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The O.j. Simpson Case

On June 17, 1994, over one-third of the American public watched their televisions in astonishment. They watched as O.J. Simpson, whom many had come to know during his Hall of Fame football career and popular rental car commercials, was driven along a Los Angeles, California, freeway in a white Ford Bronco, slowly fleeing from the numerous police cars that followed him.

Five days earlier, Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, were found stabbed to death outside Nicole's house in Brentwood, California. Los Angeles police had gathered enough evidence to suspect Simpson of the crime and he had agreed to turn himself in to authorities. On June 17, however, Simpson appeared to be fleeing and had threatened to commit suicide during the slow chase. The drama was shown live as network and cable stations interrupted their regular programming. Drivers along the freeway abandoned their cars to watch (some cheering) as Simpson's vehicle, driven by a friend, passed. Simpson's journey ended at his mother's home about two hours later. The event was the first in what would become a media frenzy over a trial that became a national obsession.

Media coverage of the Simpson trial, which began in January 1995, was unlike any other. Over two thousand reporters covered the trial, and 80 miles of cable was required to allow nineteen television stations to cover the trial live to 91 percent of the American viewing audience. When the verdict was finally read on October 3, 1995, some 142 million people listened or watched. It seemed the nation stood still, divided along racial lines as to the defendant's guilt or innocence. During and after the trial, over eighty books were published about the event by most everyone involved in the Simpson case.

Simpson hired a group of lawyers the media called the "Dream Team," because of their high fees and notoriety. This group O.J. Simpson, smiling after a jury announced its not guilty verdict. (AP/Wide World Photos)

included Johnnie Cochran, who had defended other celebrities such as Michael Jackson, forensics expert Barry Scheck, and noted law professor Alan Dershowitz. Despite "a mountain of evidence" directly implicating Simpson in the murders, Simpson's lawyers argued that their client was framed by a racist police detective, Mark Furhman.

Furhman had previously been recorded on tape making racist statements about black Americans. The defense lawyers accused Furhman of planting a leather glove with the blood of the victims at the scene of the crime. Scheck managed to discredit police tactics in examining the blood and fingerprinting evidence.

During his closing argument, Cochran sharply criticized Furhman and the police. Throughout the nation, citizens divided according to race; many blacks thought Simpson was framed, most whites believed nobody but Simpson could have committed the crimes. The jury found Simpson not guilty on both counts of murder; he was, however, found guilty in a civil suit for the wrongful deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Ten years after the murders, O.J. Simpson remains a free man and no one has been charged in the deaths.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawMedia - History Of The Media And The Courts, Tried In The Media, The Crime Of The Century