The Chase of the Century: On the Run with O.J. Simpson

When O.J. Simpson was acquitted of double murder in 1995, it seemed there was nothing he couldn’t evade. Then life caught up with him

Late on the evening of June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson, the ex-wife of football star O.J. Simpson, was slaughtered on the brick walkway of her condominium on Bundy Drive, along with her friend Ronald Goldman. A waiter, he was returning a pair of eyeglasses Nicole’s mother had left behind at the restaurant where he worked. Goldman was stabbed more than 20 times; Brown Simpson suffered a severe blow to the head, multiple knife wounds, and a fatal slash so deep across her neck, it nearly severed her head.

That double homicide demoted the 1947 Black Dahlia murder to L.A.’s second-most-famous unsolved crime. Unlike in the Elizabeth Short case, the most indelible image to emerge was not of the victims but of the prime suspect: O.J. Simpson. His “trial of the century” lasted from December 1994 until his acquittal the following October, spawning an entire industry that has fed off the flip sides of outrage: those who cheered the not-guilty verdict as one person of color’s triumph over an LAPD conspiracy of extraordinary proportions, and those who condemned it as a rich celebrity getting away with murder.

Friends, family members, journalists, hacks, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and witnesses have produced more than 70 books on the case. Of the four jurors who contributed to the canon, exactly zero has professed to second thoughts. Juror Anise Aschenbach did tell CNN, “I think he probably did it, and that’s the pits.” But she’d already gone on record as one of only two on the panel (and was one of only two white jurors) who’d considered O.J. guilty before becoming convinced that the evidence was lacking to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

By then evasion had long been a specialty of O.J.’s. Hobbled by rickets as a child, he rushed past blockers to earn a Heisman Trophy, a berth in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and a movie career that had nothing to do with his acting ability. In his criminal trial he slipped past prosecutors’ grasp despite evidence like bloody shoe prints that matched his and the suicide threats he made during his slow-speed car chase. Ordered to pay $33.5 million in a civil trial over Goldman’s wrongful death, the Juice went right on playing golf and claiming penury. The Goldmans won the rights (and proceeds) to If I Did It, O.J.’s “fictional” account of the murders, but then rumors began to float that O.J. was trying to sell the actual knife from the murders.

What finally tripped him up, of course, was his attempt with a gun to reclaim some memorabilia in a Las Vegas hotel room. Imprisoned in 2008, Simpson reappeared last May seeking to overturn his kidnapping and armed robbery verdict. His effort at another end run was no surprise. His appearance—shackled, gray, bloated—however, was. Because it turns out that despite all that dodging, there was one area where he had been fixed in place for 19 years: our consciousness.

From the Courtroom to the Popular Culture:

GloveThe Bloody Gloves
Cashmere lined, size extra large, the pair turned a courtroom line into a public meme: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”

WhiteBroncoThe White Bronco
As O.J. reportedly held a gun to his own head, Al Cowlings drove the Ford into infamy. A joke on late-night TV, the model was discontinued in two years’ time.

BrunoMaglisThe Bruno Maglis
Their prints were all over the crime scene. Though he wore the size 12 shoes at a Buffalo Bills game, O.J. called them “ugly ass.” Sales jumped after the trial coverage.

RobertKardashianThe Kardashians
O.J. was a friend of the now-deceased lawyer Robert Kardashian. Did he father Khloe, one of Kardashian’s famous girls, too? That’s the rumor, but her family denies it.