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A Look Back on Controversial NFL Star O.J. Simpson, Dead at 76

After being acquitted of murder in 1995, the court of public opinion made their ruling.

OJ Simpson surrounded by reporters after a college football game in 1967, next to his mug shot following his 1994 arrest.
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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday at the age of 76, O.J. Simpson passed away after a battle with prostate cancer.

Simpson had an impressive 11-season run in the NFL, and a not-so impressive stint in acting.

But all of his accomplishments are greatly overshadowed by the widespread belief that he committed the double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman—and got away with it.

The Murder of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman

O.J. Simpson started dating Nicole Brown in 1977, when he was still married to his pregnant wife, Marguerite. Brown was 18 at the time. In 1985 Simpson and Brown got married, a union that lasted seven years and produced two children. There's a documented history of physical abuse throughout their relationship.

After their divorce, the pair tried briefly to reconcile, but their relationship officially ended in May of 1994. On June 12, 1994, 35-year-old Brown and her 25-year-old friend, Ron Goldman, were stabbed to death outside of her Los Angeles home. Brown was found after midnight on the 13th, curled up dead in a pool of her own blood.

An examination of Brown's body revealed that she had been stabbed in the neck and scalp seven times. Her throat had a five-and-a-half-inch slash through it which had severed her carotid arteries and opened her jugular veins. She'd nearly been decapitated by a stab wound through her cervical vertebrae.

A reconstruction of the scene led investigators to believe that Goldman showed up during the perpetration of Brown's murder. His family holds the belief that he died trying to save her.

O.J. Simpson's Controversial Trial

With the rocky history between Simpson and his ex-wife, he was an obvious suspect in the murders. For his part, Simpson claimed he had been home on the evening of the murders waiting for a car to take him to the airport for a flight to Chicago.

His attorneys made a deal with the Parker Center police for Simpson to turn himself in on the morning of June 17th. Simpson failed to do so.

What ensued next didn't make for a favorable public opinion of Simpson. A low-speed pursuit unfolded on the California Highway. Simpson was riding as a passenger in a white 1993 Ford Bronco driven by his former NFL teammate Al Cowlings.

Cowlings claims that Simpson was holding a pistol to his own head in the back seat, threatening to commit suicide if he was returned home.

As millions of people watched the chase on their television screens, the incident finally came to an end at 9 pm that evening.

The criminal trial that followed is one of the most controversial trials in American history. In a highly publicized trial, Simpson was represented by the “Dream Team”: Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardashian, Robert Shapiro, and F. Lee Bailey. Marcia Clark was the State of California's lead prosecutor.

The prosecution had a solid case, which included DNA evidence of both victims' blood in Simpson's car and Brown's blood on his socks. Hair and clothing fibers matching Simpson, Brown, and Goldman were discovered on a leather glove found in Simpson's house. The matching pair to the glove was recovered in Brown's condo.

Here came the sensational defense that led to a shocking outcome: “If the glove does not fit, you must acquit.” When Simpson struggled to put on the glove found at Brown's condo, his defense used that as proof he could not have committed the murder. The prosecution objected, raising concerns about the repeated freezing and thawing of the glove prior to trial.

After an 11-month trial, the jury found O.J. Simpson not guilty. This may be, in part, due to the fact that the trial became a key component in a conversation about racial injustice at the hands of the LAPD.

Following Simpson's release, no further arrests or convictions were made in the case. Though Simpson consistently maintained his innocence in interviews, public opinion has only grown more certain of his involvement in the murders.

In 1997, Simpson lost a civil lawsuit filed by the Goldman and Brown families for wrongful death and battery. Though Simpson was ordered to pay more than $50 million in damages to the families, Simpson fled to Florida to evade paying what was owed.

Want to dive even deeper into O.J. Simpson's twisted story? Check out the books below!