Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (2024)

The O.J. Simpson trial for the brutal murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman captivated the country's attention and still has a lasting impact nearly 30 years later.

The first trial to be televised from start to finish, nearly 100 million people tuned in to watch the shocking verdict.

Simpson's trial made its judge, attorneys and witnesses infamous, including Johnnie Cochran and (reluctantly) Marcia Clark, and played a crucial role in launching Court TV, plus the careers of the Kardashians, Kato Kaelin and more. The case also impacted domestic violence laws in the United States, with then-President Bill Clinton signing the Violence Against Women Act into law in 1994 in the months following Nicole and Goldman's slayings.

Interest in the trial was reignited following The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story in 2016, which saw star Sarah Paulson win an Emmy for portraying head prosecutor Clark and featured star turns from Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian.

Simpson died from cancer on April 10 at the age of 76, his family confirmed in a statement. Once known as a celebrated football star, the notorious trial far overshadowed the former athlete's contributions on the field, becoming the defining factor in his legacy.

Look back at the key players in the trial of the century and the legacies they each left behind after the final gavel.

Who was O.J. Simpson?

Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (1)

Long before he achieved infamy after his ex-wife's murder, O.J. Simpson was born Orenthal James Simpson on July 9, 1947, in San Francisco. He was raised by his mother after his parents divorced in 1952.

Simpson joined a street gang as a teen and was briefly incarcerated at a juvenile detention center. His high school sweetheart and first wife, Marguerite L. Whitley, told PEOPLE that he was "an awful person then." Rolling Stone reported that after Simpson's third arrest, he met Willie Mays, who inspired and encouraged him to straighten out. He joined his high school football team and graduated in 1965, but wasn't scouted by many colleges because of poor grades.

Simpson enrolled in the City College of San Francisco, and his record as defensive and running back garnered attention from other schools, and he eventually transferred to the University of Southern California. In 1967, while at USC, Simpson married Whitley, with whom he shared three children.

He went pro in the 1968 draft, commanding $650,000 from the Buffalo Bills, which was then the highest salary in NFL player history. Nicknamed "The Juice," Simpson was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 1978 and retired from professional football in December 1979. Simpson still holds the record as the only player in history to rush more than 2,000 yards within a 14-game NFL season.

Simpson met his second wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, in 1977 when she was 18, and they married in 1985.

In addition to his football career, Simpson was also an actor, appearing in The Klansman, Roots and The Naked Gun films. Arnold Schwarzenegger told The Independent in 2019 that James Cameron almost cast Simpson as the eponymous Terminator, but Cameron later denied the claim in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, saying it was a studio executive's idea that he shot down. The then-highly marketable Simpson was also the face of several brands, including Hertz (for which he owned his own franchise), TreeSweet Orange Juice, Wilson footballs and more.

Who was Nicole Brown Simpson?

Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (2)

Nicole Brown Simpson was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on May 19, 1959, to German mother Juditha and American father Lou Brown, who met Juditha when he was stationed in Germany while serving in the Air Force. The family moved to the United States when Nicole and her siblings were toddlers, eventually settling in Southern California.

Nicole began working at a Beverly Hills nightclub called The Daisy when she was 18. It was there she met Simpson, then 30, and she didn't know who he was at first. Simpson was still married to his first wife Whitley at the time, but reportedly courted Nicole immediately. Classmates recalled Nicole bringing Simpson to school, where he would sign autographs. She moved in with Simpson within months.

They married in 1985 after dating for seven years and shared daughter Sydney and son Justin. Those close to Nicole recalled her relationship with Simpson as tempestuous even in the beginning, with frequent fights and Simpson sometimes throwing her out of their shared home, The Los Angeles Times reported, with Nicole accusing Simpson of cheating. Some close to Nicole said that she would sometimes not go out for days and that Simpson would blame it on menstrual cramps.

On New Year's Day in 1989, Simpson was arrested and later pleaded no contest to spousal battery after police responded to a call from Nicole, who authorities noted had a black eye, a split lip and Simpson's handprint still on her neck. At the time, Nicole told police she feared that Simpson would kill her and begged them to arrest him, saying they'd been to her home eight times for domestic violence calls and never took action against him.

Nicole filed for divorce in 1992 and moved into a condominium of her own, reportedly after finding out Simpson had a year-long affair with model Tawny Kitaen. They reconciled briefly in 1993, and that October, Nicole called the police to report Simpson being violent after he found a photo of another man she dated while they were broken up. In May 1994, shortly after her 35th birthday, Nicole ended the relationship, seemingly for good.

