Famous Like Me > Actor > S > O.J. Simpson
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Profile of O.J. Simpson
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||9th July 1947
|Place of Birth:
||San Francisco, California, USA
Orenthal James Simpson (born July 9, 1947 in San Francisco, California), publicly known by the initials O.J., and nicknamed The Juice, was a Hall of Fame former college and professional football player and film actor. Simpson is perhaps now most famous for allegedly killing his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994. Despite widespread public belief that he is guilty, he was acquitted in criminal court in 1995 after a lengthy and highly publicized and controversial trial. He was found liable and responsible for their deaths in civil court in 1997.
While attending Galileo High School in San Francisco, O.J. played for the school's football team, the Galileo Lions.
After originally playing in Junior College at the City College of San Francisco, his talent landed him at the University of Southern California and won him the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, the nickname "The Juice", and the distinction of being the first player selected in the 1969 professional football draft after winning the Heisman Trophy.
Simpson was selected by the American Football League's Buffalo Bills, who made the first selection in the draft that year because they had finished with a record of one win, 12 losses and one tie in 1968 - the worst record in professional football. In 1973 Simpson ran for a then-record 2,003 yards, becoming the first player ever to eclipse the 2,000 yard mark, and was voted as the league's Most Valuable Player. Although the 2,003 yard season has been surpassed since then, no other player ever accomplished the feat in only fourteen games, as Simpson did.
Simpson's yards per game average was ten yards higher than that of the closest competitor. "The Juice" powered one of the league's top rushing offenses, and he ran behind the famed "Electric Company" offensive line. His 1973 performance earned him the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year. Over his career, Simpson ran for an NFL record 6 200-yard games, three of which occurred in 1973. He also had back-to-back 200 yard performances in both 1973 and 1976.
Simpson went on to earn All-Pro honors five times and amassed 11,236 rushing yards during his career. After being traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 1978, Simpson retired from the NFL the following year, and on January 23, 1985 became the first Heisman Trophy winner elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Bills' Wall of Fame.
Away from football but within sports, he won the 1975 American Superstars competition.
On June 24, 1967 Simpson married Marguerite L. Whitley. Together they had three children: Arnelle L. Simpson (born December 4, 1968), Jason L. Simpson (born April 21, 1970) and Aaren Lashone Simpson (born September 24, 1977). In 1979, Aaren drowned in the family's swimming pool a month before her second birthday. That same year O. J. and Marguerite were divorced.
On February 2, 1985 Simpson married Nicole Brown. They had two children, Sydney Brooke Simpson (born October 17, 1985) and Justin Ryan Simpson (born August 6, 1988), and were divorced in 1992.
O. J. the actor
After his retirement from football, Simpson went on to a successful film career with parts in films such as the television mini-series Roots, and the motion pictures The Cassandra Crossing, Capricorn One and The Naked Gun trilogy. Simpson was considered for the lead role in The Terminator, before it was decided audiences might not accept him as a villain.
Simpson's amiable persona and natural charisma landed him numerous endorsement deals. He was a spokesman for the Hertz rental-car company, spokesman for the pX Corporation, and he appeared in comic book ads for Dingo shoes.
Besides his acting career, Simpson had stints as a commentator for Monday Night Football and The NFL on NBC.
Death of his ex-wife and trial
On June 12, 1994 his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson (who divorced him in 1992 after an abusive relationship) and her friend Ronald Goldman were found dead outside Brown's Brentwood area condominium in Los Angeles, California with the Simpson children sleeping in an upstairs bedroom. Evidence found and reportedly collected at the scene suggested that Simpson might be the killer. Faced with murder charges, his lawyers convinced the Los Angeles Police Department to allow Simpson to turn himself in at 11 a.m. on June 17 even though the double murder charge meant no bail and a possible death penalty verdict if convicted.
The slow-speed chase
Over a thousand reporters waited for Simpson to arrive into police custody and then give an 11:45 AM statement to the media after booking. When he failed to show, confusion set in and at 2 p.m. an all-points-bulletin was issued by the police. Robert Kardashian, a Simpson friend, then read a rambling letter by Simpson to the collected media. In the letter Simpson said, "First everyone understand I had nothing to do with Nicole's murder.... Don't feel sorry for me. I've had a great life." To many this sounded like a suicide note and the reporters then actively joined the search for Simpson.
At 6:45 p.m., a sheriff's patrol car saw Simpson's 1993 white Ford Bronco going north on Interstate 405. When the officer approached the Bronco, the driver, who was Simpson's friend, Al Cowlings, yelled that Simpson had a gun to his head. The officer then backed off and a slow speed chase began.
