This question came to light, glaringly, after O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his former wife and a visiting associate. O.J.’s two small children had been living with their maternal grandparents during O.J.’s incarceration and trial. They, too, had been upstairs sleeping when their mother was murdered and her body left near the entrance of the family home.
Once he was a free man, O.J. petitioned the court to regain custody of his kids. This was over the strong objection of their maternal grandparents, who vehemently believed that the children’s father had killed their daughter. However, the judge made the decision in 1996 that no evidence from the murders would be allowed into the custody hearings.
In December of ’96 the judge made the ruling that the children belonged with their father. In a statement she said, “that attorneys for the Browns had “failed to demonstrate clear and convincing evidence” that being in Simpson’s custody would be harmful to the children.
Wieben Stock also described the children’s affection for their father, writing that one of the youngsters had stated an “unequivocal desire” to live with Simpson, while the other had not stated a preference.”
This first judge went on to say, “the children share a relationship with their father that appears to be strong, positive and healthy, with powerful psychological bonding.”
Yet, this wasn’t the end to the Browns’ struggles to regain custody of their grandchildren. Two years later, in 1998, an appeals court judge overturned that ruling, due in part because of the decision to leave out evidence from the murders. This second judge stated, “As a matter of case law, as well as common sense…the question of whether one parent has actually murdered the other is about as relevant as it is possible to imagine in any case involving whether the surviving parent should be allowed any form of child custody. While we understand the incredible pressure the court was under, the fact remains that it made a number of errors…These errors require reversal of the order terminating the guardianship.”
The children, however, did end up living with their father. Once he had custody he moved them to Florida, a distance away from the maternal side of their family. Sydney was heard from again when, at 17 years of age, she called 911 to make a complaint against her dad. According to PEOPLE’s 2003 article, “The 911 caller was young, female—and sobbing. “I don’t want to be with my father,” she cried. “Can’t you do something about that? He tells me he doesn’t f—-‘ love me…. That’s not like an abuse thing?” The operator might have treated the Jan. 18 call as a typical domestic disturbance, but the parent in question was O.J. Simpson, and the Miami-Dade County police rushed five cruisers to the Miami-area home. Officers found Sydney Simpson, 17, distraught in her bedroom, explaining that she’d had an argument with her dad. Within minutes she had left, and O.J. stepped out to offer smiles and handshakes to the officers.
Later, Simpson dismissed the incident as a “nonevent,” a typical dispute between a parent and a teenager, explaining that Sydney was apparently feuding with half-brother Jason, 32, who had recently moved in. “911 is not what you call when you have a disagreement in your household,” he told PEOPLE. “If that’s the worst thing that happens between me and my kids this year,” he adds, “I am going to be one satisfied father.”
It also seemed that O.J. had changed few of his ways. While living in Florida and caring for his and Nicole’s children several calls were made to the police department concerning his domestic abuse of then girlfriend Christie Prody.
So now that the murders are over twenty years in the past the question remains- Could this happen again? Could an accused murderer be allowed to raise his children with the way “the system” is set up now?
And the answer, though always a grey area, remains the same. Yes. Yes, he could. However, it is also possible that this wouldn’t be the outcome.
For the affirmative- in the eyes of the law O.J. Simpson was an innocent man, a capable provider, and was in full control of his parental rights. His children had their minimum needs met in his care, he had a care plan in place for them when he was unable to be present, and, most persuasively, the children reported wanting to be with him. They had a relationship with their father. There were never reports that he had left marks, bruises, or used inappropriate discipline against them. In fact, he was visited by Child Protective Services after Sydney’s 2003 call to 911 and was found to be an appropriate caregiver. Though he was found guilty of spousal battery in ’89, it was not clear if any of his children were witness to the act.
In fact, in 2013, Joaquim Rams was indicted for killing his 15 month old son by drowning. Rams, who had rights to his child but not custody, had been suspected of two prior murders, that of his own mother and that of the mother of his son.
This article goes on to state, concerning Rams’ case, “Rams was even a suspect in the brutal rape of the boy’s aunt. However, charges against Rams were eventually dropped and police even charged the presumed rape victim with filing a false complaint and mother of Ram’s youngest son with obstruction of justice for corroborating her story.
Judge granted unsupervised visits
After the rape charges against Rams were dropped in 2011, a judge granted Rams unsupervised visitation of his infant son. All of these events compel parties involved to ask how a man twice accused of murder, a count of rape, and charges of child abuse would be allowed any unsupervised visitation with his children?
During a custody hearing over the infant child, proceedings found Rams lied about his employment history, age, and even his real name. Journalists investigating the story draw the conclusion the obstruction charges against the boy’s mother ultimately aided in Rams being awarded visitation of the child by tarnishing the mother’s image.”
So, while domestic violence is reported to authorities more now than ever before and the list of mandated reporters has grown, it is certainly still possible that an alleged violent criminal or murderer could raise his/her children.