The O.J. Enigma: Innocent or Guilty?

O. J. who? Source: Fox News No stranger to publicity, O. J. Simpson will go down in history as the guy who morphed from a charismatic gridiron football hero, film star and TV celebrity into a suspected murderer and convicted armed robber. And the account of his murder trial, one of the most sensational episodes in America’s 20th-century judicial history, proves far beyond doubt that true stories are much more compelling than even the best fiction. 

O. J. who?

Orenthal James Simpson was born in San Francisco in 1947, and though he suffered physical impairment as a youngster, by his teens he had developed into a supreme athlete. An electrifying running back in his college days, Simpson was awarded the Heisman Trophy in 1968. In that same year he landed a plum NFL contract with the Buffalo Bills. Simpson enjoyed a stellar NFL career throughout the 1970s and so was subsequently inducted into the sport’s Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. Life for this handsome football icon continued to be sweet and rewarding: He was soon installed as a TV sports personality on the Monday Night Football show. Advertisers and sponsors took an interest too, and O. J. rapidly became the celebrity most associated with Hertz car rentals. By 1988, his personality and profile had also attracted the movie industry, bringing him roles in hit film comedies such as the ‘Naked Gun’ spoof-detective series and others. So what could possibly go wrong for OJS? Well, his love life at least was a little complex: He initially married his high school girlfriend Marguerite Whitley as early as 1967. However, they separated in 1979. Simpson then married Nicole Brown in 1985 (though their long-term relationship actually began back in 1977). This second marriage ended in divorce in 1992, with his wife calling out Simpson as a possessive and extremely jealous man who had physically and psychologically abused her over a number of years.

A brutal crime

On the night of 12 June, 1994, O. J.’s former wife, 35-year-old Nicole Brown, and her friend, 25-year-old waiter Ronald Goldman, were stabbed to death outside her house in Los Angeles. As reported on True Crime Story, an assailant had slashed petite Nicole Brown's throat. In fact, the mortal wound was so deep and wide that her head was all but severed. In addition, there were more minor puncture wounds on her head and neck, and she also had cuts on her hands – suggesting Nicole may have been injured while trying to defend herself. According to the evidence at the scene, Goldman, a fit young man with a knowledge of martial arts, had fought hard for his life and made vigorous attempts to ward off his attacker. As a result, he had sustained 19 stab wounds to his neck, upper body and thigh, and the killer also cut his throat. Each victim had severe bruising on the back of the skull, which the coroner reported was likely to have been caused by savage blows with some kind of blunt object. Nicole Brown O.J. and his ex-wife Nicole      Source:

Crime scene evidence

Nicole Brown’s body was found at the bottom of a small staircase below the gate to her home. Meanwhile, Ronald Goldman had finally met his end in the middle of a flowerbed. Near Goldman’s body, police investigators also found a single (left-hand) dark-brown leather glove and a knitted cap. It soon became apparent that these articles were likely to have been left behind by the murderer making his escape in the dark. An expert examination and reconstruction of the crime scene suggested the culprit had been hiding in the garden. Striking Nicole Brown an initial blow from behind which initially knocked her unconscious, the murderer then fought Goldman ferociously. He too was finally struck a blow on the back of his head before his throat was cut. The attacker then returned to Nicole Brown, apparently threatening her by making small knife cuts around her throat before striking the fatal blow. In true ‘movie style’, neighbours discovered the bodies a short time after the murder because Nicole Brown’s dog was barking incessantly.

