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Crime News Dateline

Everything To Know About O.J. Simpson: From the Trial of the Century to His Robbery Conviction

O.J. Simpson died last week, nearly 30 years after the football legend went on trial for allegedly killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

By Jill Sederstrom

After his death last week, O.J. Simpson leaves behind a muddled legacy. 

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Simpson was once considered one of the NFL’s best, starring in hit movies and endearing himself to the American public through televised appearances. 

But his image was irrevocably altered after he was arrested in 1994 for the brutal murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend and waiter Ronald Goldman. Simpson was ultimately acquitted of the crime in what was dubbed the “trial of the century,” but he was later found liable in civil court and his legacy was forever changed. 

Simpson, who always maintained his innocence in the murders, would also go on to serve nearly a decade behind bars for a botched robbery in Las Vegas. He died April 10 of cancer at the age of 76. 

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Dateline: Secrets Uncovered recounted key details of the famous case that riveted a nation and resulted in one of the most explosive verdicts in history. 

Nicole Brown Simpson and O.J. Simpson's Relationship Timeline

Nicole Brown Simpson was just 18 years old when she met the dashing 29-year-old O.J. Simpson. Simpson, who spent 11 years as a running back for the Buffalo Bills, was a beloved American football hero. 

“They were just really happy together,” Nicole’s best friend Kris Jenner recalled. “He didn’t want to live without her.”

The couple married in 1985, the same year that Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A few years later, Simpson appeared in his first of several Naked Gun movies, starring alongside comedy veteran Leslie Nielson. 

But, according to Jenner, along with the fame came temptation and Simpson was known to enjoy the company of other women. Friends and family have also alleged that Simpson got violent with Nicole, leaving her bruised and battered after heated arguments. 

Simpson and Nicole divorced in 1992, but they continued to have an on-again, off-again relationship. Just months before her death, Nicole called 911 to ask if a police officer could come by her home.

“Well, my ex-husband — or my husband — just broke into my house. And he’s ranting and raving,” she told the dispatcher before hanging up, only to once again call ten minutes later to claim he was “back.” 

Despite the tumultuous relationship, in April of 1994 the couple gave it one last shot to make the relationship work and headed on a trip to Mexico together. When they returned home, they decided to part ways.

“She said she was done and there was something different within Nicole that time,” Jenner recalled. 

Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman Found Dead

Nicole’s newfound single life wouldn’t last long. On the night of June 12, 1994 a couple out walking their dog stumbled upon the bodies of Nicole, then 35 years old, and 25-year-old Ronald Goldman, outside her Brentwood condo. 

Goldman was a waiter at Mezzaluna and was returning a pair of eyeglasses someone in Nicole’s family had left behind at the restaurant he worked at.

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Both victims had their throats slashed. 

“This isn’t a robbery, this isn’t for sex, this is a rage killing. Nicole was nearly decapitated,” veteran homicide detective Tom Lange told Dateline Correspondent Josh Mankiewicz. 

Nicole’s two young children with Simpson had been asleep in the home at the time of the brutal murders.

The Evidence

The night of the murder, O.J. Simpson told police he went to McDonald’s around 9 p.m. with Kato Kaelin, a struggling actor who was living in a bungalow on Simpson’s Brentwood property. 

After the fast food trip, he returned home until he left for the airport around 10:45 p.m. 

Police began to suspect he could be involved in the murders after finding a trail of blood on his driveway and a pair of bloody socks in his bedroom. A bloody glove that appeared to match one left behind at the murder scene was discovered by Detective Mark Fuhrman behind Kaelin’s bungalow. 

Blood analysis also revealed Simpson’s blood was found at the crime scene and he had a bloody cut on his finger. In his one and only interview with detectives, Simpson had difficulty explaining the blood trail found at his home. 

”Yeah, I mean, I — I knew I was bleeding but it was no big deal. I bleed all the time,” he said in recordings obtained by Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.  “I play golf and stuff, so there’s always something, nicks and stuff, here and there.” 

Jenner also told police that Nicole had feared for her life in the weeks before her death and allegedly told Jenner, “Things are really bad between O.J. and I and he’s gonna kill me and he’s gonna get away with it.”

The Bronco Chase

Oj Simpson Ford Bronco G

Armed with what prosecutors believed was a mountain of physical evidence, police set out to arrest Simpson. They arranged with his attorney Robert Shapiro for Simpson to quietly turn himself in at a back door of the jail by a given deadline on Friday, June 17, 1994. 

But Simpson would never show up and was eventually tracked down in A.C. Cowling’s white Ford Bronco, leading police on one of the most famous chases in American history. The slow-speed chase was televised across the nation and drew scores of fans who stood on the side of the streets and cheered Simpson on. 

Cowlings, a football pal of Simpson’s who was driving the vehicle, called 911 to tell police to back off. 

