The Bloody Start of the O.J. Simpson Murder Case
Shortly after midnight on June 13th, 1994, the murdered bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were found outside of Simpson’s home in Los Angeles. Police immediately suspected O.J. Simpson, who had divorced his wife two years earlier, of the crime. And thus began one of the most captivating—and bizarre—criminal cases ever seen in this country.
O.J. Simpson, or “the Juice,” was an enormously successful ex-athlete who appeared frequently in movies and on TV commercials. Based on that popularity, Simpson’s lawyers were able to convince L.A. prosecutors that their client should voluntarily turn himself him, despite the fact that murder suspects are typically never offered bail.
While more than 1,000 reporters awaited Simpson’s arrival at police headquarters, Simpson and his friend Al Cowlings drove aimlessly in a white Ford Bronco on L.A. highways, while 20 helicopters hovered overhead. A nation watched transfixed, wondering how this long car ride would end, while it pondered the meaning of a note read by Robert Kardashian, patriarch of the now famous family and Simpson friend.
“First everyone understand I had nothing to do with Nicole’s murder,” the note read. “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve had a great life.” Many assumed the note foretold a pending Simpson suicide.
Every TV network carried the flight of the Ford Bronco. Coverage of Game 5 of the NBA Finals on NBC was relegated to a small box on the upper corner of the screen, leaving room for Simpson coverage.
Police desperately sought to avoid a violent confrontation with the Bronco’s passengers; on his mobile phone, Cowlings told a reporter that Simpson was holding a gun to his own head. The Bronco continued its unplanned route, while millions watched. Domino’s Pizza later reported record delivery sales, as no one wanted to miss this historic event. Hours later, Simpson arrived at his home, where police allowed him to see his mother. Simpson then surrendered to the authorities, who found $8,000 in cash, a change of clothing, a loaded . 357 Magnum, a passport, family pictures, and a fake goatee and mustache.
As one media circus ended, a new one was just beginning. The Simpson Trial, as it became known, turned into the most watched event on television, making media stars out of judges, attorneys and Simpson acquaintances. He was eventually acquitted of criminal charges, but a majority of the American public believed—and still believes—that he was guilty.
Simpson’s innocence was the subject of intense debate in nearly every quarter; many assumed his guilt, seeing the football star as an entitled celebrity who considered himself above the law. Others felt that if he was guilty, he was provoked by an ex-wife who publicly flaunted her affairs with other men. Still more saw the case as a symbol of the penal system’s concentrated effort to punish an African-American icon who had the temerity to marry a white woman.
Simpson’s legal problems have continued to this day. But for those old enough to remember, they’ll never forget the white Ford Bronco that was the star of a very long day.