On June 12, 1994, Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman were found stabbed to death in the courtyard of Nicole's Brentwood, California, condo. Hours earlier, Nicole and Simpson had attended their daughter Sydney's dance recital separately, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Her sister, Tanya Brown, previously told PEOPLE that Nicole was most proud of being a mother.

"Everybody equates Nicole with being a domestic violence victim, which she was, beyond belief," Tanya said. "Her death doesn't define who she was. Nicole was a mom, first and foremost. Her kids were her life. She always wanted to make sure they were having fun and being kids."

Who was Ron Goldman?

Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (3)

Born July 12, 1968, and raised in the Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Ronald "Ron" Goldman was a camp counselor and volunteered with children with cerebral palsy, according to The Los Angeles Times. He enrolled for one semester at Illinois State University before moving to southern California with his family when he was 18 years old.

Friends recalled Goldman as funny and personable. After relocating, he took some courses at Pierce College in Los Angeles and worked as a tennis instructor and headhunter, then as a waiter at several restaurants. In his free time, he played beach volleyball and went dancing at nightclubs. While working at the Italian eatery Mezzaluna in Brentwood, California, he was also an aspiring model and actor.

He and his friends became acquainted with Nicole when they ran into one another by chance at their local Starbucks, and she occasionally let him drive her Ferrari, but his relationship with her was not romantic. Sources close to Goldman told The Los Angeles Times that their platonic friendship was "innocent and casual," with one noting that Goldman thought Nicole was actually interested in one of his other friends. Three months before he was killed, Goldman and his girlfriend Jacqui Bell split after about 18 months together, and the weekend before the murders, Goldman went on his second date with a co*cktail waitress and aspiring model named Tiffany Starr.

Nicole and her family, including her mother, dined at Mezzaluna on June 12, 1994, just hours before he and Nicole were murdered. He visited Nicole's condo to return a pair of prescription glasses Nicole's mother had left at the eatery.

His father, Fred Goldman, told PEOPLE in 2016 that the gesture was "one of those acts of decency and kindness that ultimately cost him his life."

According to authorities, Ron likely arrived at the scene during or immediately after Nicole was killed, and his family believes he tried to save his friend.

"He could have run. He didn't," Fred told PEOPLE. "I'd like to say I wish he did but that wouldn't have been Ron. I think he attempted to help — and it cost him his life."

Ron was 25 when he was stabbed to death.

Was O.J. Simpson accused of Nicole Brown's murder?

Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (4)

Simpson was notified of Brown's murder by LAPD detective Ron Phillips, who later testified that the former NFL player didn't ask any questions about the circ*mstances of her death, per CNN. Simpson was first brought in for questioning on June 13, during which detectives noticed he had a cut on his finger. Despite first claiming that he had been cut in the hours after he learned of Brown's death, after detectives revealed they had found blood in his car, Simpson admitted that the injury had occurred the night of the murder on June 12, though he claimed he did not remember how the cut happened.

Simpson was released after voluntarily submitting blood samples, and hired lawyer Robert Shapiro two days later, who began building out Simpson's legal "Dream Team." After DNA testing confirmed the blood matched what was found in the car, Simpson was ordered to turn himself in to the police on the morning of June 17. After he failed to show up, he was declared a fugitive; hours later, Simpson's friend and lawyer Robert Kardashian read a statement from Simpson to the media, which largely sounded like asuicide note.

Not long after, Simpson was spotted driving with a friend in the now-infamous white Bronco. A 60-mile, low-speed chaseensued, which was captured by news helicopters and broadcast across America. The Bronco eventually arrived at Simpson's home at 8 p.m. He entered his home a short while later, and after Shapiro arrived, Simpson finally surrendered himself to police.

What was O.J. Simpson charged with in 1994?

Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (5)

Simpson was charged with double homicide in 1994 for the stabbing deaths of Nicole and Goldman. He was acquitted on Oct. 3, 1995, with about 100 million people tuning in to see the verdict announced live on television.

Prosecutors provided DNA evidence during the trial, including traces of Goldman and Nicole's blood in his car and Nicole's blood on a pair of Simpson's socks, and a glove with DNA from both victims and Simpson's at the scene of the murders.