“He’s still alive, but he’s got a gun to his head,” Cowlings said in the dramatic recording. 

The Bronco eventually returned to Simpson’s home and after sitting in the driveway for nearly an hour, Simpson gave himself up. Police found a .357 magnum and a travel bag with Simpson’s passport, fake goatee, and mustache inside the vehicle. 

What role did race play in Simpson’s trial? 

District Attorney Gil Garcetti boasted to NBC News that prosecutors had a “slam dunk” case, but Simpson was assembling a “Dream Team” of his own which included defense heavyweights like Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran, Carl Douglas, Robert Kardashian, Alan Dershowitz, F. Lee Bailey, and Barry Scheck. 

Cochran had already made a name for himself by taking on a series of police malpractice cases in the city centered on racism and planned to attack the investigation,

“This was the kind of case where you attack the police and their credibility,” Cochrane once said of his strategy in an interview. 

Simpson’s arrest came at a time when race relations between Black Americans and the LAPD were at an all-time low in the aftermath of the 1991 Rodney King beating by police. Civil rights attorney Connie Rice described it as “open warfare” between the two factions. 

Simpson’s defense planned to capitalize on the friction and argue that the football legend had been unfairly targeted by racist cops.

“It was the perfect time for that defense to be raised,” Rice said.

As for prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden, they planned to focus on the physical evidence in the case — but Clark would later tell Dateline: Secrets Uncovered she knew it could be an uphill battle. 

“There was a trail of evidence literally from [the condo] that led all the way to his bedroom at Rockingham, and that included the blood, the hairs, the fibers. It was a huge amount of evidence,” she said. “The question was would it be enough to overcome the incendiary issue of race?”

Key Highlights From O.J. Simpson’s Trial

When Simpson’s murder trial got underway in 1995, eight members of the jury pool were Black women. 

“We were so pleased because this was a jury that Johnnie could speak to and had spoken to for his entire career,” Douglas told Mankiewicz.

In a critical ruling, Judge Lance Ito allowed television cameras into the courtroom, turning the case into a real-life legal soap opera playing out each day in front of the eyes of the American public. 

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During the lengthy eight month trial, jurors were sequestered in a local hotel and cut off from all television, radio, and news. 

Prosecutors called Nicole’s sister Denise Brown, who tearfully testified about the domestic violence she said she had witnessed. They also focused on the blood and DNA evidence that they believed tied Simpson to the scene.

But in a critical error, the prosecutors’ case took a huge hit after they asked Simpson to try on the gloves found at both his home and the murder scene and the football star was unable to fully get his hands into them.

O.J Simpson

Cochrane would later deliver the now iconic line, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” during his closing arguments in reference to the failed courtroom display.

The prosecution was dealt another devastating blow when tapes emerged which showed Furhman — the same detective who had allegedly found the bloody glove at Simpson’s home — repeatedly using the N-word while talking with a screenwriter doing research for a film. 

“That trial was a nightmare for me every single day,” Clark said of the blows to the prosecution. “I had had so many days of going back up to my office and feeling like we’re toast.” 

Simpson’s attorneys challenged the integrity of the investigation and alleged that Furhman may have planted the evidence. 

After eight months of sensational testimony, it took the jury less than four hours to acquit Simpson of the charges against him. 

“It was physically painful,” Clark told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered of hearing the verdict. “You know, that was not justice and I thought of Ron and Nicole and I thought this is wrong, it’s so wrong.” 

Who does O.J. Simpson owe money to?

Despite the verdict, the Goldman family was still determined to get justice and filed a wrongful death suit against Simpson in civil court. 

“I wanted a court to say he was guilty,” Ron’s father Fred Goldman said of why he pursued the civil judgment. 

This time around, Simpson was forced to testify both in a deposition and at trial and any decision the jury reached wouldn’t have to be unanimous. The trial focused on the physical evidence and attorney Dan Petrocelli said his legal team were able to find photos of Simpson wearing shoes that seemed to match the bloody footprints left at the scene.

According to Petrocelli, Simpson was also unable to explain how his blood or DNA had ended up at the murder scene. 

“The deposition turned out to be a goldmine for us because he made so many inconsistent statements,” Petrocelli said.

In the end, Simpson was found liable and ordered to pay the Goldman family $33.5 million — most of which was never paid to the family.

What happened to O.J. Simpson? 

It wouldn’t be the end of Simpson’s legal troubles. In 2007, he was arrested again for robbery, assault, and kidnapping for breaking into a hotel room with several armed men in an attempt to retrieve some sports memorabilia he'd previously auctioned. 

Simpson was convicted and sentenced to up to 33 years behind bars. He was released in 2017 after serving just nine years in prison and lived the remainder of his life out of the spotlight.  

Simpson died on April 10, 2024 at the age of 76.