The once grand legal battles of the Simpson murder case, which began 15 years ago Friday with the slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, have come to this: an argument over a jacket and pair of trousers.
The case that transfixed the country has largely disappeared from cable news and dinner conversation, except for a brief return last year with Simpson's conviction for armed robbery and kidnapping.
But it never left the docket of Los Angeles Superior Court. The wrongful-death claim won by the victims' families a dozen years ago remains a pending matter, and the brownish green suit an open issue.
Goldman's father and sister, whose dogged pursuit of their portion of the $33.5 million jury verdict has kept the case active, turned their attention to the so-called acquittal suit last year after Gilbert appeared on the TV talk show "Dr. Phil."
Promoting a book about his soured friendship with Simpson, Gilbert said that he had the suit, that it was worth at least $50,000 and that he would give it and other items to the Goldmans to atone for the help he gave a man he now believes to be a murderer.
But the Goldmans say Gilbert refused to return their calls or produce the suit. Which quickly led to another kind of suit — the type written by lawyers. The Goldmans demanded the clothing and anything else Simpson might have given Gilbert after the murders.
The outfit worn by Simpson during what was then the most watched moment in U.S. television history "might have significant economic value," wrote one of their lawyers.
"The stylishness of the suit became emblematic of his invincibility to the justice system. It was a suit of armor. This was not a man who was beaten down," said lawyer David Cook.
But with a judge poised to take up the issue Monday, there are questions about whether the garment is the one Simpson was wearing when he and an estimated 150 million people watching on TV heard the words "not guilty."
Simpson, locked in a Nevada prison for the next nine to 33 years, isn't talking. A lawyer who represented him in past collections battles, Ronald Slates, said the former NFL star couldn't say whether the suit in Gilbert's possession is genuine.
"O.J. does not know where it went. He just doesn't remember," Slates said.
Simpson's criminal-defense lawyer, Yale Galanter, insists Gilbert is lying.
So where does Galanter believe the suit can be found?
"I can't say, but I can tell you categorically that Mike doesn't have it. Whatever he does have, as far as we are concerned, the Goldmans can have it."
There is no love lost between Simpson and his former confidant and agent Gilbert. Gilbert took the stand for the prosecution at the armed-robbery trial in Las Vegas and published a book titled "How I Helped O.J. Get Away With Murder." (Short answer: Advising him to skip arthritis medication so that his knuckles swelled and the gloves allegedly used by the killer were too small when he tried them on for the criminal jury.)
In the book, Gilbert described walking into the master bedroom of Simpson's Brentwood home the morning after the Oct. 3, 1995, acquittal. Simpson, he writes, was still in bed after a night of partying, and the suit and a shirt were crumpled on the closet floor.
Gilbert said the moss-colored suit had been purchased at a menswear store that has since closed.
"You want it? Take it," he quoted Simpson as telling him.
Gilbert has an instinct for turning an unlikely situation into potentially lucrative keepsakes. When Simpson was in jail before his acquittal, Gilbert brought him jerseys, footballs, photos and other items to sign, an enterprise that he estimates generated $3 million.
Before the most recent hearing, Gilbert maintained that a drop of blood on the shirt lapel — from a shaving nick — would prove it was Simpson's.("Yeah, sure. Does he have a lab report?" scoffed Galanter.) Gilbert said that what he had meant to say on "Dr. Phil" was that he would help the Goldmans track down Tiffany lamps and art Simpson had hidden.
The suit, he said, was never on the table, because Simpson gave it to him before the civil verdict.
After Judge Gerald Rosenberg ordered him to submit an inventory of all the Simpson items he had, Gilbert said he wanted to consult an attorney and started to hedge his comments about the suit.
Ron Goldman's sister, Kim, said she was ambivalent about going after the suit and other items. For more than a decade, the Goldman family chased Simpson for assets fruitlessly. The amount owed to the family — the original award of $19.7 million has doubled with interest, lawyers say — has seemed like "Monopoly money, a fantasy," she said.
But in the last two years, that has changed a little. There was Simpson's "hypothetical confession," "If I Did It," which, according to court records, brought the Goldmans less than $200,000, and there is the memorabilia used as evidence in the Las Vegas trial, now awaiting a sheriff's sale.
"Now that there are tangible assets, it feels weird. It feels icky," she said. "
But, she said, she and her father will never walk away, as some have advised. Taking Simpson's property is the only way of making real the civil jury's finding that he was responsible for the murders, she said.
The $50,000 price tag Gilbert placed on the suit seems more wish than reality. A collection attorney called around to casinos to see if they would be interested in buying the suit as a lobby attraction. The casinos declined or didn't return his calls.
"We get offered O.J. Simpson memorabilia, and we always decline it," said Darren Julien, whose company Julien's Auctions arranges sales of high-end memorabilia. "It's just not an iconic thing that people would say, 'I want that in my home.'"