Considering everything that’s happened in the world since June 1994, it’s amazing to think about how the OJ Simpson murder case still captures the imagination of the world. For those who weren’t there or don’t remember it, yes, it was as big a deal as all of the shows make it seem.
It was a story that you wouldn’t believe if it were a movie. One of the greatest African-American football players and beloved entertainer is accused of killing his white ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. Instead of turning himself in, he proceeds to lead the LAPD on the most famous slow-speed car chase in the history of the world, viewed on television by over 95 million people.
In the ensuing trial, it became as much about the history of how the LAPD treated black people as it was about whether Simpson committed double-murder. When the not guilty verdict came down, many saw it more as a guilty verdict for the LAPD than one founded on the facts of the case. As one person said, “The LAPD tried to frame a guilty man.”
OJ Simpson was sent to prison more than a decade later on kidnapping and armed robbery charges, but the years between the night of the murders and that conviction were filled with a ton of bad, baffling and weird decisions. Let’s run them down as we remember 15 Crazy AF Things OJ Simpson Has Done Since “The Incident.”
Early on June 18, 1994, when OJ Simpson eventually surrendered to police, he went missing. Declared a fugitive from justice, his lawyers, Robert Shapiro and Bob Kardashian (his daughters would become famous for doing nothing two decades later) read a letter that OJ had left behind. While it never explicitly says “I did it” or “I’m going to kill myself” it does have language that led many experts to view it as a note of guilt and as an announcement that he was going to kill himself and may already be dead. He told police during the car chase that he tried to kill himself and had a gun to his head much of the day. The note was not allowed into evidence at the trial although it’s doubtful that it would have changed much since it was largely up to interpretation.
When people discuss the specifics of the OJ Simpson case and try to provide evidence that he was guilty of the murders of his wife and her friend, one of the best places they can point to is the fact that Simpson didn’t turn himself in at 11 a.m. on June 18, 1994, as he had promised he would do the night before. After a few hours of not showing up at the police station, Simpson was declared a fugitive. Police -- and plenty of media helicopters -- found him later that afternoon on the freeway with his buddy, AC Cowlings, driving. The “Simpson was guilty” camp point to the fact that an innocent man wouldn’t run from police and threaten to kill himself while talking to negotiators. It’s a fair point, but one the jury would never hear or see as evidence.
Just hours after being found not guilty in the criminal trial, OJ Simpson released a statement to the media on the topic of him being a free man. He gave the typical thanks and criticism one could expect, but at the end of the statement, he said that he would commit whatever resources necessary and make it the mission of his life to find the real killers. The next time we saw Simpson, he was alongside FBI agents, working on the case. Actually, that’s a joke because we never saw Simpson do a thing when it came to finding the real killers. The next time we saw Simpson -- and the dozen or so times after that he made appearances in the media -- he was playing golf.
While OJ Simpson was found not guilty in the criminal trial, he was found guilty in the civil trial, in which the basis for conviction is not “without a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case, a person can be found guilty under the standard of “more than likely.” Few people remember the civil trial, and it gets very little publicity today because none of it was televised. One of the things that experts say sunk Simpson was that he lied about wearing the Bruno Magli shoes that had prints found at the scene. In depositions, he said he’d never worn such “ugly ass” shoes, but photos of him on the sidelines of football games he covered for NBC proved otherwise. Had the LAPD not bungled evidence so poorly in the criminal trial, the shoes may have made the same impact in the criminal trial as they did in the civil trial.
Often forgotten in the OJ Simpson story is everything his children went through. First, they were home the night that their mother was murdered by the front gate. After their father was detained by police and held before and during the trial, the kids went off to live with Nicole’s family. Immediately after OJ was released, he allowed the kids to stay with Nicole’s family because he didn’t want to disrupt their lives any worse than necessary. Then, after a negative exchange with the family at his son’s basketball game, he petitioned the court for custody, and it was granted. According to the documentary “Made in America,” it was a rough transition, and OJ regularly disparaged Nicole’s parents to the kids telling them that their grandparents didn’t want to see them and had essentially abandoned them.
One of the things that OJ Simpson never did as a standout football star at the University of Southern California or any point during his professional or acting career was embrace African-American culture and tackle any issues surrounding the community. Whether it was the Watts Riots, LA Riots, or any of the injustice done to the race in between, OJ sat out the controversy on the sidelines saying that he appreciated those in the black community who wanted to fight the system, but it just wasn’t his style. Simpson was friends with many police officers and never made race an issue. That is, until the criminal trial became more about the LAPD’s treatment of black people through the years than about Simpson. Once released, Simpson recognized that African Americans, by a 3-to-1 margin, supported him during the case when others abandoned him, so he finally became a “member” of their community and apologized for ignoring it for so long.
OJ Simpson’s home was foreclosed upon in the years following the civil trial. He didn’t pay more than a million dollars in taxes on the home while he was in jail, and then once he had a giant judgment against him in the civil trial, if he had the money, he would have had to give it to the victims, so, the house went up for auction. It was sold, and the new owner eventually tore it down, but on the final day when Simpson was set to leave, he and his agent faked a paparazzi video as he was taking down the flag in his front yard and leaving the property. His former agent told the story and showed the raw footage, including multiple takes that were shot during the “Made in America” documentary. Simpson told his agent that he thought they could sell the tape to the National Enquirer for $500,000.
