CW: Violence, Domestic abuse
In the late hours of June 12th 1994 Nicole Brown, former wife of O.J. Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman were brutally murdered on the steps of her Bundy Drive estate in Brentwood, LA.
The crime scene discovered was hellish, with blood pools everywhere. There were two collapsed bodies, both of which suffered from extensive stab wounds; Nicole’s neck was slashed and almost decapitated. What followed was the accusation and arrest of O.J. Simpson, leading to the ‘trial of the century’, which spanned 11 months from the swearing-in of the jury (November 9th 1994) and opening statements (January 24 1995) to the verdict announcement (October 3rd 1995). Although it’s been almost 26 years since Brown and Goldman lost their lives, the murder case is one that still garners attention due to its unsolved status.
O.J. Simpson was the primary suspect for both murders. His career up until this point had bought him incredible fame, having been a former American football running back, an advert spokesman, broadcaster and actor, but it was the murder of his former wife and her friend that gave him his notoriety.
Nicole and O.J.’s relationship was bumpy. Though they met when O.J. was still married to his first wife, the pair married in 1985 and had two children before Simpson pleaded no contest to spousal abuse in 1989. Three years later, Nicole filed for divorce. Later, police tapes would be broadcast that indicated the severity of the domestic abuse she suffered and the danger her life was under. These tapes, as well as photos of her abuse released after her death, demonstrated this to be a murder that could have been prevented.
Simpson, being the only suspect, was told to turn himself in or face being arrested. This news sparked the famous low-speed white Bronco car chase that lasted over two hours, covered more than 60 miles, and three LA freeways. A number of these freeways were cleared whilst police escorted him, and people lined the roads in support of O.J. Eventually, he handed himself in and stated at the preliminary hearing on June 20th that he was “not guilty.” Months later, on January 24th, the ‘trial of the century’ officially began.
The trial was televised and many tuned in to watch the events unfold, whilst others lined the streets in support of the defence. During the trial many issues came to the fore surrounding the collection of evidence, the testimonies given, and the jury selection – all of which worked against the prosecution. Simpson’s ‘Dream Team’ defence, made up of Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran, amongst others, transformed the murder case into a case about race. Cochran, known for his involvement in police brutality and civil rights cases, was criticised for his sensationalised performance during the trial – so much so that Christopher Darden, lead prosecutor, accused him of turning the case into a ‘circus’ due to his manipulation of the facts.
Quickly, the trial became less concerned with the facts and the 488 pieces of evidence that were presented, and more about race. Amidst the background of police brutality, and specifically the Rodney King verdict (1992), people saw another black man being accused of a crime they believed he didn’t commit. Race was the line that divided the public: 75% of white people believed he was guilty, with the same percentage of black people believing him to be innocent.
Simpson’s blood, hair, fibres from his clothes, and shoe prints were found at the Bundy crime scene, as well as inside his own Bronco, placing him at the murder scene. Witnesses would later also come forward and with this a timeline was established. This timeline concretely placed Simpson at the crime scene and as the murderer of both Nicole and Ron. Though there was overwhelming evidence, the mishandling of the crime scene and the poor treatment of this evidence during its collection meant that it was not enough to convict him.
Fears grew in the lead up to the verdict that race riots, similar to those in 1992, would erupt on the back of Simpson’s conviction, but such a conviction never came. After only four hours of deliberation by the jury, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of both murders – a verdict that over 100 million people either listened to or watched being broadcast. This divided the public even more, with many believing this to be a wrongful acquittal. In a 1996 Civil Trial however, Simpson was found responsible for both murders, although the Goldmans are yet to receive the $33.5 million civil judgment fee awarded in this case.
Though almost 26 years have passed since the trial, it is still a popular subject, with new adaptations, books, and documentaries emerging about the case that are keeping it alive. However, the ‘trial of the century’ should not be celebrated.
Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were brutally murdered and left bloody and dying on the steps outside where Nicole’s children slept. Still, no one has been convicted. For the families of both Brown and Goldman, there hasn’t been justice and there never will be, and this is what matters most. Nicole’s murder was preventable and Ron’s own kindness simply placed him at the wrong place at the wrong time, which is the saddest part. The pair should never have lost their lives, and their killer has walked away freely.
Personal opinion and experience will always rule here, but the verdict was, in my eyes, a complete miscarriage of justice for both Ron and Nicole that, due to the double-jeopardy law, makes it a verdict that can never be overturned.