McKinny initially gave her testimony without the jury present and that two hours of the tapes were played for the rest of the court. In a ruling on their admissibility transcribed by The New York Times, Judge Lance Ito said:
The court reviewed each of the 41 uses of the racial epithet in question either by reference to the transcript(s), audio tapes or both. The court finds that each involves Fuhrman's use of the subject racial epithet in a disparaging manner within the time frame posed by the cross-examination and in contradiction to his testimony before the jury. It is therefore relevant and admissible as impeachment.
In the video below, a short segment of the Fuhrman tapes is played for the jury in conjunction with McKinny's continued testimony. Be aware that the racial slurs have not been edited out of this clip.