Inside the Mind of O.J. Simpson

Psychologists speculate on why Simpson may have done it.

Sept. 18, 2007 — -- O.J. Simpson is back in the headlines, and once again he's sparked intense speculation about whether he did it, and if so, why. His actions have set in motion a battalion of pundits and mental health experts seeking to explain his behavior.

Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, and he has not been convicted of a crime in connection with a recent incident in a Las Vegas hotel in which police say he robbed two sports memorabilia dealers. He was charged Tuesday with 10 felony counts, including robbery with a deadly weapon and kidnapping with a deadly weapon.

Some see a pattern in Simpson's repeated brushes with the law. Psychologists and psychiatrists who spoke with ABC News said Simpson's actions suggest a person who thinks he can do what he pleases with few, if any, consequences.

"I don't think he expected to get arrested," said Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist and ABC News consultant. "He does things because he thinks he can, and he thinks he can get what he wants."

The experts who spoke with ABC News had not interviewed Simpson and only speculated on the reasons for his behavior based on his actions and public statements.

But, based on observing Simpson throughout his years in the public spotlight, they said Simpson seems to carry a sense of entitlement and appears to show little concern for other people. One clinical psychologist views Simpson as a sociopath, someone who has little or no regard for moral or legal standards and an inability to follow societal rules.

"The hallmark is someone who fails to show empathy for other individuals, even the people he allegedly cares about, and, of course, a person who acts without a conscience," said Patricia Saunders, clinical director at the Metropolitan Center for Mental Health in New York.

Two sports memorabilia dealers have accused Simpson and several of his associates of robbing them at gunpoint. Simpson has denied any wrongdoing, saying he was only retrieving belongings that were stolen from him. He said no guns were used in the confrontation, which he called a "sting operation."

Other incidents involving Simpson have raised eyebrows, too. In 1997, Simpson was caught on camera attacking a man who was filming him at a golf course. Then there's the publication of his book, "If I Did It," a fictional account of the murders of Simpson and Goldman. In it, Simpson points the finger at Nicole Brown Simpson, saying she flaunted her sexual affairs, which provoked her own murder.

Norman Pardo, who claims to have been Simpson's manager and to have followed him with a camera for five years, told "Good Morning America's" Chris Cuomo that Simpson "went from being a celebrity good guy to the bad guy, the ultimate bad boy. He's bigger in his mind now than he was then."

Simpson's seemingly casual comments before his arrest in Las Vegas Sunday, psychologists said, could show he felt he could do what he pleased. Before his arrest, Simpson told the Los Angeles Times, "I'm not walking around feeling sad or anything. I've done nothing wrong.

"I'm having a great time," he said, adding later, "I thought what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas."

Saunders said Simpson's deeds and words -- especially calling the confrontation in the hotel room a "sting" -- were "seriously grandiose. This is not a 12-year-old pretending to be a cop. This is a 60-year-old man. He's saying he's equal to law enforcement," she said.

"O.J. is almost a textbook definition of what psychologists call a narcissistic personality," said Saunders. "He seems very deficient in terms of a conscience and a capacity to empathize with other people."

Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by feelings of grandiosity, lack of empathy for others, an inflated sense of self-importance and the need to be admired by others, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

One possible motivation for Simpson's recent actions could be money. Though he was acquitted in his criminal trial, Simpson was found liable in a civil trial for the wrongful deaths of Brown and Goldman, and ordered to pay about $38 million to their families.

Even so, the memorabilia said to have been taken from the hotel room is reportedly not worth all that much. Welner said Simpson may feel a sense of being violated by the sale of his personal belongings, which reportedly included his wedding video.

If Simpson believed that the memorabilia rightfully belonged to him, he might not consider or care that he could get in trouble with the police.

"He would not actually look at legality or ethics as an impediment to returning them to their rightful owner," said Elliot Atkins, a forensic psychologist. "If he wants something bad enough, those things don't get in his way."

Atkins also suggested that Simpson could be acting out of feelings of guilt and a need to be caught. "A lot of these things are very self-defeating," he said.

Others, however, saw things differently.

"He just thinks he can get away with it," said Saunders.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events