O.J. Simpson’s murder trial is one of the most iconic in American history. A media circus, it was a case of “did he do it, or didn’t he?” and the public deliberated as fiercely as the jury. Oxygen’s The Jury Speaks, premiering Saturday, July 22 at 9/8c, speaks to jury members who made the decision that ultimately set O.J. free, and tries to understand the controversial ruling from the inside. Charged with killing his ex wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994, the O.J. case is a cultural milestone with unbelievable twists.
Known as “The Juice”, O.J.’s trial was, in part, so high profile because he was already one of the most famous footballers in the NFL during the ‘70s. After his accomplished sporting career, O.J. went on to Hollywood, both in movies and on TV, so he was nothing short of a household name, even before he was charged with murder. O.J.’s second wife was Nicole Brown Simpson. He met her when she was a teenage waitress in Beverly Hills, and began having an affair with her while still married to his first wife. O.J. and Nicole married in 1985, and had two children.
But in 1989, the glossy facade started to fade. O.J. pleaded no contest to a charge of spousal abuse, and in 1992 Nicole filed for divorce. On June 12, 1994, Nicole, 35, was found gruesomely stabbed to death outside her Brentwood home in California, along with her friend Ronald Goldman, 25. O.J. was a prime suspect. At the scene police found a shocking amount of blood and police found a bloody boot print. Meanwhile, a neighbor had heard dogs barking near the house just before midnight when the bodies were found.
Police interviewed O.J. for three hours, but didn’t make an immediate arrest. It was reported that blood stains were found on O.J.’s car, which was parked in his own driveway, two miles from the crime scene. It was also reported that a bloody glove was found at his house, although his attorney denied that such evidence was found there. On June 15, police confirmed that the blood stain found at O.J.’s house matched blood taken from the crime scene.
O.J.’s attorney withdrew from the case due to his close personal relationship with the footballer, and Robert Shapiro took his place. Shapiro told the media O.J. had been waiting at home for a car to take him to the airport for a flight to Chicago for a promotional event at the time the murders took place. While O.J.’s vehicle, a Ford Bronco was in police custody, it was broken into – the first in many strange and suspicious twists.
As the investigation began, allegations arose challenging Simpson’s alibi, and separate funerals for Nicole and Goldman were held, with O.J. attending the former. By June 17th, the LAPD had a warrant for O.J.’s arrest. He was charged with the murders of both Nicole and Goldman. But instead of surrendering, O.J. went on the run – a move many saw as highly incriminating. This was one of the most iconic moments of the entire case, as a low speed chase on an expressway saw O.J. in his white Ford Bronco desperately attempting to outrun police. Simpson was a passenger in the car which was driven by his friend Al Cowlings, and when he was finally caught he was found with $8,000 in cash, a loaded gun, a passport, family photos, a fake goatee, makeup adhesive and a set of clothes. It seemed like he was trying to make a run for it.
Meanwhile, Robert Kardashian, O.J.’s friend and lawyer, read a statement to the public from O.J., which said “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve had a great life, great friends. Please think of the real O.J. and not this lost person. Thanks for making my life special. I hope I helped yours. Peace and love. O.J.” It sounded to many like a suicide note.
When O.J. Simpson’s trial finally began, America was glued to the TV, watching and absorbing every second of the saga. The trial lasted eight months, and included a damning amount of DNA evidence suggesting O.J.’s guilt. This included the blood found on O.J.’s car that matched the crime scene and Nicole’s blood on O.J.’s socks. But when super lawyer Johnnie Cochran joined O.J.’s team the defense fought back hard. O.J.’s defense alleged that crime scene evidence had been contaminated by poor and biased detective work, and relied heavily on a video of one of the police, Mark Fuhrman, making racists remarks and slurs. Fuhrman was later indicted for perjury, having told the court under oath he hadn’t used those racist slurs in ten years.
The case followed the Rodney King riots, and Cochran bought the same race politics into the courtroom to suggest that O.J. had been set up by racist police. Meanwhile, a glove found at the crime scene, and the matching one found at O.J.’s estate, provided yet more doubt for the defense team to lean on. When Simpson was asked to try on the glove during trial, another iconic moment emerged when that glove didn’t fit. Key evidence, it seemed, was impotent, and Cochran adopted the catch-cry “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Prosecutors said the amount of blood soaked into the glove had warped its shape, along with freezing and unfreezing in the forensic process, to preserve the blood DNA.
It’s estimated that 100 million viewers watched the verdict live on TV. O.J. Simpson was found not guilty. However, O.J. is currently serving time behind bars on other offenses. In 2008 he was found guilty of 10 gunpoint robbery charges. He’s eligible for parole this year.
[All photos: Getty Images]