O.J. Simpson, Football Star Turned Celebrity Murder Defendant, Dead at 76

O. J. Simpson sits in Superior Court in Los Angeles on December 8, 1994 during an open court session where Judge Lance Ito denied a media attorney's request to open court transcripts from a 07 December private meeting involving prospective jurors. (AFP)
O. J. Simpson sits in Superior Court in Los Angeles on December 8, 1994 during an open court session where Judge Lance Ito denied a media attorney's request to open court transcripts from a 07 December private meeting involving prospective jurors. (AFP)
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O.J. Simpson, Football Star Turned Celebrity Murder Defendant, Dead at 76

O. J. Simpson sits in Superior Court in Los Angeles on December 8, 1994 during an open court session where Judge Lance Ito denied a media attorney's request to open court transcripts from a 07 December private meeting involving prospective jurors. (AFP)
O. J. Simpson sits in Superior Court in Los Angeles on December 8, 1994 during an open court session where Judge Lance Ito denied a media attorney's request to open court transcripts from a 07 December private meeting involving prospective jurors. (AFP)

O.J. Simpson, the American football star and actor who was sensationally acquitted in 1995 of murdering his former wife in what US media dubbed the "trial of the century", has died at the age of 76.

His family said in a social media post on Thursday that he had died on Wednesday after a battle with cancer.

Simpson was found not guilty in the 1994 stabbing deaths of former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles, although he was found responsible for her death in a civil lawsuit.

Simpson later served nine years in a Nevada prison after being convicted in 2008 on 12 counts of armed robbery and kidnapping two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel.

Nicknamed "The Juice," Simpson was one of the best and most popular athletes of the late 1960s and 1970s. He overcame childhood infirmity to become an electrifying running back at the University of Southern California and won the Heisman Trophy as college football's top player. After a record-setting career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Simpson parlayed his football stardom into a career as a sportscaster, advertising pitchman and Hollywood actor in films including the "Naked Gun" series.

All that changed after Nicole Brown Simpson and Goldman were found fatally slashed in a bloody scene outside her Los Angeles home on June 12, 1994.

Simpson quickly emerged as a suspect. He was ordered to surrender to police but five days after the killings, he fled in his white Ford Bronco with a former teammate - carrying his passport and a disguise. A slow-speed chase through the Los Angeles area ended at Simpson's mansion and he was later charged in the murders.

What ensued was one of the most notorious trials in 20th century America and a media circus. It had everything: a rich celebrity defendant; a Black man accused of killing his white former wife out of jealousy; a woman slain after divorcing a man who had beaten her; a "dream team" of pricy and charismatic defense lawyers; and a huge gaffe by prosecutors.

Simpson, who at the outset of the case declared himself "absolutely 100 percent not guilty," waved at the jurors and mouthed the words "thank you" after the predominately Black panel of 10 women and two men acquitted him on Oct. 3, 1995.

Prosecutors argued that Simpson killed Nicole in a jealous fury, and they presented extensive blood, hair and fiber tests linking Simpson to the murders. The defense countered that the celebrity defendant was framed by racist white police.

The trial transfixed America. In the White House, President Bill Clinton left the Oval Office and watched the verdict on his secretary's TV. Many Black Americans celebrated his acquittal, seeing Simpson as the victim of bigoted police. Many white Americans were appalled by his exoneration.

Simpson's legal team included prominent criminal defense lawyers Johnnie Cochran, Alan Dershowitz and F. Lee Bailey, who often out-maneuvered the prosecution. Prosecutors committed a memorable blunder when they directed Simpson to try on a pair of blood-stained gloves found at the murder scene, confident they would fit perfectly and show he was the killer.

In a highly theatrical demonstration, Simpson struggled to put on the gloves and indicated to the jury they did not fit.

Delivering the trial's most famous words, Cochran referred to the gloves in closing arguments to jurors with a rhyme: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." Dershowitz later called the prosecution decision to ask Simpson to try on the gloves "the greatest legal blunder of the 20th century."

"What this verdict tells you is how fame and money can buy the best defense, can take a case of overwhelming incriminating physical evidence and transform it into a case riddled with reasonable doubt," Peter Arenella, a UCLA law professor, told the New York Times after the verdict.

"A predominantly African-American jury was more susceptible to claims of police incompetence and corruption and more willing to impose a higher burden of proof than normally required for proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Arenella said.

After his acquittal, Simpson said that "I will pursue as my primary goal in life the killer or killers who slayed Nicole and Mr. Goldman... They are out there somewhere... I would not, could not and did not kill anyone."