Like every major news story, people eventually moved on from the OJ Simpson case. Other things happen and people look elsewhere. But for an attention junkie like Simpson, he wasn’t ready to simply be quiet and ride into the sunset as the guy who was one of the greatest football players ever that allegedly got away with murder. He made several grabs for cash and eyeballs in the years following the trial, and among the most infamous was “Juiced,” a one-time-only show on pay-per-view that was a hidden camera show where people got punked in pranks by OJ. If this wasn’t pathetic enough, Simpson made a rap video for the show, where he was dressed as a pimp with topless girls dancing around him... when he wasn’t dressed like an Elvis impersonator with topless girls dancing around him. Keep in mind, he was over 50 years old at the time. It just reeked of desperation, and people didn’t think it could get worse... but it did.
If the pay-per-view special “Juiced” made OJ Simpson look like a pathetic attention whore trying to score a few bucks, his decision to write a book called “If I Did It” made him look like a pathetic attention whore who had no conscience or moral compass trying to score a few bucks. “If I Did It” was a book where Simpson described in great detail what he would have done differently if he were to commit the crime he had been tried for in 1995. The Goldman family, who were owed millions from Simpson because of the civil trial, sued to have the book sales halted. A decision was reached that gave them control of the book, so they sold it, but hid the word “If” inside of the “I” making it look like the book was called “I Did It.” While Simpson’s name was taken off the cover, replaced by “Confessions of the Killer,” Nicole’s family sued to not have the book released but lost.
Starting at USC and leading straight up to the trial, OJ Simpson had always made a lot of money in endorsements and acting. Even though he was found not guilty, no more acting gigs came his way, and for obvious reasons, no company wanted him standing anywhere near their products. One of the only places Simpson was able to make a steady income was in selling his autograph. The former Heisman Trophy winner was known to crash major collectibles shows and set up a table to sign autographs. In the late 1990s, he even went as far as to try and trademark his name along with the nicknames “OJ” and “The Juice” so only he could ever use it. After a random guy sued to deny the granting of the trademark, Simpson abandoned his effort, probably realizing it wasn't worth fighting in court.
After moving north to Los Angeles to go to college at the University of Southern California, OJ Simpson settled into the city as his home during the football offseason and his post-football career. Once the trial was over and the kind of things LA offered, like acting jobs, weren’t coming his way anymore, OJ looked to move and found a new home in Miami. Reports have him starting to hang out with a sketchy crowd at this point, but more interesting was the woman he dated: a woman in her late 20s named Christine Prody who bore a striking resemblance to Nicole Brown Simpson. After OJ went to jail, she faded into obscurity until 2012 when she was arrested twice, first for stealing painkillers from a home where she worked as a nurse’s aid and later for stealing a woman’s purse at a North Dakota mall. He really knew how to pick them.
Most people probably think that OJ Simpson lived the life of a model citizen after he allegedly got away with murder. If he indeed got away with the crime of the century, you’d think that he’d behave, but that just wasn’t the OJ way. One of the weirder run-ins he had with the law began in 2001; his Miami home was raided after police had a tip that drug trafficking was going on at his home. They didn’t find drugs, but they did find equipment capable of stealing satellite TV. It took a while to sort itself out, but in 2004, DirecTV accused Simpson in federal court of using the equipment to steal its signals. The company was awarded $25,000, and Simpson was forced to pay almost $34,000 in legal fees as part of the decision. It’s not clear if he dodged these court awards the way he did in the civil case he lost in connection with the 1994 murders.
While the murder charges in 1994 and the armed robbery and kidnapping charges in 2007 are certain to be the things that jump out of OJ Simpson’s rap sheet, there are plenty of other infractions, ranging from the horrible -- spousal abuse -- to the weird: stealing DirecTV, so it was really just par for the course when Simpson decided to celebrate the birth of the country and ended up arrested. It happened in Miami, Florida, where Simpson seemed like he was on a clear path to a major fall with some of the questionable decisions he continued to make. On July 4, 2002, his latest infraction with the law was for driving his boat too fast through a manatee protection zone and failing to comply with local boating regulations. In the end, Simpson ended up paying a fine for the speeding, and the regulation charge was dropped.
You couldn’t conceive a more botched robbery than the one OJ Simpson tried to pull with accomplices in Las Vegas in 2007; nor could you conceive the punishment he’d get, which many have said was payback for the murder trial result. Simpson and a group of associates heard that a memorabilia dealer had a bunch of his personal things that were supposedly taken from OJ in the wake of his trial without his permission, so they went to a hotel room to get the stuff but brought guns and made threats that were captured on tape. While the average person can hear the tape and realize it’s a bunch of morons who don’t know what they’re doing, under the strict rule of law, they were guilty of kidnapping and armed robbery. The judge in the case sentenced Simpson to 33 years in prison. He's already been granted parole on some of the charges and may be released in October 2017 on the rest of the charges.
Remember the TV show Jail? We didn’t either, but the fact that OJ Simpson allowed his booking into prison to be filmed for an episode of the show is indicative that one of the greatest runners in the history of football was a glory hound, always on the lookout for a cash grab to the very end. Jail followed criminals from the moment they were booked through incarceration. If it sounds like the kind of show that would follow Cops on TV, it makes sense since John Langley, the producer of Cops, was also the producer of Jail. The show could never really find its footing after debuting on MyNetworkTV in the fall of 2007. Even a move to syndication and a name change to “Inside American Jail” didn’t help. After it was moved to the Spike Channel, the show began to focus exclusively on Nevada and then moved to Texas. While episodes are still occasionally shot, only 98 have been produced in a decade.
Sources: Wikipedia; Daily Mail; CNN