In one of the biggest scandals of the '90s, O.J. Simpson went from hero, to zero, somehow back up to hero, all while being on trial for a double murder.
Now, the scandal wasn’t really the murder (even though that’s a big deal), but moreso the fact that Simpson walked away a free man, despite damning evidence against him.
Simpson started out as a football player, setting NCAA and NFL records with ease, and doing his best to inspire black youth across the country.
"I'm going to take the challenge of helping black kids in every way I can," he said. "I believe I can do as much for my own people in my own way as a Tommie Smith, a Jim Brown, or a Jackie Robinson may choose to do in another way. That's part of the image I want, too."
The image he ended up with, however, was historical for a different reason.
Marriage to Nicole Brown
In 1985, Simpson married Nicole Simpson, a small-town waitress. The couple seemed like the ideal match: a football superstar with the young, blonde bombshell. Together, they had two kids, Justin and Sydney. However, their marriage was far from perfect.
In 1989, O.J. Simpson plead no contest to spousal battery after he and his wife got in an argument at a New Year's Eve party. Nicole claimed O.J. threatened to kill her.
"We had a fight," O.J. Simpson said. "We were both guilty. No one was hurt. It was no big deal, and we got on with our life."
Three years later, Nicole Brown Simpson filed for divorce. Two years after that, she was found dead.
The Murders and The Chase
On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, were found stabbed to death outside her home. All evidence pointed to O.J. Simpson as the killer, and a warrant for his arrest was issued. Simpson tried to flee, which led to one of the most iconic car chases of all time.
Simpson was in the back of a white Ford Bronco while ex-NFL player, Al Cowlings, drove. The pursuit was broadcast on live television, and is credited with being the "birth of reality television."
Simpson was found in possession of a gun, his passport, a disguise, and $9,000. However, he remained adamant that he was "absolutely, positively, 100 percent not guilty". That lie was just the beginning of what would be "The Trial Of The Century".
Simpson plead not guilty to both murders, and he was held without bail. A jury was compiled, which was difficult considering the amount of media coverage surrounding the case. The prosecution, lead by Marcia Clark, chose not to seek the death penalty for the murders, but rather a life sentence.
The trial of O.J. Simpson was unlike anything the world had ever seen.
Cameras were allowed in the courtroom, and the public had full access through television broadcasting. People were glued to their TVs at all times.
The prosecution consisted of Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark and Deputy District Attorney Christopher A. Darden.
Simpson hired a full team of high-profile lawyers, including F. Lee Bailey, Robert Kardashian, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, Johnnie Cochran, Gerald Uelmen (then the dean of law at Santa Clara University), Carl E. Douglas and Shawn Holley.
Simpson's trial began on January 24, 1995, and was must-see reality television. Judge Ito was criticized for not doing enough the regulate the media allowed in the courtroom, and essentially turning it into a wild circus.
"When [it] began, all of the networks were getting these hate-mail letters because people’s soap operas were being interrupted for the Simpson trial," Marcia Clark later revealed "But then what happened was the people who liked soap operas got addicted to the Simpson trial. And they got really upset when the Simpson trial was over, and people would come up to me on the street and say, ‘God, I loved your show.’
During the trial, TIME magazine published a cover story titled "An American Tragedy", with a photo of O.J. Simpson on the cover. The publication faced extreme backlash when it was pointed out that editors had manipulated the photo of Simpson, making his skin appear darker as a way to make him seem more menacing. They were accused of racist editorializing, and later publicly apologized.
Things only got crazier as the trial got underway...