However, the defense alleged that the crime scene had been compromised and played an audio recording of Mark Fuhrman, a police officer collecting evidence from the scene of the murders, repeatedly using a racial slur. Fuhrman was later charged with perjury for lying about not saying the slur within 10 years of Simpson's criminal trial. The defense also insisted that the blood-soaked glove found at the scene didn't fit Simpson's hand.

What was the verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial?

Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (6)

Simpson was found not guilty of the murders of Nicole and Goldman in the criminal case, but was found liable for their deaths in a civil trial and ordered to pay the victims' families $33.5 million.

In 2006, Simpson wrote a book called O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How I Did It, a hypothetical examination of Nicole and Goldman's murders. Publisher Judith Regan said that while in the book Simpson does not say he's guilty of the slayings, "In my view, this is his confession." Due to backlash, including from Goldman's family, the book's publication was canceled before its release.

In an interview recorded in 2006 and airing 12 years later, Simpson said, "Ron and Nicole were physically dead and it was almost like they killed me. Who I was was attacked and murdered also in that short period time."

Who was on O.J.'s legal team?

Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (7)

Robert Kardashian Sr. — father of Kourtney, Kim, Khloé and Rob Kardashian — was one of Simpson's close friends and a member of his "dream team" of defense attorneys alongside Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro and F. Lee Bailey.

Simpson was an usher in Robert Kardashian's wedding to Kris Jenner, The Los Angeles Times reported, and the night before his Bronco chase, he visited the Kardashians' home. Simpson reportedly was in Khloé's room and considered ending his life when Robert urged him not to do so and brought him outside. Robert was also reportedly on the phone with Simpson during the car chase and kept a Louis Vuitton garment bag from Simpson. (Kim later told GQ she looked through the bag as a child and that it contained clothes and toiletries.)

Robert also read what seemed to be a suicide note from Simpson to the media the night of the Bronco chase. He told The Los Angeles Times that he hadn't practiced law in 20 years before reactivating his law license to help Simpson, and that he frequently visited Simpson in prison.

"I've never been in a jail before. It's extremely depressing," he said in October 1994. "It makes me sick every time I go down there. We can't have any physical contact. I want to hug him, I want to show him that I care. It's very difficult."

Cochran became a fixture in late-night media and was even spoofed on Seinfeld thanks to his refrain about the blood-soaked glove found at the murder scene: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." The prosecution said that they didn't want Simpson to try on the glove because it had been soaked in blood and repeatedly frozen and thawed to preserve it for the trial. Cochran died from a brain tumor on March 29, 2005, at 67 years old.

Bailey, along with Cochran, brought the issue of race to the forefront of the trial when he cross-examined Fuhrman about the officer's past use of racial slurs. Bailey died at age 87 in June 2021.

Shapiro was already somewhat famous in the legal realm for defending Erik Menéndez during his first arraignment in the Menéndez brothers' murder trial. He joined the "Dream Team" after Howard L. Weitzman withdrew from the case, The New York Times reported, and was considered the leader of the defense until ultimately deferring to Cochran. He has since transitioned his work into civil litigation and co-founded LegalZoom, ShoeDazzle (with Kim Kardashian) and RightCounsel.

Marcia Clark led the prosecution in the case along with Christopher Darden. Clark told Vogue in 2016 that the trial made her "famous in a way that was kind of terrifying" because reporters were on her front lawn, but that she tuned out scrutiny of her appearance (including a now infamous perm.) In 2019, Darden told PEOPLE of Simpson, "I don't hate him, but I hate what he stands for. I hate that his acquittal only added to the racial division in this country. I also hate that he is free."

Which Hollywood figures were involved in the trial?

Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (8)

Simpson's trial helped propel the Kardashian family to fame. Nicole was close friends with Kris Jenner, who she met through Simpson's relationship with Robert Kardashian. Jenner was supposed to have lunch with Nicole on the day her body was found, the reality TV matriarch previously told PEOPLE.

"I have these vivid memories of an amazing friendship and a life that we all had together. She was funny, she was beautiful and loyal and passionate and the best mom I had ever met," Jenner said.

Jenner said she didn't know that Nicole was a victim of domestic violence until Simpson's murder trial.

"I saw all the pictures and the police reports and I heard tapes of Nicole calling 911 [after she was abused by O.J.]," Jenner said. "That was stuff I didn't know anything about. I beat myself up because I felt like I wasn’t paying attention. Like, how did I miss this? But that's typical in an abusive relationship — that the woman doesn't speak out about how she's being treated."

