Accused of double murder: Death at 76: The rise and deep fall of OJ Simpson

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Actor and football player OJ Simpson has died. The 76-year-old man made headlines for his “trial of the century” after he was accused of the double murder of his ex-wife and a waiter.

Orenthal James Simpson, known as OJ Simpson, celebrated his 70th birthday at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada. The former soccer star and actor was serving a sentence there for trying to get memorabilia from two collectors at gunpoint. In 2017, Simpson was paroled and considered a free man as of 2021. He always denied the infamous crime he was accused of, but never criminally convicted. He has now died of cancer at the age of 76.

“People don't often believe me, but I could be sitting next to a real murderer at any time and not know it,” Simpson recently told a reporter for The Atlantic. In his adopted home of Las Vegas, after recovering from a corona infection, he spends most of his time playing golf and reciprocating public displays of affection. “People want to buy me drinks, I have to take selfies with fans all the time. Women hug me.”

Much more than an American “cold case”

The story, which began with a double murder in 1994, the background of which has not yet been fully revealed, goes beyond the usual criminal case. The OJ Simpson trial took on an importance that went beyond the search for truth.

Compared to the recent highly publicized defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, which many considered the turning point of the MeToo movement, the courtroom had social conflicts that almost overshadowed the true intent of the trial. Exemplary effects, such as OJ Simpson's attempt to put on a leather glove that was obviously too small, crossed the chain of evidence and greatly influenced public opinion.

Simpson fled in a white Ford Bronco

No one brought this out better than Ezra Edelman. In 2016, a US filmmaker compiled the “trial of the century” and its aftermath into the Oscar-winning masterpiece OJ Simpson: Made in America, a nearly eight-hour documentary. The excellent TV series “The People v. OJ Simpson.” Anyone who wants to know how the United States became the struggling democracy it is today will find nothing that better illustrates the beginning of some unwanted development.

The main characters, statements and key scenes of the murder trial may have seemed all too familiar to American television audiences. In the end, everything that happened in the courtroom was broadcast live on television – the verdict was seen by 150 million viewers around the world. OJ Simpson's getaway in a white Ford Bronco on Interstate Highway 405 was already a TV show, with helicopter cameras beaming right into the living room. This was the hour when the full devastating power of the mass media was unleashed.

“I'm not black, I'm OJ”

At the center of the tornado: OJ Simpson, the talented football player who rose from professional sports to entertainment star and who believed himself to be beyond all racial boundaries: “I'm not black, I'm OJ,” is probably the most famous quote from the much-loved charmer-turned-golfer was part of the high society of Brentwood, a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles.

He ignored the conflict-ridden reality. Racism that was practically openly endorsed by the LAPD's Chief of Police. The arbitrariness and excessive use of force that became visible in the case of Rodney King, a black taxi driver. In March 1991, police officers beat him to hospital after speeding. Although an amateur film maker documented the excess, the officers were later acquitted.

In order to understand why the black sports star OJ Simpson was also acquitted four years later, despite overwhelming evidence, of the murder of his white ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her companion, the waiter Ronald Goldman, it is important to look at the verdict of the mostly black people Jury can be seen in a modern historical context.

A vindication that divided America

The case of OJ Simpson clearly shows how society has moved towards the post-truth era we live in today. Even then it became clear that in the media world the truth may not be revealed, but often the stories that one wants to believe. If the expression “fake news” had already been common at that time, it would certainly have been used often.

When OJ Simpson was acquitted on October 3, 1995, the verdict divided America, a country that hardly lives up to its claim to be united. The fact that Simpson himself seemed torn as a personality fits perfectly with the picture of a deeply divided America.

OJ Simpson published a scandalous book

In 1997, a previously acquitted man was found guilty of double murder in a civil trial. However, only a tiny fraction of the $33.5 million in damages awarded to surviving dependents was paid. In any case, this judgment was not criminally binding.

In 2006, the yawning trauma struck a grotesque chord. Simpson announced on the Fox television network that he is publishing a book describing what would have happened if he were the perpetrator – purely hypothetical! “If I Did It” was the name of the scandalous work, which the families of the victims had to interpret as pure provocation. Publication was initially prohibited, but then, following an order by a bankruptcy judge, the text was released for the financial benefit of surviving dependents.

OJ Simpson has rarely made such scandalous headlines since serving his sentence for armed robbery. Not exactly peace, but peace has returned to the ruins of this spectacularly failed stellar existence.

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This article “Death at 76: The Rise and Fall of OJ Simpson” was originally from Teleschau.

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