O.J. Simpson and the Justice Saga

OJ+Simpson+Trying+On+Glove+Used+In+The+Murders+During+His+Trial+photo+credit%3A+Flickr+Jason+Grzybowski
OJ Simpson Trying On Glove Used In The Murders During His Trial photo credit: Flickr Jason Grzybowski

OJ Simpson Trying On Glove Used In The Murders During His Trial photo credit: Flickr Jason Grzybowski

OJ Simpson Trying On Glove Used In The Murders During His Trial photo credit: Flickr Jason Grzybowski

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A Heisman Trophy winner, NCAA record breaker, National Football League Hall of Famer and record setter, actor and broadcaster. Not the typical resume of a famed alleged murderer and criminal.

But that was the case with Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson who captivated America twenty years ago with the “Trial of the Century” for the murder of his ex-wife and friend in 1994, in which he was acquitted. While the story is ancient history for most of today’s college students, the two-decades-old Simpson saga has muscled its way back into the front pages and on television once again.

For those wondering why—and just what the big deal is about a former football player who committed a crime (hardly unusual in recent years)—it’s worth reviewing the almost incredible series of occurrences that made the Simpson trial one of the most watched events in television history.

Simpson, a professional football star, was charged with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. O.J. Simpson stopped the country when he led police on a nationally televised chase on a Los Angeles freeway. Ninety-five million people stopped to watch the white Ford Bronco slowly leading the dozens of police cars on an hours long chase. When O.J. Simpson surrendered, he had with him a gun, his passport, $9,000 in cash and a disguise.

The victims were stabbed to death near Nicole Simpson’s Los Angeles home. Prosecutors based the case on a glove found near the crime scene that matched one found in O.J. Simpson’s property and DNA that connected O.J. Simpson to the crime scene.

O.J. Simpson hired a “Dream Team” of defense lawyers, who after successfully defending him in court went on to a life of stardom on their own. Johnnie Cochran, one of O.J.’s defense lawyers successfully raised doubts about the prosecution’s handling of the evidence.

After a blunder by the prosecution requesting that O.J. try on the bloody glove that didn’t fit him (later found to be due to it being soaked in blood and exposed to several testings), Cochran said the famous line during his closing statement, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

The “Dream Team’s” appellate advisor Alan Dershowitz told ABC News, “We didn’t win the case, they lost it. They blew it, they made the worst possible mistakes.” Dershowitz, a prolific Harvard professor, continues to be a high-profile attorney having recently advised Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team and is a legal and political analyst for CNN.

Now O.J. Simpson finds himself in the spotlight yet again after a bloody knife was discovered buried in his estate. It surfaced over a decade ago but only brought to public attention recently. It is currently being tested for DNA and the subject of our follow-up cover story. A new critically acclaimed show about the “Trial of the Century” is now on FX.

Shanjeetha Kirupananthan, a NYIT computer science student is 22 years old and too young to remember watching the entire event play out, but is familiar with the famous O.J. Simpson case. “This could take away their entire career, and you wouldn’t expect something like this.”

Despite O.J. Simpson’s acquittal in the criminal murder case in 1995, he was found guilty in a following wrongful death lawsuit brought by the families of the victims. He was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages.

Kirupananthan believes O.J. Simpson’s celebrity status gave him an advantage when battling criminal prosecution, “You realize how much people can get away with when they have so much money.”

This was nor the beginning nor the end of O.J. Simpson’s run-ins with the law. Early in his childhood he was part of a gang which landed him a week’s stay in the San Francisco Youth Guidance Center in 1962. In 1989, he pleaded no contest to spousal battery after a fight with his then-wife Nicole Brown Simpson. They were divorced in 1992, and she and her friend were murdered 1994. O.J. Simpson’s criminal murder trial started in 1995, long after he retired from football and nearly a year after his ex-wife’s murder and the famous police chase. In December 2000, he allegedly attacked another driver in a road-rage incident in Florida, but was acquitted the following year.

The “Trial of the Century” not only captivated an entire generation, but future ones as well. Many of NYIT’s students were not yet born when O.J. Simpson achieved his infamous status. Jillian Lutzky, a NYIT student majoring in health and wellness recognized O.J. Simpson’s name immediately, but admitted she “wasn’t even alive” yet when the events happened.

Nursing major Jessica Smith said, “Even if he’s not guilty, people assume he is and the stigma is going to stay there.”

O.J. Simpson’s most recent adventures have not helped his legal status in people’s minds. In 2008, he was convicted on 12 counts of armed robbery and kidnapping, along with his accomplice Clarence Stewart. They were both found guilty of robbing two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room. O.J. and Stewart were sentenced to up to 33 years in prison, putting Simpsons behind bars for the first time. Today, O.J. resides in Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev. and will be eligible for parole in October 2017.

O.J. Simpson wrote a ghost-written book in 2006 titled If I Did It, but a judge awarded the book’s rights to Ronald Goldman’s family. Goldman’s family added commentary to the book and re-titled it to If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. It was published in 2007.

For those who don’t remember how O.J. Simpson imprinted his name in American history and culture, look for the show “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” on FX. Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays O.J. Simpson and John Travolta plays one of the “Dream Team’s” defense lawyers, Robert Shapiro. Critics have praised the show for it’s realistic simulation of the real trial and the stellar performances by the cast.

The new show is only another episode in the real life of O.J. Simpson. No one knows what the next chapter may bring.

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