The 1995 murder case of football legend O.J. Simpson (pictured center) was one of the most-explosive media moments in the dawn of the Internet age. From the time news of the killings of Simpson’s wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and friend Ronald Goldman made the headlines, the case held the attention of the nation in a vice grip.
Brown, Simpson, and Goldman were found murdered inside her Los Angeles condo on June 13, 1994. Split from her husband two years prior, the former NFL great immediately became a prime suspect. After agreeing to turn himself in to police on June 17th, Simpson never appeared and left behind what experts later determined to be a suicide letter. The letter, read by defense attorney Robert Kardashian, added a new wrinkle to the case as a city-wide search for Simpson was underway.
The infamous “White Bronco” event was also bizarre, with Simpson’s friend Al Cowling driving him around and leading police on a chase that was televised live. After finally surrendering, police found a loaded handgun, cash, a disguise, and clothing. Although Simpson maintained his innocence from the onset, Simpson’s actions clearly mirrored those of a man looking for an escape route.
After months of legal haggling from the time of Simpson’s official arraignment on June 20th, he plead not guilty to the double homicide. The evidence was mounting high against Simpson, but the case was tainted by the actions of shamed MLB player Jose Camancho who allegedly sold a knife similar to the one used to murder Brown Simpson and Goldman. Camancho reportedly sold his story to the National Enquirer for $12,500.
The trial officially began January 24, 1995, in Los Angeles at the California Supreme Court, later moving to the Criminal Courts Building in Santa Monica. Televised almost exclusively by Court TV and several major outlets, the case that prosecutor Marcia Clark and District Attorney Christopher Darden were building looked to be a lock for their side. However, Simpson amassed a so-called “Dream Team” of attorneys, including F. Lee Bailey, Robert Shapiro, the aforementioned Kardashian, and the late Johnny Cochran.
The racial tensions present in the trial also divided the country.
Nicole and Goldman, both White, captured the sympathies of those who felt Simpson was nothing more than a jealous brute. On the other side, Los Angeles had a history of tampering with evidence and convicting African Americans with stronger sentences while Whites often got off free. Cochran wisely stated in court that then-LAPD chief Mark Fuhrman, known for his racist ways, may have planted evidence, such as the bloody glove, at the crime scene.
Cochran’s famous quip, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” became a common refrain in newspapers and in video reports. Simpson placed the glove over his hand — and to no avail — it didn’t fit. The lasting image (pictured above) of this act was one of the more damning blows for the prosecution.
Watch Cochran say the famous refrain here:
On the morning of October 3 at 10:00 a.m., the jury turned in a not-guilty verdict, stopping the entire nation in its tracks as the news broke.
The verdict was such an event that then-President Bill Clinton was given security measures to enact and police stood guard at government buildings. An estimated 100-million people worldwide stopped whatever activity they were involved in to listen to the verdict, and productivity in nearly every industry was at a standstill.
Since the verdict, however, Simpson’s life has not been a cakewalk.
A civil suit brought by the families of Nicole and Goldman attacked his finances and earnings, and he engaged in several ill-advised antics to raise monies in the wake of the trial. A 2006 book titled “If I Did It” was released, raising speculation that Simpson was the actual killer — or at least knew who ended the life of his ex-wife and her friend.
Simpson is currently jailed on robbery and other charges.