Is Mark Fuhrman Out to Get Truth or Rebuild Tarnished Reputation?

Aired May 16, 1998 - 7:30 p.m. ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman pursues a brutal murder, but this time it's an unsolved mystery in Greenwich, Connecticut, involving the Kennedy family. Is Fuhrman out to get the truth or rebuild his tarnished reputation?

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak. In the crossfire, in New York, former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman, author of "Murder In Greenwich: Who Killed Martha Moxley?"

PRESS: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

A brutal murder, a rich family, cops bungle the case and the killer escapes. Sound familiar? It should and it is, and so is the name of the man who's written a new book about it. He's Mark Fuhrman, former LAPD detective portrayed as a racist in the first O.J. trial and accused of planting that bloody glove in the back of O.J.'s guest house. Mark Fuhrman, who told his own side of the O.J. trial in his book, "Murder In Brentwood," is now back in print. His new book, "Murder In Greenwich," tells the story of an unsolved murder where a cousin of the Kennedys is a prime suspect but where the family is rich and powerful enough to defy and to derail the police.

With echoes of both the O.J. case and the JonBenet Ramsey case, this book promises to be another best seller. But that won't still critics of the book's author, who say once a racist always a racist, that he's the man responsible for O.J.'s getting off and that he's now writing books not to expose wrongdoing, but to try to restore his own tarnished reputation.

What's the truth? An unusual crossfire tonight. Mark Fuhrman takes the stand alone to defend himself. Bob?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Mark Fuhrman, who is, or should I say who was Martha Moxley?

MARK FUHRMAN, FORMER L.A. POLICE DETECTIVE, AUTHOR, "MURDER IN GREENWICH": Well, Martha Moxley was one of those people that you wished you had as a child. It's not because she died in this way. She was a, you know, a beautiful girl, an intelligent girl, a good daughter, a respectful daughter...

NOVAK: Fifteen-years-old.

FUHRMAN: Fifteen-years-old. Just a total innocent girl that loved life and she was brutally murdered.

NOVAK: And in all, that was in 1975, in all those years they have not solved the case and you used your talents, your experience as a LAPD investigator on the case and did you come to a solution?

FUHRMAN: I came to about as close a solution as we can without subpoena power and the ability of a grand jury. In my opinion, Michael Skakel is the suspect and these are mostly claims that I worked off of Michael Skakel's own admissions and things he said.

NOVAK: Who is Michael Skakel, Mark?

FUHRMAN: Michael Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Kennedy. He is the brother of one of the prime suspects in the case, Tommy Skakel. Michael Skakel was absolutely not even considered a suspect until 1992 when he made admissions that were finally put into a newspaper article by Len Lovitt (ph) in 1995. He did not obviously admit or confess to the murder, but he put himself, he actually inserted himself into the, in the case quite unnecessarily.

NOVAK: And what makes you think that he was just, he was also 15-years-old at the time, is that correct?

FUHRMAN: Yes, he was.

NOVAK: And he was from the Skakel family, which is a very rich family, Ethel Kennedy's family, richer than the Kennedys even. What makes you believe that this boy killed his friend?

FUHRMAN: Well, when you look at the evidence just starkly by itself, it's very difficult to come to that conclusion. But if you look at the things that the family did early on that day, and I'll give you an example, Martha Moxley is found at 12:30 P.M. By 5:15 P.M. that day, Jim McKenzie, an attorney for Great Lakes Carbon, the family corporation, is at the house taking phone calls and making phone calls. I interviewed Jim McKenzie. This evidence was not known before I took over this investigation in my own way. Also, Rushton Skakel thought to come back the next day instead...

NOVAK: Her father, the boy's father?

FUHRMAN: The boy's father is there by 8:00 P.M. that evening, the chauffeur gives Jim McKenzie a ride to New York in the limousine and then Rushton Skakel does not go to the police station where Tommy Skakel is being held and interrogated, but stays home.

NOVAK: All right, now, Mark, the, I must say, I intended to kind of scan through your book, and it's a real page turner. It is an engrossing story, a fascinating story and I'll talk a little bit more why it's so fascinating. But now that you have come up with this theory, some additional information, what are your hopes that the case, after all these years, will be reopened? There is no statute of limitations on murder one. What is your, the chances that they will use some of the investigative leads you've uncovered to solve this case?

FUHRMAN: Well, I listened to the description of our show tonight and what's interesting is my investigative skills and my work as a detective have never been challenged and even the defense team, Alan Dershowitz, which we know, Bob, we had a, we had quite a heated discussion on your show, he even said I was the smartest person on the prosecution's side. So that was never in dispute and there's no race involved in this case. This is a murder case.

