Published June 03, 2004
In the first interview he's given since O.J. Simpson's trial for double murder in 1994, Dr. Robert Huizenga — Simpson's personal physician at the time and a witness for the defense in the "Trial of the Century" — spoke with me yesterday about the case. The respected Los Angeles doctor and author had surprising things to say on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the unsolved murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Huizenga was brought into the case by attorney Robert Shapiro a couple of days after the murders. It was also after Simpson had already been examined by police doctors and had his blood taken for testing. Indeed, Huizenga — who'd just written a book about the affect of anabolic steroids on professional football players — suddenly replaced Simpson's regular doctor, a rheumatologist, at Shapiro's request.
"My take, and what I say now, is that Simpson was innocent in the trial," Huizenga told me, referring to the criminal trial in which a jury acquitted Simpson. A civil jury later held him responsible for the murders. "That doesn't mean he did or didn't do it. Let's face it, the evidence is completely suspicious. Some guilty people are set free."
Huizenga saw Simpson once on the morning of June 15 at Shapiro's request. "Shapiro said to me, 'Take every test. Let the chips fall where they may.'" The doctor saw Simpson again on June 17, two hours before the infamous Bronco chase commenced, and later in prison. At the time, the notoriety was scary, he said. "I got hundreds of letters saying 'You'll die for representing this man' — which I didn't — to 'You're the best person in the world.' It was eye opening."
But what was most alarming, Huizenga told me, was how prosecutors treated him. His direct questioning by the state was from Deputy District Attorney Brian Kelberg, who worked for Marcia Clark.
"I told them that Simpson appeared to be limping when he came into my office. Instead of asking me about that, they said, 'He wasn't limping, you're lying, we have tape of him from two months before.' It's odd that the prosecutors didn't even bother to ask about the sequelae," he said, tossing some much-needed Latin into our conversation. In other words: Clark's team never asked why Simpson had been limping, or what would have brought him to that point.
Huizenga is not wrong to question that moment in his testimony 10 years later. On the stand he told Kelberg that Simpson walked into his office three days after the murders "like Tarzan's grandfather." Instead of exploring how Simpson could have come to be in that condition, Kelberg replied: "...perhaps Mr. Simpson was faking a limp in your office?"
"They assumed I was lying," Huizenga said to me. "They didn't ask me if it was possible that he'd been in the greatest fight of his life just a few days before."
"I was dumbfounded by their approach," Huizenga said. "And they've become celebrities since then." He continued: "But they were set on a course. They wanted to prove I was stupid instead of saying, 'You're an honest person, what happened here?'"
Huizenga testified in the trial that he tested Simpson for several drugs, among them anabolic steroids. All the tests came back negative. The FBI lab had tested Simpson a couple of days earlier for the same drugs, without the steroid component. During the trial, a Harvard forensic psychiatrist with a connection to the case conjectured to me that Simpson might have killed his ex-wife Nicole and Ron Goldman in some kind of steroid rage. Huizenga says now that it's unlikely based on the tests.
"Of course, the original tests had much higher detectable limits. We set ours much lower. Look at all the pictures that were taken. They were all from my office. All the cuts on his hands, none of that would have been known without us. They" — he said, referring to the police and FBI — "did a terrible job."
Early in the trial year, Simpson's pal Al Cowlings dictated tapes for a book he was going to publish about Simpson dating up through the trial. Cowlings, I reported then, said that in the Bronco Simpson exhibited a massive amount of sweating, and recalled that he looked like someone who was going through steroid withdrawal.
Huizenga reminded me that in mid-July 1994, once Simpson was in prison, he underwent exploratory surgery for cancer. "What we found was that he had a lymph node under his armpit, and that he was sweating profusely. Ironically, the jail doctor who examined him said he hadn't seen any lymph nodes. But they were the kind associated with rheumatoid arthritis, and that would have caused the sweating."
Nevertheless, Huizenga did testify that Simpson had abruptly stopped using a drug called sulfasalazine for his rheumatoid arthritis about a month before the murders. This jibed with an interview I had in 1995 with Christian Reichardt, chiropractor boyfriend of Faye Resnick, who'd convinced Simpson to give up his medications in favor of a vitamin drink he'd concocted. Could withdrawal from sulfasalazine have caused Simpson to fly into rages? It's unlikely. But at the trial, under direct examination by defense attorney Shapiro, Huizenga volunteered the following:
"He [O.J. Simpson] received multiple cortisone injections, which is — certainly was done in the past, I think all would agree, far too freely and may have certain sequelae downstream."
There's that word sequelae again. During later cross examination, it's interesting to note that Kelberg never bothered to ask Huizenga about the cortisone injections, or what side effects they had. He never asked about the sequelae, sticking instead to a lengthy and boring discussion of cuts.
If only Kelberg had asked. Looking back at Huizenga's testimony, it's clear that he was doing everything he could to send out clues to the hapless prosecution, anything, that is, short of just blurting out his thoughts in open court. If only they'd been smart enough or paid closer attention.
The Robin Hood Foundation's executive director, David Saltzman, took exception to a couple of points in our story yesterday about his group's tax filing, and the way it spends its money. Saltzman points out that he is not on the organization's board of directors — although his salary of $250,100 a year is listed on the group's Form 990 with the board, and not the organization's staff.
"I am a paid employee, and not a director," he said. "I'm sorry if the form is confusing. No one on the board of directors is paid." In fact, Saltzman says, the board of directors underwrites all administrative costs for the foundation, including fundraising. "What Robin Hood can pledge is that due to the generosity of the board, there are no expenses."
That includes expenses for the annual concert and dinner, which he said made money, even though it appears to have lost $1.5 million on the Form 990 in 2002. Again, he said, the blame goes to the IRS, which requires the tax-deductible part of the contributions by patrons to be included in the accounting; and to the lack of notation anywhere on the form about the board paying expenses.
"Every single penny the public donates to Robin Hood goes to fight poverty in New York City," Saltzman said.