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O.J. Simpson, football legend acquitted in sensational murder trial, dies at 76

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-12 10:24

A picture of O.J. Simpson is seen on a Fox News television reporting his death at the News Corp building in New York City, April 11, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

O.J. Simpson, a pro football Hall of Famer and movie actor whose trial for his ex-wife's murder attracted worldwide attention in 1995, has died of cancer, according to his family. He was 76.

Simpson, who was battling prostate cancer, died Wednesday at his home in Las Vegas and was surrounded by his children and grandchildren, according to a social media post by the Simpson family.

Simpson, from a poor family in San Francisco, starred as a running back at the University of Southern California, where he won the 1968 Heisman Trophy for the nation's best college football player. He went on to become a record-breaking National Football League (NFL) star, mostly with the Buffalo Bills, winning numerous awards.

Simpson also was a TV sports commentator and a movie actor in more than 20 films, including the well-known movies series The Naked Gun. He also was a corporate favorite in television commercials.

Simpson's fortune took a dramatic downturn when he was charged with murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend Ronald Goldman, 25. They were stabbed to death outside Brown's residence in Los Angeles on June 12, 1994. Brown divorced Simpson in 1992, claiming she suffered domestic violence at his hands.

When Simpson was formally charged a few days after the murder because police found bloodstained gloves on his property, he led police on a slow-moving car chase. He was declared a fugitive, and many TV stations interrupted the coverage of the NBA Finals to broadcast the police pursuit live in Southern California.

Simpson's trial, called "the trial of the century", spanned 11 months from November 1994 to October 1995. It was televised nonstop. Many, from the judge, the prosecutors and witnesses to defense lawyers, became household names as millions watched the trial daily.

One of the most memorable moments in the courtroom happened when Simpson tried to put on the bloody black gloves found at the scene of the crime.

Prosecutors had thought the gloves were among the strongest evidence because DNA tests showed blood on them contained genetic markers for Simpson, Brown and Goldman.

But Simpson squirmed and struggled to fit his hands into them, which made them appear too small.

Simpson's defense attorney, Johnnie Cochran, proclaimed, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."

With a dream defense team and a jury of eight black people, two Hispanic people, one half-Caucasian and half-Native American person, and one Caucasian female, Simpson was acquitted.

The verdict divided the US largely along racial lines. Polls after the acquittal showed that 75 percent of white people believed he was guilty while 70 percent of black people believed he was innocent. The majority of the black people believed that Simpson's prosecution was a result of racism in the justice system.

The public view of Simpson had changed 20 years after the trial. The last related poll conducted in 2016 showed that while the racial division still existed, more people believed that he was guilty of the two murders. About 83 percent of white people and 57 percent of black people believed that Simpson committed the crimes.

Simpson later was sued by Goldman's family in a civil lawsuit and found him liable in 1997 for damages in the deaths. He was ordered to pay $33.5 million, but only a small portion was actually paid. Simpson publicly stated he would never work a day to pay the money to the families.

In 2000, Simpson moved from California to Florida, where personal assets such as homes and pensions can't be seized to cover liabilities incurred in other states.

In 2006, it was announced that Simpson was going to publish a ghostwritten book titled If I Did It giving a "hypothetical" account of murders he had always denied committing. A public outcry ended the project, but Simpson got an $880,000 advance for the book.

The book rights, including the story, Simpson's name and image, were awarded to Goldman's family. They added material attributing the crime to Simpson and had it published under the title If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. On Amazon, the book has more than 3,400 reviews.

In 2007, Simpson was charged with armed robbery in a Las Vegas hotel and was sentenced to 33 years in prison in 2008. He was granted parole after nine years in 2017.

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