OJ Simpson, whose ‘trial of the century’ gripped the world, has died


OJ Simpson, the former American football star and Hollywood actor who was cleared of murdering his ex-wife and her friend in a criminal trial, has died aged 76.

He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren when he “succumbed to his battle with cancer” on Wednesday, his family said on X.

Simpson was tried for double murder in 1995, in what was dubbed the “trial of the century”.

He was found not guilty of killing Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, but was later found responsible for the deaths in a civil lawsuit.

Simpson was then imprisoned for nine years for armed robbery and kidnapping after an incident at a Las Vegas hotel.

Local 10 News in Nevada reported in February this year that Simpson was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, but the former NFL running back said in a video at the time that “all is well”.

Posting on X, Simpson laughed as he said: “I’m not in any hospice, I don’t know who put that out there.”

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‘Hospice?’ OJ Simpson speaks in February

Caitlyn Jenner, whose ex-wife Kris Jenner was a close friend of the retired footballer and Ms Brown Simpson, said bluntly “good riddance” in response to Simpson’s death.

David Cook, attorney for Mr Goldman’s family, also told TMZ that Simpson “died without penance” as the family is still owed damages. He added that the Goldmans are exploring their options on what assets they can collect from Simpson’s estate.

Simpson was acquitted after a 1995 criminal trial watched by millions worldwide, where Simpson famously tried on a pair of blood-stained gloves allegedly found at the scene of the crime.

The gloves appeared to be too small, leading defence attorney Johnnie Cochran to say: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Alan Dershowitz, another of Simpson’s lawyers at the time, said the defence was “a nightmare team” and that he did not want the former NFL star to take the stand.

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OJ: ‘It was a nightmare team’

“Ultimately it was the glove” that persuaded Simpson not to speak at the trial, Mr Dershowitz told Sky News.

“When he was able to go in front of the jury and show them that the glove didn’t fit, that led him to conclude, and he made the decision, not to take the stand.

“In the civil case, he took the stand and was immediately found liable.”

Southern California's OJ Simpson (32) runs against California during a college football game in 1968.
Pic: AP
Southern California’s OJ Simpson runs against California during a college football game in 1968. Pic: AP

O.J. Simpson appears in a courtroom for his preliminary hearing in 2007. 
O.J. Simpson appears in a courtroom for his preliminary hearing in 2007. Pic: AP

Nicknamed “The Juice”, Orenthal James Simpson rose to fame as a sports star in the Buffalo Bills team.

He was enrolled in the NFL’s hall of fame and was the first running back to gain 2,000 yards in a season in 1973.

He also became known as an advertising star, football commentator and Hollywood actor, appearing in a number of TV and film roles including the Naked Gun movie series.

O.J. Simpson, football player for the Buffalo Bills seen in 1969. (AP Photo)
OJ Simpson became famous as a running back for the Buffalo Bills. Pic: AP

O.J. Simpson poses for a photo in 1968
Nicknamed ‘The Juice’, Simpson became a star of TV and film after his NFL career. Pic: AP

U.S. President-elect Richard M. Nixon meets members of a college All-Star team in his Pierre Hotel suite as is presented with an autographed football from OJ Simpson.
Pic: AP
President-elect Richard M. Nixon is presented with an autographed football from OJ Simpson.,Pic: AP

Simpson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder after Ms Brown Simpson and Mr Goldman were stabbed to death at her Los Angeles home on 12 June 1994.

After he was accused of the killings, Simpson wrote a letter which insisted he was innocent, said goodbye to friends and made “a last wish” to “leave my children in peace”.

On 17 June that year, his lawyer Robert Shapiro feared Simpson was suicidal, while a white Ford Bronco carrying the former footballer led police on a 60-mile chase through Los Angeles.

OJ Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson in 1993.
Pic: AP
OJ Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson in 1993. They divorced in 1992. Pic: AP

A white Ford Bronco, driven by Al Cowlings and carrying OJ Simpson, being trailed by Los Angeles police on 17 June , 1994. Pic: AP
A white Ford Bronco carrying OJ Simpson was trailed by Los Angeles police on 17 June 1994. Pic: AP

Simpson was acquitted of double murder on 3 October 1995.

A civil wrongful death lawsuit later found him liable for the two deaths in 1997. He was ordered to pay $33.5m in damages, but he declared bankruptcy shortly after.

OJ Simpson grimaces as he tries on one of the leather gloves prosecutors say he wore the night his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered.
Pic: AP
OJ Simpson tries on one of the leather gloves allegedly found at the scene of the 1994 killings. Pic: AP

Sky News’ Steve Bennedik recalls how Simpson’s trial was covered

It was the first few weeks of 1995 when Sky News’ live coverage of the OJ Simpson court case got under way. Each evening we showed the trial and invited questions. In those days, the main form of correspondence was by letter.

But there was also a new electronic method emerging, called email. And the first of these had the simple, but deflating, sentence: “Which one is OJ?”

We asked ourselves: Is our audience ready to follow the story of a very American tragedy unfold on British TV? We decided to stick with it.

In contrast, OJ Simpson was a household name in the US. So much more than an ex-football star. But the shock of this icon being arrested for murder, the bizarre Bronco highway chase, the high-profile celebrity defence team, and ultimately the “did he do it?” question had universal attraction.

Although the case stuttered through until October, the weak Judge Lance Ito was obsequious to lawyers’ demands for delays, but the interest among Sky News viewers surged and remained undimmed.

As the court camera panned to the state of California seal, signalling another adjournment, we and no doubt the viewer sighed.

More behind-the-scenes legal wrangling, but we had an ace up our sleeve – Professor Gary Solis. Gary is a Vietnam veteran, former military judge advocate, with alma maters including George Washington University and the London School of Economics.

At the time, he was in London and ready to give up his evenings. He calmly steered our presenters, Laurie and Vivien, and our often puzzled viewers through the complexities of the Californian legal system and became a firm favourite with the newsroom and the public alike.

The court characters emerged. Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden for the prosecution, and the “Dream Team” defence – Jonnie Cochran, F Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz and Robert Kardashian, whose children would go on to outshine his fame.

It was compelling court drama, but it was also the very tragic story of two young people who’d been savagely attacked and murdered, with their families devastated by the loss, and tormented by the lingering back and forth court battle.

The proceedings had lasted months, but the jury reached their verdict in just a few hours and when they returned to the courtroom to deliver it, an early evening audience in the UK was hanging on every moment. And then it was over. OJ was a free man.

The People of the State of California v Orenthal James Simpson faded as a memory, flickering back to life with the news of his death.

Simpson was later arrested in 2007 for armed robbery and kidnapping in a dispute over sports memorabilia at a Las Vegas casino hotel.

He was sentenced to up to 33 years in prison in 2008. After nine years in a Nevada prison, Simpson was discharged from parole and released early for good behaviour in 2021.

Since then, Simpson regularly commented on politics and sports on social media. He lived in a gated community in Las Vegas where he played golf.

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