The Goldman and Brown families subsequently pursued a wrongful death lawsuit against Simpson in civil court. In 1997, a predominately white jury in Santa Monica, California, found Simpson liable for the two deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages.

"We finally have justice for Ron and Nicole," Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman's father, said after the verdict.

Simpson's "dream team" did not represent him in the civil trial in which the burden of proof was lower than in a criminal trial - a "preponderance of the evidence" rather than "beyond a reasonable doubt." New evidence also hurt Simpson, including photographs of him wearing the type of shoes that had left bloody footprints at the murder scene.

After the civil case, some of Simpson's belongings, including memorabilia from his football days, were taken and auctioned off to help pay the damages he owed.

On Oct. 3, 2008, exactly 13 years after his acquittal in the murder trial, he was convicted by a Las Vegas jury on charges including kidnapping and armed robbery. These stemmed from a 2007 incident at a casino hotel in which Simpson and five men, at least two carrying guns, stole sports memorabilia worth thousands of dollars from two dealers.

Simpson said he was just trying to recover his own property but was sentenced to up to 33 years in prison.

"I didn't want to hurt anybody," Simpson, donning a blue prison jumpsuit with shackles on his legs and wrists, said at his sentencing. "I didn't know I was doing anything wrong."

Simpson was released on parole in 2017 and moved into a gated community in Las Vegas. He was granted early release from parole in 2021 due to good behavior at age 74.

His life saga was recounted in the Oscar-winning 2016 documentary "O.J.: Made in America" as well as various TV dramatizations.

Orenthal James Simpson was born in San Francisco on July 9, 1947. He contracted rickets at age 2 and was forced to wear leg braces until he was 5 but recovered so thoroughly that he became one of the most celebrated football players of all time.

During nine seasons for the Buffalo Bills and two for the San Francisco 49ers, Simpson became one of the greatest ball carriers in NFL history. In 1973, he became the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. He retired in 1979.

Simpson also became an advertising pitchman, best known for years of TV commercials for Hertz rental cars. As an actor, he appeared in movies including "The Towering Inferno" (1974), "Capricorn One" (1977) and the "The Naked Gun" cop spoof films in 1988, 1991 and 1994, playing a witless police detective.

Simpson married his first wife, Marguerite, in 1967 and they had three children, including one who drowned in the family's swimming pool at age 2 in 1979, the year the couple divorced.

Simpson met future wife Nicole Brown when she was a 17-year-old waitress and he was still married to Marguerite. Simpson and Brown married in 1985 and had two children. She later called police after incidents in which he struck her. Simpson pleaded no contest to spousal abuse charges in 1989.



Asharq Al-Awsat Secures 3 Awards in Arab Media, Samir Atallah Named Personality of the Year

The winners of the Arab Media Awards
The winners of the Arab Media Awards
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Asharq Al-Awsat Secures 3 Awards in Arab Media, Samir Atallah Named Personality of the Year

The winners of the Arab Media Awards
The winners of the Arab Media Awards

At the 2024 Arab Media Award ceremony in Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper scooped up three top honors.

Samir Atallah, a writer for the paper, was named “Media Personality of the Year.”

Asharq Al-Awsat’s Ali AlSarai won in the Arab Journalism category with his piece on Iraq post-Al-Aqsa Flood, while Ossama Al-Saeed received recognition for his economic journalism on electronic gaming.

Additionally, the best documentary was won by “In front of the scenes... salt on a wound” on Al Sharq TV.

This brings the total awards for Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) platforms to four for this year’s edition of the awards.

Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, presented the award for the Media Personality of the Year to Atallah in recognition of his contributions to Lebanese media.

Atallah, who started his career at An Nahar newspaper, has been writing his daily column for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987. Atallah has accrued nearly four decades of experience across Paris, London, and North America, and has authored various books.

Sheikh Mansoor also honored Tunisian writer Abdul Latif Al Zubaidi from the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej with the Best Columnist award. This award was given in recognition of his intellectual contributions, which have enriched the Arab press with numerous articles and ideas.

The investigative reporting award was won by Sahar Al-Maliji from Al Masri Alyoum newspaper.

The category of children’s media was won by Al-Arabi Al-Sagher Magazine.

The award ceremony took place at Arab Media Forum in Dubai.

Under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the 22nd edition of the Arab Media Forum kicked off on Tuesday in Dubai.

About 4000 media professionals are attending the two-day forum, including Arab politicians, media leaders, local and Arab newspaper editors, influential writers, and media personalities.