NOVAK: Yeah, but what do you think, let's answer my question now, Mark. What do you think the chances are that this case will now be, that the authorities will say hey, let's take another look and let's look at Michael Skakel?

FUHRMAN: Well, I was hoping they'd do that when I started but they didn't. I think the chances now are that they're going to have to. I've given them an outline. This book is an outline of a homicide investigation and it's definitely an outline to do a grand jury, the people that you need to call, the questions you need to ask and the way that the case probably went down where every piece of evidence fits into what the chronological order of the murder probably was.

PRESS: Mark Fuhrman, toward the end of the book you almost word for word lay the blame, after identifying your idea of who the suspect really is in this case, you lay the blame on the police department and on the citizens of Greenwich. Is it really that simple and why do you point the blame at both parties?

FUHRMAN: Well, you know, a police department is only as effective as the citizens that support it and what they want it do. I mean, it can all be somewhat of a masquerade. Yes, we want justice as long as it doesn't affect me, as long as I don't have to pay for it and as long as I don't have to see it. That's not a fair assessment of what a true community is. The Greenwich police definitely showed preferential treatment to the rich people in Bell Haven. They also are not prepared to deal with a violent crime scene where they have to make snap judgments and quite brave judgments intruding on rich people's homes, write search warrants and arrest people and interrogate them in the way they should have been.

PRESS: Well, let me clarify a couple of things. First of all, are you saying that the community, people in the community did not cooperate with the police, with the investigation?

FUHRMAN: Many people did not.

PRESS: And the police department, are you saying that they're incompetent or corrupt?

FUHRMAN: I don't think, I think those are stark comparisons in two directions. I think that they don't have to apologize for living in a community that's almost absent of crime. But then again they have to be prepared to handle that crime if it happens and if not ask for help. That was not the case when this murder went down. It was handled in a way that almost a layman could figure out better ways to conduct this investigation. The murder victim was almost totally ignored at the scene.

PRESS: Well, you lay out at the end of the book in this chapter called Homicide 101 that if you'd basically make the argument that it's not brain surgery. If you play by the book and you do what you're supposed to do as a police officer and you get there, you secure the scene, you get the evidence, you interview, interrogate the suspects and perhaps, at least, you come up with the guilty party. If it was all so easy, Mark Fuhrman, why didn't you do that in the O.J. case?

FUHRMAN: I did. I fell in...

PRESS: Why didn't the LAPD do it right by the book in the O.J. case if it's that easy?

FUHRMAN: Well, I was in the LAPD and I did do it by the book and not only by the book, you know, I understood the current case law on search and seizure and, you know, going over the wall I knew the case that Judge Kennedy Powell cited. I knew exactly what I was doing with the discovery of all the evidence. I understood exactly what needed to be documented and I did so. I took notes. I made notations. I did my crime scenes exactly the way they were supposed to be done. What was done by Lange (ph) and Vannatter (ph) afterwards, what was left at the scene, what mistakes were made in the search warrants I had no control over.

NOVAK: As you pointed out in your book, "Murder In Brentwood." But, Mark, I want to ask you this. When I read this book, the new book, "Murder In Greenwich" and you a stranger coming into town, I was, I thought of a lot of old cowboy movies where the cowboy, where the guy comes into town and there's a terrible secret, a bad day at black rock, nobody will talk to him and nobody's, nobody will talk to you and they call the police and said you keep away from these people. I want to ask you this, do you think that treatment was of you because of your notoriety in the O.J. case or do you think any new investigator coming in would have gotten that treatment?

FUHRMAN: That's a great question and many people did get that same treatment, not in just brazen terms. But I think I push a little harder and I don't give up. You know, losing isn't the worst thing, quitting is and I just wouldn't do that. And I think they were very afraid to try to explain what they already knew was a mistake knowing full well I knew exactly how to conduct one of these investigations and all, like you said, all you have to do basically is follow a general procedure and you will obtain things, you may not understand what they mean then, but you will still obtain them.

NOVAK: Mark Fuhrman, we're going to take a break but I want to ask you one quick question, if you'd give me a quick answer. I was stunned at the lifestyle of the Skakels, this very rich, prestigious family, the children are out of control, the father was a drunk, the children were running wild. Weren't you shocked by that?

FUHRMAN: Yes, I was and it's hard to believe that people that have the opportunity to give their kids so much gave them so little.

