The first time I ever heard anything about O.J. Simpson being suspected of murder in the death of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, I was glancing down at a copy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon. I was taking driver’s ed over the summer and had just come home. The story was talking about Simpson being questioned in the death of his wife. That was the gist of the story. It was in a small one column at the bottom right corner under the fold.
The AJC is all across the nation from Los Angeles so there was really no reason for the paper to blow it up as they and others would eventually do. But like a lot of stories from the 1990s, they started out as small and then erupted in size from there. There was no mention about how Nicole had died. My first guess was she had died in a car accident. Or it had been a home invasion or botched robbery.
Simpson wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. He had previously appeared in The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult and really hadn’t made much of anything else for years except for the 1st & Ten HBO series. By the end of the week, we would be glued to the TV set watching the infamous Bronco express on L.A. highways. In one week, Simpson went from a retired football star/washed-up actor/TV commercial spokesperson to a fugitive from the law/accused murderer of two people. The question was did we think he’s guilty or innocent? We even talked about it in our Driver’s Ed class.
I know one thing and that’s people don’t run from the law if they are innocent. I also know, people don’t just randomly show up at condos to kill people with knives. They don’t do it at 875 S. Bundy Dr. in the Brentwood district of Los Angeles. If someone shows up on your doorstep and wants to do you harm, you know them. There was nothing that we’d come to find out that would point the finger at anyone except Simpson.
There was a lot of media speculation that Nicole and Ron Goldman were having an affair. That wasn’t the case. There were accusations that Ron was involved in drug activity. No, that wasn’t the case. Everything outrageous conceivable speculation they could pull out of the air was easily debunked and discredited. Aside from a not-too-memorable appearance in the series Studs, a Gen-X 1990s version of Love Connection, Ron was an Eagle Scout. He didn’t do drugs and he had even worked as a camp counselor volunteering his time working with children who have cerebral palsy. Eventhough he had worked mostly as waiters, he had obtained an emergency medical technician license.
If there ever was an exampe of someone in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was him. May he rest in peace.
As for Nicole, despite what came out about her being a gold digger or coke head, it was disproven. She was just wanting to start over and put some bad moments behind her. By 1994, women who were 35 were allowed to have a life and Nicole was ready to start this next phase, without Simpson as much as possible. She didn’t have anyone who had a grudge against her except for Simpson.
So, it’s obvious that Simpson was the culprit, right? Well, no. He was tried and acquitted of the double murders. It was one of the biggest moments in the past 30 years that divided people along race and as well along social standing.
So, what the hell happened?
That’s the question a lot of people have theorized ever since June 12, 1994. Countless books have been written examining the case from every angle. How could the jury ignore the DNA evidence? Didn’t they see Simpson was trying to act like the gloves wouldn’t fit? There were TV movies and a limited series. Even Frogmen, a proposed TV pilot starring Simpson, was seized by investigators and examined. It has since been aired with some speculation the LAPD and LA District Attorney’s Office has pressured networks in refusing to air it.
I’ve often theorized that the case was just a bad series of events that happened on that day. It was just like the Titanic tragedy could’ve been avoided if they were going a little slower or hit the iceberg head on. There’s even word that those in the crow’s nest didn’t bother to ask for the keys to get the binoculars out of a lockerbox. Or people didn’t take the sinking as seriously as they were suspecting another boat to come around at any minute. All these factors led to the sinking just like a set of factors led to Nicole and Ron’s murder.
The wheels were set in motion earlier that day when Simpson broke up with Paula Barbieri. Yes, it sucks to break up but Simpson reportedly was acting in a better mood later that day as he was attending his daughter’s dance recital. He’s thinking this is a chance to make up with Nicole so he tries to work his way closer. There were reports he was wanting to spend more time with Nicole and the kids but she was pushing against it.
Later that evening, Nicole and the kids were supposed to go out to eat at the restaurant where Jason Simpson was working. It’s been reported that Jason had prepared a meal for his siblings and Nicole. But they didn’t show. Instead, they went to Mezzaluna. I’m guessing Nicole made this switch out of concern that Simpson would show up and invite himself to dinner. She was trying to move on. It was later reported he would often show up outside her house whenever she was with dates.
So, Simpson is probably wondering why Nicole wouldn’t want him spending more time with her and the kids. This man’s a narcissist. He doesn’t see that Nicole is trying to move on from him. He’s thinking that as long as she’s living and breathing, he has a say-so in what happens in her life. A lot of men think this way about their exes. You add kids to the mix and obviously these jealous narcissistic men are going to put their foot down on who can be around their kids. But it’s really a way to control their exes while they can continue to be with other women.
Maybe Jason snuck away and made a phone call to Simpson to tell his father that Nicole and the kids didn’t show up. There’s been suspicion that Jason was involved. But for not coming to a restaurant to eat meals he prepared? I also feel Jason knew there was some toxic atmosphere in both relationships and wasn’t angry at Nicole for showing up. Either way, Simpson has been rejected twice in one day. His girlfriend has dumped him. And his ex-wife is telling him that things are over. He’s mad. He doesn’t know what the deal is.
