'If He Did It' -- Will He Pay?

O. J. Simpson has a book coming out, "If I Did It, This Is How It Happened," about the murders of his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)
O. J. Simpson has a book coming out, "If I Did It, This Is How It Happened," about the murders of his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

by Chris Francescani, Ellen Davis, and Lauren Pearle, ABC News Law & Justice Unit

O.J. Simpson's forthcoming book and two-part interview about the murders of his ex-wife and Ron Goldman, tentatively titled, "If I Did It," are unlikely to land him in any legal trouble.

Legal experts who spoke with ABC News' Law & Justice Unit said that new prosecutions were virtually impossible, and that while there was a prospect of the victims' families recovering Simpson's profits, financial maneuvers might keep the money out of their hands.

In a seemingly unprecedented publishing sleight of hand, the book is being touted as a work of fiction.

However, publisher Judith Regan told The Associated Press on Wednesday that "this is an historic case, and I consider this his confession."

In a promotional news release from Harper Collins, Simpson is quoted as saying, "I'm going to tell you a story you've never heard before, because no one knows this story the way I know it."

"It takes place on the night of June 12, 1994, and it concerns the murder of my ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her young friend, Ronald Goldman," Simpson says. "I want you to forget everything you think you know about that night, because I know the facts better than anyone."

But the release goes on to say that the book will provide "for the first time ever, a bone-chilling account of the night of the murders, in which Simpson pictures himself at the center of the action."

The nature and promotion of the book and interview raise a series of legal questions.

The Goldman and Brown families were awarded $33.5 million in a 1997 wrongful death civil lawsuit that found Simpson liable for the deaths of Brown Simpson and Goldman.

Will the Goldmans Get the Profits?

The details of Simpson's financial arrangement with his publisher remain a secret. While it has been reported that Simpson was paid $3.5 million for the book and interview, his former attorney Yale Galanter -- who told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit that he had nothing to do with this deal -- said he had been told Simpson had received far less than that figure in an advance.

Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman's father, called the deal "morally disgusting" and questioned whether Regan had broken the law.

"I'm sure that if Regan paid him money, I'm sure she didn't write a check out to him," he told ABC News. "So shall we now believe and suspect that she was helping him avoid the [civil] judgment? I think the answer is, 'You can bet they didn't write a check out to him.'"

Brown family attorney John Q. Kelly told ABC News that "we're certainly going to go after any money that he seeks to get from any book or interview. ... We're always watching."

And Daniel Petrocelli -- who represented the Goldmans in the wrongful death suit -- said the family could go to a judge in the state where the publisher's check was issued and ask a judge to garnish the profits and turn them over to the Goldman family.

Shaun Martin, civil procedure professor at the University of San Diego, said that under the legal requirements of a civil judgment, the Goldmans should be entitled to any money Simpson makes with the book.

But other lawyers who have followed the Simpson case predicted his lawyers would find a way to keep the money from going to the Goldman family.

"I think it's going to be difficult if [Simpson] arranges to have [book profits] deposited abroad," said lawyer Tom Mesereau, who successfully defended Michael Jackson in his child molestation trial in 2005. "It's one thing to enforce a judgment in America, and another to enforce it overseas."

Mesereau said Simpson also might have profits "paid into a trust offshore or a corporation in a different name."

"He could make it difficult," he said.

Galanter said that the amount Simpson had received was so much less than reported that it would not have been worth it for Simpson to try and hide the money overseas or anywhere else.

Galanter, who said he only learned about the deal on Monday, said the Goldman lawyers would have had to "domesticate" the civil judgment against Simpson.

In other words, they would have had to take legal steps in California to ensure that the multimillion-dollar judgment was applicable in Florida, where Simpson lives and works.

Galanter says the Goldman attorneys have not taken those actions since the judgment. But Petrocelli said the families still have time to take those actions.

Could Simpson Be Prosecuted for the Murders Again?

Simpson was acquitted in state court of the murders of his ex-wife and Goldman. He cannot be prosecuted again, under a Fifth Amendment clause known as "double jeopardy," which protects individuals from being prosecuted for the same crime twice.

While you can be retried for a crime in which a jury could not reach a verdict, you cannot be prosecuted for a crime in which a jury has already acquitted -- or convicted -- you.

In rare cases, individuals who have been acquitted of crimes in state court have been prosecuted in federal courts on different charges arising from the same crime.

Mafia boss John Gotti was once acquitted of a murder in state court, and later prosecuted for racketeering in federal court. One of the predicate acts contained in the racketeering charge was the murder for which he had previously been acquitted.

Legal experts say it's virtually impossible that Simpson could be prosecuted in federal court for violating the civil rights of Brown Simpson and Goldman, because there's no applicable federal law.

None of the legal experts ABC News spoke with could think of any other legal theory under federal law that could reasonably be used to charge Simpson again with the murders.

Could Simpson Be Charged With Perjury?

Lawyers for the Goldmans may watch to see whether in the book or the interview Simpson contradicts his testimony in the civil wrongful death suit the Goldmans filed against him.

He did not take the stand in his 1994 criminal trial.

But perjury is a difficult crime to prove. A hypothetical statement in a book or television interview would not suffice, according to Gerald Uelmen, professor of law at Santa Clara University Law School.

Professor Mark Kelman of Stanford Law School calls perjury prosecutions based on previous assertions of innocence extraordinarily rare -- if they have ever been pursued at all. Kelman said these prosecutions "violate the spirit if not the letter" of double-jeopardy laws.

If Simpson Implicates Someone Else, Could That Person Be Indicted?

Simpson reportedly refers to an accomplice who accompanies him to the house and hands him a knife.

If, in fact, a previously unknown accomplice was identified by Simpson, prosecutors could pursue accessory to murder charges, but again, it's unlikely they would, Mesereau said.

"There's no statute of limitations for murder, but they would have to have a case they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt," Mesereau said.

"The book may provide leads, but the Los Angeles District Attorney's office was burned so badly that they are not likely to pursue new leads at this point."

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