On Sep. 29, 1995, the double murder trial of O.J. Simpson was sent to the jury for a verdict, 15 months after Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the front courtyard of Brown Simpson’s condominium. Having dominated national media coverage for over a year, the conclusion of this highly publicized legal battle was anticipated, like the reveal of a TV series finale.
The innocence of Simpson, a fan-favorite NFL star, broadcaster and actor, was the subject of intense debate across the country. The issue transcended the football community, capturing the attention of the American public regardless of their interest in sports. The trial’s occurrence at a time of high tension surrounding the issue of police brutality only added to the polarizing nature of the decision to come.
Nicole Brown Simpson was the ex-wife of O.J. Simpson, which, to many Americans, served as a sufficient motive for the murder. Simpson had a history of violence toward Nicole, further cementing his guilt in the minds of many Americans. Others were swayed by the defense’s arguments, which included a cross-examination of the officers in Simpson’s case and their history of using inflammatory, racist language on record. The defense also attempted to discredit the evidence of the prosecution, setting forward arguments that critical evidence, such as Simpson’s glove found on the scene and the blood inside his white Ford Bronco, was planted by officers in order to frame him.
The trial of O.J. Simpson was of a spectacular nature from the beginning. Five days after the death of the victims, Simpson was summoned to turn himself into LAPD. Instead, officers arrived at his home to find he had fled with his former teammate Al Cowlings. Hours later, officers located Simpson’s vehicle on the freeway, being driven by Cowlings. From there, a chase ensued that lasted over 90 minutes. Neither Cowlings nor the police escalated the speed of the chase, although it still became national breaking news. NBC cut away from gae five of that year’s NBA finals to display a live feed of the car chase on national television. Across the country, nearly 100 million tuned in to watch “the Juice” flee LAPD on charges of suspected murder. It was a level of sensationalism never-before-seen.
The trial unfolded over the next year and three months, with Simpson’s dream team” of high-profile lawyers taking every opportunity they could to poke holes in the case of the prosecution. Judge Lance Ito and others involved with the courts worked tirelessly to preserve the credibility of the jurors, as keeping them unbiased proved to be an extreme challenge in the midst of such a highly publicized affair.
When each side rested their case, and the trial was finally sent to the jury, they took only four hours of deliberation to declare Simpson not guilty for both counts of murder. The decision sparked a mix of reactions as one of the most high-profile criminal cases in US history finally drew to a close.
Despite his acquittal, Simpson could not escape the matter of his ex-wife’s death forever. The family of Ronald Goldman submitted a wrongful death suit, for which Simpson was found liable. He was forced to turn over $8.5 million in assets as damages.
In 2008, Simpson was arrested and convicted of assault, armed robbery, and kidnapping after he was caught trying to steal high-value sports memorabilia which he claimed ownership of. The reverberations from the Goldman case had finally put Simpson in prison, where he was sentenced to 33 years.
Today, Simpson is a free man after being granted parole in 2017 and an early discharge from his parole in 2021. It’s safe to say that nobody who was tuned in at the peak of the spectacle has forgotten the nation-sweeping impact of Simpson’s criminal trial, which stands as a forefather to many high-profile criminal cases that dominate the media cycle today.