Kim Kardashian previously recalled that the trial "tore [her] family apart," explaining that Jenner butted heads with Robert over the trial, as he stood by Simpson and she felt more loyal to Nicole.

Caitlyn Jenner alleged in an episode of Big Brother VIP that she and Kris were at the Simpsons' home the night before the slayings and that based on Kris and Nicole's communications, Caitlyn believed Simpson was guilty.

"Obviously he did it, and he got away with it," Caitlyn said. "And at one point he even told Nicole, 'I'll kill you and get away with it 'cause I'm O.J. Simpson.' "

Actor Kato Kaelin, a witness for the prosecution, also became a celebrity as a result of the trial. Kaelin was staying in a guest house on Simpson's property at the time of the murders. Before the slayings, Kaelin appeared in two small-budget films. Afterward, he appeared in the series premiere of MADtv and made cameos in several movies and TV shows. He parlayed his notoriety into a radio show and reality TV stardom in shows including Celebrity Bootcamp, Sunset Tan and Celebrity Big Brother, plus game shows including The Weakest Link.

What happened to O.J. Simpson after the trial?

Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (9)

Though Simpson was found not guilty in his criminal trial. He was, however, found liable for their deaths in a civil lawsuit from the victims' families.

It wasn't until 13 years to the day after he was acquitted of the murders that Simpson was actually convicted of a crime. On Sept. 16, 2007, Simpson and several associates were accused of setting up a meeting with memorabilia buyers in a Las Vegas casino hotel room, during which Simpson and his associates allegedly rushed into the room with guns, stole the memorabilia and fled the scene.

The New York Times reported that at the time of his arrest, Simpson claimed that he didn't commit any crimes and that he was merely getting back "stolen stuff" that belonged to him and that "nobody was roughed up." Simpson was convicted of all 12 charges against him and was sentenced to 33 years in prison for the Las Vegas robbery, with parole eligibility after nine years. He was granted parole in July 2017, with the parole board citing his family support, good behavior behind bars and completion of anti-violence classes while incarcerated as reasons for his early release.

He was released from prison on Oct. 1, 2017, and remained under parole until Sept. 29, 2022.

Following his release, Simpson lived in a gated community with a golf course in Las Vegas, The New York Post reported, with his daughter Arnelle staying with him often.

"Life is fine," Simpson told the Associated Press in 2019. He added that he and his children didn't discuss the murders of Nicole and Goldman, explaining, "We don't need to go back and relive the worst day of our lives." He added, "My family and I have moved on to what we call the 'no negative zone.' We focus on the positives."

On April 11, 2024, Simpson's family announced he had died of cancer at the age of 76. "On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren.During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace," the post on Simpson's X account read.

Revisiting the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: The Shocking Details, Key Players and Verdict (2024)

FAQs

How many people tuned into the OJ verdict? ›

Simpson's ensuing trial in 1995 drew astonishing audience interest, with an unprecedented 150 million people tuning in on October 3 to watch the stunning verdict delivered live on television.

Who found the bodies of Nicole and Ron? ›

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.

How long did it take the jury to reach a verdict for OJ? ›

The jury in the O.J. Simpson trial began deliberating on October 2, 1995, and its members reached a verdict in less than four hours. Judge Lance Ito, however, delayed the announcement until the following day. On October 3, Simpson was found not guilty of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Was there a party after the OJ verdict? ›

After the verdict was read, O.J. hosted massive party at his Rockingham house in which his mother was ushered in via a Rolls Royce and "forty crates of champagne were brought in." The LAPD, who had just been devastated and humiliated by the trial, were called to the scene to protect Simpson's family and friends from ...

How many people were on the jury for O.J. Simpson? ›

- The following is a breakdown of the 12 jurors chosen in the O.J.

How many people saw the OJ Chase? ›

As darkness fell, it became more difficult for viewers to see what was going on, but Simpson eventually left his weapon in the car and was allowed to enter his residence, where he was arrested. It is estimated that 95 million people watched this chase.

What was OJ's net worth when he died? ›

Simpson had a net worth of $3 million at the time of his death, most of it coming from pensions from the NFL and SAG.

Did an OJ juror raise his fist? ›

Because the courtroom cameras weren't allowed to record jurors, people at home didn't see Cryer's gesture. “The People v OJ Simpson” was completely accurate to show the juror raising his fist. If the show had had more time, it could have raised questions about why the prosecution didn't keep him off the jury.

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