NOVAK: OK, we're going to take a break and when we come back, we're going to ask former Detective Fuhrman about the somewhat unusual behavior lately of O.J. Simpson.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. O.J. Simpson may be forgotten, but he's certainly not gone. He was on the BBC not long ago pretending to stab a talk show host with a banana. What's he up to? Was this a tacit confession of guilt by O.J. or has he just lost it? We'll ask Mark Fuhrman, the ex-LAPD detective who played such a central role in the O.J. affair and now has written a new book about another killing called "Murder In Greenwich."


PRESS: Mark, the young man whom you identify as a possible suspect, his brother was considered a suspect by the police, is the nephew of Ethel Kennedy, which really has nothing to do with the case, but yet it's contained that fact in all of the literature I've seen that your publicist has put out about the book. Are you just trying to trade on the Kennedy name to sell books?

FUHRMAN: No. You can see in the book I don't, all I do is give the history of the family. I don't have any evidence. I don't even have any assumptions that the Kennedys had anything to do with this. I think the Skakels had enough money, power and position to go ahead and do it all by themselves and do it they did. There was a battery of attorneys that were working on this since 1975 to date.

PRESS: Well, I hear what you say and yet when I looked at the end of the book and you give the time line for the whole murder and investigation, suddenly I come up with this. In the middle of all of this stuff about the Skakels and the other families, the Moxley family and the cops and the district attorney, May 10, 1991, William Kennedy Smith is charged with rape in Palm Beach, Florida. Now why throw that in there? It's a, I mean according to the book he wasn't at the party. Who knows if he even met Martha Moxley. Why do you put that in the middle of your book?

FUHRMAN: Well, it's got a real unique value because that's what caused a reinvestigation of the Moxley case. There was a rumor that William Kennedy Smith was actually at the Moxley house that night. However ridiculous is could have been or was, that was the case. So there was investigators from both sides that started exchanging information, simulated media which stimulated a reinvestigation of the case and got Henry Lee interested. So it was a very pivotal point in the case. Henry Lee coming on board with DNA now scared the Skakels to the point where they hired the Sutton Associates to reinvestigate it, which gave us incredible insight into the boy's change of story and what they attempted to do with their alibi.

PRESS: But he really did have nothing to do with the case, right?

FUHRMAN: He did not have anything to do with the case.

PRESS: All right, just...

FUHRMAN: They came to that conclusion within months.

PRESS: Just one final question about notoriety. Your book agent is Lucianne Goldberg, famous for being the friend of Linda Tripp, who told her to wear the tapes or to do the tapes. Mark, are you trading on her notoriety now to sell books, too?

FUHRMAN: No, I don't believe so. I mean, Lucy and I, we go our own way. You know, we're friends but, you know, her affiliation with political connections like this and political books, it's completely separate. She separates clients. We're a, we're good friends because of this type of a book and that's what we concentrate on and we don't talk about the other stuff.

NOVAK: Mark Fuhrman, your name will be forever inextricably linked to O.J. Simpson's. Can you explain the banana stabbing with the BBC talk show host?

FUHRMAN: I can't even imagine someone in a bar under the influence of alcohol that wasn't even involved in the case being so insensitive to somebody who was innocently slain like this. It's really tasteless. And to have him do it, he just looks like a fool.

NOVAK: Where do you think he's coming from? You know, some people said he was going into a gradual confession, which he denied. Do you see that?

FUHRMAN: Well, I see little things like well if I did kill her, I did it because I loved her, making little, you know, acting out little stabbing motions like this. I think he's doing one thing that he wants very much and everybody's biting very much and that's media attention. He probably expects to slime back in the hearts of at least somebody and find a place in the media someplace.

NOVAK: Mark Fuhrman, in Bill Press's introduction to the program he quoted critics as saying about you once a racist, always a racist. Usually we don't do this on CROSSFIRE, but I'm going to give you a chance to defend yourself. Do you think you were ever a racist?

FUHRMAN: No, I don't think I was ever a racist and, you know, let's look at the evidence that was actually brought forward. Fictional screenplay, I think that's enough said. If that's what kind of country we have and we're using fictional screenplays to convict people of views that you scar 'em with for the rest of their life, then there's a lot of people in Hollywood and New York that should be very fearful of this. All they have to do is make a mistake in a large case and they're barbecued. So, I can admit I made many mistakes and I admit those and apologize for them because they were taken out of context and maybe insensitive no matter how they were taken. I agree with that. I'm a detective. This book's about being a detective. Nobody ever said anything about my detective work. Nobody ever challenged it successfully. Nobody will.

