OJ Simpson, accused of killing wife and her male friend, sentenced for robbery, leaves behind a tainted legacy - Hindustan Times
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OJ Simpson, accused of killing wife and her male friend, sentenced for robbery, leaves behind a tainted legacy

Apr 13, 2024 07:53 PM IST

Once accused of killing wife and her male friend, sentenced for armed robbery, American football legend leaves behind a tainted legacy.

OJ Simpson did it all. Broke the shackles of poverty. Had a great career in the NFL. Post-retirement, acted in quite a few movies. He was one of the most popular personalities in the United States. He led an extraordinary life that not many get to live!

OJ Simpson(AFP)
OJ Simpson(AFP)

But then one day, his world came crashing down. He was accused of a double murder. Yes, you read it right, a double murder! Accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman “in a jealous fury” outside her house in Los Angeles in 1994. Both of them were mercilessly stabbed to death. OJ and Nicole were together from 1985-92.

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OJ fought tooth and nail. His legal team claimed he was being framed by police because he was black. On the day he was supposed to turn himself in, he tried to flee in a Ford car with police hot on his tail. The chase was broadcast live with OJ sitting in the back carrying a gun and his old friend Al Cowlings driving the car. The whole thing went on for one and a half hours before he could be arrested.

A bloody glove that the investigators had found at the crime scene didn’t fit his hand in court. The other bloody glove, which he tried on too, was found at his property and purportedly had DNA identifications of OJ, Nicole and Ron. That he struggled to put on the gloves strengthened his case. Later, OJ was acquitted of the charges.

The trial was broadcast live in the States and it was called "The Trial of the Century”. OJ won the case but wasn’t a popular and celebrated figure anymore. The trial coloured the perception of the American public, particularly the white people. OJ had previously said on record in his playing days that he was proud of the fact that people in America “looked at me like a man, not a black man” in a highly racially divided society of the time.

The fact that his defence in court was based on racism didn’t sit well with many. Besides, five years before the murders, there was a case of domestic violence against OJ. By all accounts, OJ had beaten Nicole black and blue. He was fined and given two years’ probation for that.

Acquitted in the double murder case, OJ, however lost a civil case brought against him by Nicole and Ron’s families, and was ordered to pay $33.5m in damages to them in 1997. OJ was found liable for those two deaths.

In 2006, he sold a book manuscript (If I did It), giving a hypothetical account of the murders of Nicole and Ron, besides agreeing to a TV interview.

However, public objections got in the way, and Ron’s family secured the rights to the book. They made the word “If” lose total prominence on the cover and added a subtitle: “Confessions of the killer”. Needless to say, they also added content that pointed the finger at OJ.

Then what was sure a death knell to OJ, he was sentenced to 33 years in jail for armed robbery in an LA hotel in 2008. He was granted parole in 2017 after serving the minimum nine years. This case reinforced the belief OJ had a criminal element in him and he may have committed those murders. Who knows?

Whether or not he killed Nicole and Ron – that’s for the court to decide and it let him go in that case – OJ lived a life of extraordinary highs and extraordinary lows. Born in poverty in San Francisco with rickets and bow legs, OJ proved to be destiny’s child for a very large part of his life. He could run fast, and that helped him become a top running back in American football. He made his name at Buffalo Bills for whom he played eight years between 1969 and 1977. Later he featured in more than 20 movies. The Naked Gun films, the Towering Inferno and Capricorn One are some of his notable works.

OJ died of prostate cancer this past Wednesday at the age of 76. If not for his controversial life nineties onwards, the news of his death would have certainly been treated differently. Ron’s father, Fred, summed up the general feeling at his demise. "The only thing I have to say is, it is just a further reminder of Ron being gone all these years. It's no great loss to the world. It's a further reminder of Ron's being gone," he told NBC News.

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