Story highlights

Ex-police officer who obtained the knife speaks out

CNN legal analyst: Evidence on the knife may have "degraded significantly"

Simpson's attorney says double jeopardy restricts legal avenues to prosecute

CNN —  

Nearly 22 years after the fatal stabbing of Nicole Brown Simpson, reports of a knife discovered on her ex-husband’s property are sparking a frenzy of questions.

And authorities are wondering why a former police officer, who kept the knife for years, did not turn it in sooner.

O.J. Simpson was acquitted in the June 1994 killings of his ex-wife and her friend, Ronald Goldman, outside her condominium in Los Angeles.

On Friday, the Los Angeles Police Department announced a knife was allegedly found on O.J. Simpson’s former estate in Brentwood.

Former officer George Maycott got the knife from a construction worker in in 2002 or 2003, according to the ex-officer’s attorney.

At the time, Maycott was working off duty near the estate, attorney Trent Copeland said.

The construction worker came up to him and gave him the knife, saying he found it “on or near” the old Simpson property.

Retired for decades

Maycott retired from the LAPD in 1998, Copeland said, and was working security for a movie or TV show when the construction worker gave him the knife.

The knife was dirty and muddy, and looked like it had been underground, Copeland said. It had no blood or anything to indicate it was used in a violent crime, he said.

Out of an abundance of caution, Maycott called Los Angeles police and told an officer about the knife, according to his lawyer. The officer discussed the call with a supervisor, and told Maycott the case was closed and there was nothing authorities could do. He took the knife home, placed it in a tool box and forgot about it for years, his lawyer said.

When asked during a news conference about Maycott’s alleged phone call to police, LAPD Capt. Andy Neiman said, “I don’t know that.”

Years later

The retired officer was at the police academy recently, and the knife crossed his mind, his lawyer said. He thought of getting it framed or put on a plaque, together with a case number, even though there was no reason to believe it was evidence, his lawyer said.

He reached out to a colleague in the police department for a case number, and there’s a possibility that colleague may have notified officers about the knife, according to the attorney.

Copeland said his client has been “extraordinarily cooperative” with authorities.

Case split nation along racial lines

Emotions still burn fiercely about the case and its underlying issues that sound remarkably familiar today: race, justice and policing in America.

A jury acquitted Simpson in the killings in October 1995, a decision that largely split the country along racial lines. Nicole Brown Simpson and Goldman were white and O.J. Simpson is black.

The weapon used in the stabbing deaths, described as a long, serrated knife, was not found.

Alan Dershowitz, a member of his legal team, said if a knife was recovered from Simpson’s former home, it “illustrates what a bad job the LAPD did.”

Dershowitz said Simpson would easily prevail in court, as Simpson could not be prosecuted again on charges he’s already been acquitted of.

“The only possible way around [double jeopardy] is if you can get a federal indictment for violation of civil rights,” but the statute of limitations has “almost certainly” passed on any such violation, Dershowitz said.

DNA testing underway

Los Angeles police said Friday they are examining what’s been described as a knife reportedly found years ago at the estate that once belonged to the former football great who became a movie star.

“The actual item is described as a knife. I’m not going to go into the description of the knife because that could be germane to determining whether or not this actual piece of evidence is in fact evidence or is just a facsimile or a made up story,” Los Angeles police Capt. Andy Neiman said.

Police learned within the last month that an ex-Los Angeles traffic officer received the item from a construction worker who found it “back in the 90s,” possibly when the estate was being demolished, Neiman said. The home was razed in 1998.

CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos said the knife could be tested for hair or blood, but it may have “degraded significantly” after being buried in the soil for so long.

A retired LAPD assistant police chief who held that position at the time of the 1994 killings told CNN that if investigators find hair, blood or other evidence on the knife, they eventually could exhume the remains of Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson to see if the knife and bone damage match.

Many unknowns

Neiman said he didn’t know why the ex-officer waited so long to turn it over to police.

“I don’t know what the circumstances are, why that didn’t happen or if that’s entirely accurate or if this whole story is possibly bogus from the get-go,” he said.

“If true, it’s remarkable to think an LAPD officer – or retired officer for that matter – would retain for himself the possible murder weapon from the O.J. Simpson case rather than immediately turn it in to the department for analysis as any responsible law enforcement officer would do,” said Jeffrey C. Eglash, who served as the LAPD’s inspector general from 1999 to 2002.

History of ‘several knives turned in’

The former lead detective in the Simpson case, Tom Lange, said investigators thoroughly searched Simpson’s residence after the murders. They also searched nearby streets.

“Initially … there were several knives found around the property,” he told CNN. “There were dozens and dozens of hours spent with over 100 officers searching property areas, sewers, streets, no-stone-unturned type of a situation.

“As to knives, there were several knives turned in by various people. I mean, we even had people admitting to the crime,” Lange added. “This particular incident, we don’t know anything about the circumstances of the recovery. It’s very unclear, so we’re going to have to wait and see.”

The Goldmans filed a civil wrongful death suit against Simpson, and in 1997, the jury found Simpson liable in the deaths and awarded the family $8.5 million in damages and millions more in punitive damages.

TV series

Interest in the killings has spiked since the February debut of the FX television series, “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.”

CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, who represented the estate of Nicole Brown Simpson in a civil suit against Simpson, is skeptical of the new find.

“What a coincidence,” he said. “All of sudden the knife would be found in the middle of the TV series. It sounds like a made-in-Hollywood knife discovery.”

Neiman agreed when asked about the news.

He smiled and said, “Interesting timing. Interesting timing.”

Maycott’s attorney said his client has nothing to do with the FX series, and the timing is “purely coincidental.”

“This is great if it leads to restart of a march to find the truth in the Ron Goldman-Nicole Brown Simpson murders,” he said. He added that he was skeptical and postulated it might be an attempt by someone who sees the knife as a collectible and is trying to create buzz in order to boost its price.

Imprisoned in Nevada

Simpson is imprisoned in Nevada in a separate case. In October 2008 he was found guilty on 12 counts, including kidnapping and armed robbery, for a confrontation in a Las Vegas hotel room over sports memorabilia that Simpson said had been stolen from him.

He was sentenced to 33 years with parole eligibility after nine years.

CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Chuck Johnston and Kyra Phillips contributed to this report.