He’s got to get ready to go on a flight to Chicago but things are bothering him. He goes to his house guest Kato Kaelin and mentions they go get something from McDonald’s. Knowing someone like Kato wouldn’t pass up something like that, they go and get some grub and go back to his house. The clock is ticking but Simpson is still wondering what’s up with Nicole.
This is 1994 and a lot of people, even celebrities don’t have cellular phones. It’s two miles approximately between Simpson’s house and Nicole’s home. That’s less than a 10-minute drive. Simpson drives over to the Bundy address. As he’s sitting outside, he observes Ron going to drop off the glasses that Nicole’s mother left at Mezzaluna. Ron was off work from the restaurant and on his way to meet his girlfriend. No good dead goes unpunished.
So, Simpson sees this young 20-something man, who is very handsome casually walking up to his ex-wife’s home this late at night on a Sunday. So, he’s enraged. He grabs a knife out of his Bronco and slides those gloves on. He’s thinking he might scare or harass Nicole and Ron. Maybe he’ll key Ron’s car real quick.
As he walks up to the Bundy entrance, he is surprised to see Ron walking out as he probably thought Ron was going inside. And Ron is surprised to see Simpson. Before Ron knows what happens, O.J. stabs him in anger. This causes a commotion that Nicole hears and she goes outside to see what is happening. When she sees Ron getting stabbed, she freezes and Simpson rushes at her stabbing her very aggressively. She’s stabbed seven times in the neck and scalp and suffers a 5.5 inch gash across her throat that nearly decapitates her.
This is anger. Simpson is so upset in his mind that Nicole is seeing this younger man. The theory is that Ron had interrupted Simpson. But that’s a quick window to interrupt a murder. I don’t think Simpson went there without the intent to harm anyone until he saw Ron. That was the trigger. It doesn’t take long to stab someone and what happened probably took half a minute. Maybe 40-45 seconds at the most, it was.
But very quickly, Simpson takes off back to the Bronco and floors it out of there. Motorists would later say they saw Simpson in the vicinity. The only problem is they told it to the tabloids and not the authorities. So, their testimony was tainted.
Simpson gets back home and hops the fence to get back into his house because the limo driver to take him to the airport is already there. He throws all his clothes in a suitcase and hops in the shower to wash the blood off of him. He quickly dresses and goes down to the limo. It’s Los Angeles and the driver is used to celebrities taken their sweet time.
Simpson makes it to LAX. People say they didn’t notice any marks on his hands as he signed a few autographs. Of course not. He was wearing the gloves. He flies to Chicago hoping that Ron and Nicole’s bodies aren’t found until the morning so he can get rid of the clothes. It may be L.A. but it’s still a late Sunday night. People are going to bed. The problem is that the bodies are found by someone walking his dog late. The LAPD is called out and they notify Simpson in Chicago. Police say that Simpson never asked what happened to Nicole after they told him she was dead.
So, now, Simpson has to book the first flight back to LAX or else he will appear suspicious. He must also take the same suitcase back. This was prior to 9/11 when they didn’t randomly check bags as they do now. He hasn’t had time to get rid of the bloody clothes but knows that he needs to do something. He tells Rob Kardashian, his friend and former attorney, about it maybe. Kardashian would later be videotaped by a news crew holding the suitcase like he’s wanting to turn it over to a uniformed police officer. The only problem is the officers aren’t paying much attention.
Shortly after that, Kardashian renews his law license. He is now Simpson’s lawyer. And everything that has been told to him is protected by the attorney-client privilege. As the week goes on, the story of the murders becomes more newsworthy as the police want more answers. Simpson spends time at the Kardashian household. One day after Nicole’s funeral, he is supposed to turn himself into authorities.
But he doesn’t. He goes on the lam. He knows he can make it halfway to the Mexican border before authorities now something is wrong. He sitting in the back of Al Cowlings’ Bronco and no one will be the wiser. It was 1994 and it was a lot easier to go into Mexico then. The only problem is that Simpson is spotted on the highway and someone finds a pay phone to make a phone call. It’s dumb luck for the police.
Now, authorities are located of a possible fugitive sighting. The California Highway Patrol pulls the Bronco over but Cowling tells them that Simpson has a gun to his head. Normally, they would’ve reacted differently. But no one wants to be the CHiP trooper who opened fire on O.J. Simpson or led to him blowing his brains out all over the place. Now, his plan of making it to Mexico is blown so Simpson realizes he can make it back to his house with a police escort.
Authorities at Simpson’s Brentwood house said his family was too relaxed if he was really suicidial. They said they had ordered takeout and were eating submarine sandwiches and chips while watching like the rest of America the events on TV. Simpson and his people are working on a plan for him to surrender without incident. It’s been two years since the L.A. Riots. No one wants a bloodbath live on primetime TV.
