Victims’ families feud over O.J.’s ‘If I Did It’ book

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/ Source: TODAY contributor
By Mike Celizic

Denise Brown can see no purpose in publishing O.J. Simpson’s book detailing how he “would have” murdered his estranged wife and Ron Goldman — if he was the real killer.

The Goldman family is going to publish the controversial book this fall, along with their own commentary on things Simpson wrote about the infamous murders and his acquittal, despite the Brown family's fierce objections.

In an exclusive appearance on the TODAY show, Denise Brown engaged in an angry and emotional debate Wednesday with Eric Kampmann, the New York publisher who has agreed to issue the book. Proceeds of the sale will go into a trust fund for the Simpsons’ children, Sydney, 21, and Justin, 19.

“What about Sydney and Justin?” Brown, her voice near breaking, asked Kampmann. “These children lost their mother. Why would you bring this nightmare back to these children?”

Longtime allies divided

Last year, the Goldmans and Denise Brown were united in their opposition to O.J. Simpson publishing the book.

“At first we were all on the same page,” Brown told TODAY’s David Gregory. “The whole country spoke out loud and clear: ‘We don’t want this book published.’ I’m still on the same page. It’s the Goldmans who have changed their tune, and it’s all about money. How much money is it going to take to make you guys happy? It’s not going to bring Nicole and Ron back.”

Kampmann said he felt exactly the same way when the project was first brought to him.

“It’s outrageous what this guy has gotten away with,” Kampmann said.

But, he added, he came to view situation differently over time.

“These are his words. This is his description. This is his confession. The people in this country should be able to read O.J.’s words and make a decision for themselves,” Kampmann said.

Simpson wrote the book, which he intended to call “If I Did It,” with a ghostwriter under a $3.5-million contract with HarperCollins, which intended to publish it late last year under its Regan imprint.

But when the families of both Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman and the public expressed outrage that Simpson would profit from the murders they are certain he committed, HarperCollins canceled the project. A planned Fox television special about the book with Simpson was also canceled.

Fred Goldman, Ron’s father, and Kim Goldman Hahn, the murder victim's sister, had won a $32-million civil judgment for wrongful death against O.J. Simpson after he was acquitted of the murders 12 years ago. Simpson has paid them very little, and interest charges have swelled the amount owed to nearly $40 million.

Simpson cannot profit

In July, the Goldmans won the rights to “If I Did It” in court and decided to publish the book, with the money going to the Simpson children. O.J. Simpson will get nothing.

Kampmann said a month ago he would never have agreed to publish the book. “I thought it was wrong,” he told Gregory. “I didn’t like anything about it. But with the decision of the court in July, the situation changed entirely.

“The fact that the guy who wrote this book, O.J. Simpson, was not going to profit from putting this book on the marketplace  — I think that was what so many people objected to, not the story itself,” Kampmann said.

Denise Brown, who works with battered women, said her objection is to the book itself, not the money.

“A majority of this country — of the world — knows that O.J. Simpson murdered Nicole and Ron,” she said. “I have called this book a manual to commit murder in the past. What it’s become is a book to promote social irresponsibility. It’s not even about the murders anymore. This has become the commercialization of blood money.”

Kampmann said that the Goldman family felt it was important to tell the public about the heroic way their son, who had gone to Nicole's to return eyeglasses left at the restaurant where he worked, died.

The publisher read from a statement by Ron Goldman’s father and sister: “‘The hardest part of reading this book was hearing him talk that night. We have seen all the evidence, heard all the testimony, but nothing prepares you for hearing straight from his mouth, listening to him talk about taunting Ron. How Ron tried to defuse the issue was gut-wrenching. But we also hear how Ron stayed to protect Nicole as opposed to running away to safety. We were once again reminded that Ron was a hero ... He stayed to fight, and so will we.”

The book was presented last year as a hypothetical account of how O.J. Simpson, a famous ex-football player who had gone on to a successful career in television and movies, would have committed the murders. He has always maintained his innocence, and after his acquittal has vowed to find “the real killer.”

But the book is filled with detail that only someone who was actually there could possibly know, Kampmann said.

“If O.J. didn’t do it, he was right next to the guy who did,” said Kampmann. “I know it’s a confession. It’s so concrete, it’s so real, the facts are so very vivid.”

“Is it going to bring Ron back?” Denise Brown demanded. “No. It's a manual on murder."