Throwback Thursday: O.J. Simpson and the ‘trial of the century’

Crime, Celebrity, News

O.J. Simpson, the football great turned actor and commentator, was found not guilty of murder on Oct. 3, 1995. The case, dubbed the “trial of the century” because of Simpson’s celebrity, the case’s salaciousness and the media frenzy that ensued, lasted over 16 months and cost some $20 million to prosecute.

In the end it was the most publicized murder trial in history. Talk show host Larry King was quoted as saying, “If we had God booked and O.J. was available, we’d move God.”

The murder

In the early morning hours of June 13, 1994, the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J.’s ex-wife, and her friend Ron Goldman were found at Nicole’s Brentwood, California, condominium. The two had been stabbed to death.

The investigation

Police seized a bloody glove, the right-handed match to a bloody glove found at Nicole’s residence, and bloody socks from O.J.’s home. In addition, they took samples of blood splatters in O.J.’s driveway and on his white Ford Bronco.

The blood samples taken from O.J.’s home matched those found at the crime scene and police issued an arrest warrant. But O.J. eluded police and took off, leading them on a now-famous low-speed chase. He eventually returned home and later that evening, on June 17, he was arrested and held without bail.

The trial 

O.J. pleaded not guilty and prosecutors built their case around the bloody samples, a gash on O.J.’s hand that he said was reopened when he smashed a glass after hearing of his ex-wife’s death, and witness accounts of O.J’s abusive and violent relationship with Nicole.

O.J.’s defense lawyers, nicknamed the “dream team” by the media, shot holes in the theories, pointing out that no murder weapon was ever found and arguing that the blood evidence was contaminated, the investigators were racist, and that no eye witnesses were present. Plus, the bloody gloves found at the crime scene and O.J.’s home didn’t fit his hand when prosecutors asked him to try them on. The state’s attorneys later claimed the dried blood had shrunk the gloves.

On Oct. 3, 1995, O.J. was acquitted of the murders.

The impact

The O.J. Simpson trial captivated the nation. Why? There was a beloved character at its center and lurid details of abuse, jealousy and racial tensions to boot.

And with the then recent arrival of Court TV and 24-hour cable news networks like CNN, viewers were able to watch, for the first time ever, details of the case unfold on their TV screens.

In fact, one poll showed that 74 percent of Americans could identify Kato Kaelin, O.J.’s houseguest at the time of the murders, while only 25 percent knew who the vice president was. “It was O.J. all day every day,” said Mark Goldman, former producer of Court TV Radio.

By the time it concluded, the O.J. Simpson trial had made stars out of lawyers, household names out of court reporters and had given reality TV its introduction to society.

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Photo: Encyclopedia Britannica