As for the trial, it should’ve never been broadcast. But maybe the courts felt that the public would be interested in it. The problem in my opinion was Gil Garcetti, the D.A. of Los Angeles at the time, was too eager to get the trial going. Less than a year had passed from the murder before it started. For a high-profile case like this, it should’ve taken them a year or at the most 18 months to begin. They were still trying to find evidence while they trial was ongoing. This is dangerous. There are no Perry Mason moments. Disclosure means everything has to be turned over to the defense.
Garcetti, I’m guessing, was too eager to have this trial over because he didn’t want it happened during an election year. Also, the Santa Monica courthouse where the trial would’ve taken place had suffered damage from the January 1994 earthquakes. You can push a downtown courthouse case more when the other courthouse is still being repaired. If they had waited until 1996, that wouldn’t have been the case. Garcetti was trying to show this case wasn’t about privilege as the downtown courthouse would’ve selected more common people of Los Angeles. But the problem was, his defense team made it about race.
I can go on and on about how both sides messed up. To be honest, the minute Judge Lance Ito’s late wife, Margaret York, a Commander in the LAPD at the time, was heard on tapes in a disparaging tone by Mark Fuhrman, there should’ve been a mistrial and Ito should’ve recused himself. I’ve seen murder case where they had to do a change of venue because there were so many degrees of separation it was hard to get a fair jury.
Ito along with Assistant D.A. Chris Darden has been one of the few people who haven’t spoken publicly about the case after it ended. Ito should’ve never allowed Simpson to wear the gloves. The moment William Hodgman, one of the prosecutors had to step down because of his health issues, Ito should’ve allowed a continuance. Johnnie Cochran, who had worked with Hodgman, later said he would’ve been okay with a continuance as well. There was so many things Ito could’ve done and still been far to both sides. But I feel he got caught up in the limelight.
I also feel that the acquittal in the end was the right way. Hear me out. What would’ve happened if Simpson had been convicted? Would there been a riot? Maybe. But not as bas as the L.A. Riots. Despite what some people think, many black people weren’t too happy with the verdict. But, there would been an outpouring of support for Simpson’s defense fund.
You see, as a convicted felon, Simpson can’t make money anymore the way he was while in jail. People would’ve been asked to make donations, write checks, to the appellate defense fund. People would be guilted in helping Simpson and given him money and it would’ve taken years of them pouring out the money. Appealing a conviction takes time.
But we soon saw what type of person Simpson was. He had a second chance. As someone commented in the documentary O.J.: Made in America, he should’ve spent more time in churches and civic organizations doing fund-raisers and helping out at charity events. Instead, Simpson, in his late 40s, went buckwild like a college student who just turned 21 and is on his vacation down in Florida. He did everything you’re not supposed to do after you’re found “not guilty” of double murder.
Then, when the Brown and Goldman families sued him for wrongful death, he didn’t take the court proceedings seriously. He even made a pilot of himself dressing up to panhandle money. He wasn’t serious. People were seeing him as he truly was. He was someone who literally got away with murder.
And since he owed the Brown and Goldman families money, he moved to Florida so they couldn’t touch his pension. All materials he had he gave away so they couldn’t be liguidated. This is how a guilty person acts. This is how a psychopath and narcissist acts.
But just like Icarius, when you fly to close to the sun, you’ll eventually get burned. As he went into his 60s, Simpson was still doing everything he shouldn’t. Then everything went bad on Oct. 3, 2008 at the Palace Station hotel in Las Vegas, Nev. Simpson with others broke into a room of Bruce Fromong, a memorabilia dealer and stole his items. They’re lucky he didn’t die as they had guns. With Cochran dead and buried, he didn’t have someone to defend him anymore. And more important, he had lost the public’s opinion of him.
The irony of Simpson who grew up poor in the projects of Potrero Hills of San Francisco. He tried to avoid the stereotypes. He went to the University of Southern California and kept out of the civil war politics of the era. He became a spokesperson for a major corporation. He appeared in movies and on TV shows. He had the opportunities to live out the rest of his life without a blemish on his career. But he had to be a domestic abuser. He had to be a narcissist. He had to be critical of the same people that supported him.
In the end, Simpson has become the very stereotype he tried to avoid, just another black man convicted of a major felony. There was no conspiracy against him. For the authorities to pull off such a clandestine conspiracy, they would have to have previously known of the daily lives of Nicole, Ron, and Simpson himself. Yes, the jury was biased. One of the older members admitted in the documentary she didn’t think highly of women who stayed in domestic abuse situations. So, she should have been stricken immediately. They wanted to be on that jury to get Simpson off for murder.
What’s worse than being convicted of a crime is when you’re not but people still know you did it. They look at you differently. They don’t want to be around you. You lose your friends. You lose business deals. You lose your identity. Simpson turns 75 in less than a month. Not to wish him any ill-will, but when he dies, you will hear more about the murders of Nicole and Ron and the “Trial of the Century” rather than his football career or his acting career.
That’s his legacy.