PRESS: Mark, I just want to pick up on that quickly. The LAPD, as I understand it in the report that they did looking into your

behavior after the allegations were made found 29 cases that they said could be called police misconduct and you were quoted as saying, I've got it in front of me, "Just seems like I can't tolerate anybody or anything anymore. I answer everything with violence." That's what you told the city board of pension commissioners. Are you bragging about that kind of behavior?

FUHRMAN: No, but now here we're going back into old news, old case, old times.

PRESS: Well, Bob raised it. I wasn't going to go there and Bob raised it.

NOVAK: You raised it right in the...


NOVAK: Don't give me that, Bill. You raised it first.

FUHRMAN: Now you two quit arguing.

PRESS: All right, if I did -- all right, go ahead, answer the question, please.

NOVAK: You're damn right you did.

FUHRMAN: This is my answer so, you know, yeah, you can go into that and these are some of the things that I apologized for. Some of those things, whether they're taken out of context or not, I'm not even going to argue that. The problem is is Los Angeles is a violent city and it eats people up both ends and it eats cops up right and left. I survived it and I made myself a productive part of that department. Yeah, the department found 29 allegations that could be. Well, any time, any time somebody says I think this was wrong, well I guess it could be.

PRESS: OK, let me ask...

FUHRMAN: But they found that they weren't.

PRESS: All right, now, let's move on. In reading your book what I found was a striking similarity to this case and the case of JonBenet Ramsey out in Boulder, Colorado...

FUHRMAN: I will agree.

PRESS: ... both in terms of the family and the police department. Do you think that their money, their power, their connections, like the Skakels, have prevented the police from doing their job out there?

FUHRMAN: Absolutely. They have kept the police at bay.

NOVAK: Mark Fuhrman, I'm going to ask you a general question about crime and crime investigation in America. Do you think if you have enough money and enough influence like O.J., like the Skakels, like the Ramseys, that you can really thwart the criminal justice

system in this country? Is that the point we have reached at the end of the 20th century?

FUHRMAN: Yes, I believe that's the case and I think the only thing that stands in the way are the people that support the police. We saw it, the best police department in this country, the best homicide detectives in this country, LAPD. They collected all the evidence. They showed that he did it. You could have thrown out 90 percent of the evidence and it was enough to put five people on death row.

NOVAK: Do you have another murder you're going to investigate for a book soon?

FUHRMAN: You know, I don't have one yet but you brought up an interesting case, JonBenet.

PRESS: All right, look...

NOVAK: I know some people, but I won't go into that.

FUHRMAN: We'll talk later.

PRESS: Look out, here it comes. One quick question, Mark, for a quick answer. The lawyers. To what extent are the lawyers responsible for getting these killers off?

FUHRMAN: They are the mind machine that puts everything together and keeps everybody at bay.

PRESS: All right.

FUHRMAN: That is the total, it's the total reason. Money makes it happen.

PRESS: Mark Fuhrman, thanks for joining us. Good book, good luck with it, and Bob Novak and I will come up and wrap up with our closing comments in just a minute.


PRESS: Bob, you know, you asked Mark the question there at the end, which I think is the heart of this book and the most troubling part of this book is that there are two systems of justice in the country. He shows it once again. There's one for the rich and the rich families particularly, one for the poor and the poor families. But I'll tell you, I don't know what the hell to do about it. It's probably always been that way and probably always will be.

NOVAK: Well, I think it's probably getting worse and I was just fascinated by the book not so much that it's an unsolved murder but the whole picture of the Skakel family, of the, of this, what I think are corrupt people refusing to cooperate with police, just protecting their, the young people of being in league with the local police and I, and you say you took issue with him in condemning and indicting the people of Greenwich. I think they are complicit in it because they have let this go on and they were glad when the Moxley family left and

got out so they wouldn't remind them of this terrible scandal and this terrible corruption.

PRESS: No, for the issue I didn't, for the record, I didn't take issue with them on that. I wanted him to clarify that that's what he was saying because I found it shocking, there were neighbors who wouldn't talk about what they saw that night. There were members of the family who wouldn't be interviewed, allow themselves to be interviewed by the cops.

NOVAK: Let me say for the record, too, I met Mark Fuhrman when he came down here to do publicity on his previous book. I don't think he's a racist. I think he made some mistakes but I think he was railroaded and I really worry about our whole system of criminal justice when he is stripped of his rights as a citizen because he made one unfortunate remark.

PRESS: No, Bob, I don't think he's a racist, but I think he allowed Johnnie Cochran to play the race card.

NOVAK: I agree with that.

PRESS: And O.J.'s free today.

NOVAK: I agree with that.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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