Famous Crimes / Social History

A Piece of (Very) Modern Social History

The 1995, People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson Trial (or, the O-J Simpson Trial) was one of the biggest, nationally publicised trials in America. 142 million people tuned in to hear Simpson being acquitted of murder charges, after the lengthy nine month trial.

One of its defining moments (and most ill-thought out) was when prosecution lawyer, Christopher Darden, produced the bloodied glove, a key piece of evidence and asked Simpson to put it on. Darden believed that the glove would fit, and consequently create irrefutable proof that Simpson had murdered his ex-wife. Instead, what occurred was one of the most iconic of the trial; Simpson attempting to put on the too-small glove, leading his defence lawyer, Johnnie Cochran jr. to utter “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”. There have been numerous speculations over the years that the leather had simply shrunk with  the blood. Today, a far more damaging allegation has hit the news; that Simpson’s defence lawyer, had manipulated the lining before Simpson was asked to try it on.

So what was it about the Simpson case that captured the attention of so many people, both then and now?

                                                              Background

Image from the 1992 LA Riots
Full credit to: Museum of the City.Org

12 June 1994, Nicole Brown-Simpson the ex-wife of O-J Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were brutally murdered outside Brown-Simpson’s home in Los Angeles. Because both where murdered brutally with a knife, blood and DNA evidence would later become crucial to the prosecutions’ case.

O-J Simpson was soon arrested after failing to provide a solid alibi and leading police on a car chase through Los Angeles in an attempt to evade further questioning

The Controversy

During the proceedings, there was evidence of; jury tampering, evidence being planted and a racially motivated prosecution (see The Murder Trial of O-J Simpson by Thomas L. Jones).

An example of some of the racial bias that was appearing in the media coverage at the time of 1995 trial. TIME later revealed they had darkened OJ Simpson’s picture on purpose.
Full photo credit to: Authentichistory.com CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Even though Simpson was acquitted of murder charges, it has been widely assumed that the ‘not guilty’ verdict was due to impartial nature of the trial. In fact, the most damning evidence was created by Simpson himself. His tell-all book entitled If I Did It, described in great detail how he would have ‘hypothetically’ murder Ms Brown-Simpson and Goldman.

One of the biggest effects that the case seemed to have was on race relations in the US during the 1990’s, already heightened after the ’92 LA Riots. A key theme of the defence was that Simpson was being accused simply because of his race. This set of statistics, is an interesting summations of the contradictory ideas and beliefs that took hold of the public during the 1995 O-J Simpson Trial.

The Question

So was OJ guilty or simply a victim of a highly prejudges system?

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