The murder investigation

O.J. Simpson lived only five minutes from the scene, and as father of Nicole’s two children, he also needed to be informed of these fatal events. Calling at his home, detectives found he was away, having flown to Chicago the previous day. Police later traced him to a Chicago hotel where he was told the news of the murder. Simpson immediately flew back to Los Angeles on the first available plane. In the meantime, investigators had looked over Simpson’s property and found some items of great interest: There was O.J.’s white Ford Bronco with blood on the driver’s door handle and a trail of blood spots leading right up to Simpson’s door. And furthermore, a quick search by the fence in Simpson’s garden revealed a right-hand leather glove which looked a lot like the glove found at the murder scene. And what is more, it was also bloodstained! Subsequent investigation showed the glove found on Simpson’s property had traces of both his own blood and that of Ronald Goldman. The police also had a witness who could place O. J. near Nicole Brown’s house around the time of the murder. With evidence pointing to his guilt, police contacted Simpson’s lawyer who promised O. J. would present himself at the police department. When Simpson failed to keep his promise, the police began a manhunt to bring in their prime suspect.

A surreal car chase

The Ford Bronco was soon tracked down on a California freeway and so began the most bizarre pursuit. Informed that Simpson was holding the driver at gunpoint, the police decided to slowly followed the vehicle. News of the event spread like wildfire, creating a freakish media circus. Dozens of police cars, helicopters overhead and cheering crowds everywhere looked on as the scene was beamed live to a global TV audience. Eventually the Bronco and its attendant cavalcade returned to Simpson's house where, after some intense negotiations, he was arrested and taken into police custody. A surreal car chase Source: USA Today

The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson

By now the "O. J." story was a media sensation, and as his murder trial began on January 23, 1995, there was intense speculation and endless partisan comment about personalities and events. Simpson, represented by a ‘dream team’ of expensive lawyers, decided to plead not guilty to the charges. The prosecution accused Simpson of both murders, but sought only one conviction for second-degree murder – thus O. J. faced possible life imprisonment rather than the death penalty. Their case  relied much on the history of domestic violence and suggested the accused’s actions were driven by extreme jealousy. As a result, prosecutors played down the fact that the assailant was likely to have worn gloves and a knitted cap – evidence which would have suggested a degree of premeditation, and thus, under US law, murder in the first degree. Nevertheless, the prosecuting lawyers had been almost gifted a seemingly damning chain of forensic evidence which could be used to prove Simpson's guilt. Simpson's defence team were successful in showing how much trial evidence had been contaminated and mishandled, and that some detectives and police officers on the case were clearly racists. Detective Mark Fuhrman’s part in the O. J. investigation was particularly called into question. He repeatedly used racist language, was known to be in the area when the crime occurred, and just happened to be the one who discovered blood on the Ford Bronco and also spotted the incriminating glove in Simpson’s garden.

A racial martyr

Against the recent backdrop of some high-profile racist abuses by US police forces, O. J.'s defence questioned the chances of a black celebrity ever receiving a fair trial. The evidence, which all pointed to Simpson as the perpetrator of the crime, was so overwhelming it was just ‘too perfect’. It was also quite incredible, defence lawyers suggested, that Simpson would have made such little effort to conceal his guilt. The obvious inference here was that a racist Los Angeles police department had conspired to plant the evidence to secure O. J.’s conviction.

If the glove fits …

The climax of the trial, in which around 150 witnesses were called, came when a prosecuting lawyer asked O. J. to put on the pair of bloody leather gloves used in the murder. He tried to pull them on in front of dozens of cameras, but it was obvious they were several sizes too small for his large hands. The judge saw this happen, as did the jury, and soon the world had witnessed it too. So in this pivotal moment the prosecution’s case was fatally undermined.


Despite his acquittal, this mysterious case and trial greatly damaged Simpson's public reputation. It also inflicted heavy financial damage on the successful and well-known NFL star, and he only had his existing NFL pension to soften the blow. But perhaps the worst thing for O. J. was the change in his behaviour. A few years later, for instance, he was banned from the Las Vegas Casino. If Simpson had just played in our online casino instead, then his behaviour might not even have come to public attention. Even though he was never convicted of murder, in 1996 Simpson was successfully sued by the families of the victims in a civil action alleging wrongful death. And as a result, the claimants were awarded damages of $33.5 million.

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