For some time a KCBS news helicopter had exclusive coverage of the chase, but by the end of the chase they had been joined by about a dozen others as news agencies from around the country tried to charter every available helicopter in the city.
Radio station KNX also provided live coverage of the low-speed pursuit. As the events unfolded, the station contacted former USC coach John McKay to go on the air and encourage O.J. to end the pursuit. McKay agreed and went on the air, asking Simpson to pull over and turn himself in as opposed to commiting suicide.
Numerous spectators and on-lookers packed overpasses in front of the procession; some of them had signs encouraging O.J. to flee and many more were caught up in a festival-like atmosphere. Cowlings eventually drove the Bronco back to Simpson's Brentwood home, arriving at 8 p.m at 360 North Rockingham Avenue. Simpson, however, did not emerge from the vehicle for another 45 minutes — increasing fears of a suicide or a shoot-out with police. When he did surrender, police confiscated $8,000 in cash, family pictures, a fake goatee and mustache, a passport and a loaded Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum from Simpson.
It was later estimated that close to 95 million people in the U.S. alone watched at least part of the chase live that night. Live TV coverage of police chases had been commonplace in southern California, but the ratings success of the Simpson chase made them a national sensation. Many stations have since attempted to reproduce this success by showing live coverage of more mundane events, such as the shipment of Palm Beach County's election ballots to Tallahassee after the 2000 US presidential election.
After Simpson was arrested, multiple publications carried his image. Notably, TIME magazine published an edition featuring an altered mugshot, darkening his skin and reducing the size of the prisoner ID number. This appeared on newsstands right next to an unaltered picture by Newsweek. Outcry from minority rights groups followed. The image was altered by TIME illustrator Matt Mahurin, who later stated that he "wanted to make it more artful, more compelling."
Simpson, looking emotionally broken and lost at his first court arraignment on June 20, pleaded "not guilty" to the murders. A hastily assembled grand jury was formed to see whether to indict him for the two murders. But two days later on June 22, the grand jury was dismissed as a result of the excessive media coverage which might influence the grand jury’s ability. After a week-long court hearing, a California court superior judge ruled that there was ample evidence to try Simpson for the murders. At his second court appearance, on July 22, a confident looking Simpson pled in a confident and defiant tone: "absolutely, 100% not guilty."
What followed in 1995 was 133 days of televised testimony in a racially-charged criminal trial. Many figures in the trial became unwitting celebrities due to this exposure including judge Lance Ito, who was parodied by many comedians including Tonight Show host Jay Leno (Leno featured a troupe of Asian men in black robes called the "Dancing Itos").
The trial began on January 29, 1995, where the prosecutorial team led by Marcia Clark argued that Simpson killed his ex-wife in a jealous rage. The prosecution opened its case by playing a 9-1-1 call Nicole Brown Simpson had made in 1989 in which she expressed fear that Simpson would physically harm her. The prosecution also presented dozens of expert witnesses on subjects ranging from DNA fingerprinting to shoe print analysis that they contended placed Simpson at the scene of the crime.
Simpson hired a team of expensive ($4 million), high-profile lawyers, including F. Lee Bailey, Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran, who argued that Simpson was the victim of police fraud and sloppy internal procedures that contaminated the DNA evidence. Simpson's defense team (dubbed the "Dream Team" by reporters) had argued that LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman (whom they painted as a racist) had planted evidence at the crime scene. In all, 150 witnesses gave testimony during the eight-month-long trial.
In March, Fuhrman denied on the stand that he was a racist or had ever used the word "nigger" to describe black people. But months later, the defense found audio tapes of Fuhrman using the word. These notorious Fuhrman tapes became one of the cornerstones of the defense's case that Fuhrman's testimony lacked credibility, and may have led to Simpson's acquittal. Fuhrman was recalled to the stand in September, but pleaded the 5th. It should be pointed out, however, that Fuhrman had a very fine record with the police department and was highly regarded by his fellow officers. He was even commended for his dedication to duty and professionalism by a number of his black colleagues. Fuhrman later wrote a book about the case called Murder In Brentwood.
At one point during the trial on June 15, 1995, assistant prosecutor Christopher Darden asked Simpson to put on a leather glove that was found at the scene of the crime. The glove was too tight for Simpson to put on over his latex-gloved hand, which inspired Cochran to quip in his closing arguments, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." . (Here, "it" refers not only to the leather glove, but the prosecution's argument as a whole.) The prosecutors tried to perform damage control by explaining that the blood-soaked glove shrank when it dried. Also prosecutors contended that O.J.'s blood found at the crime scene was the result of blood dripping from cuts on the middle finger of Simpson's left hand that police saw on June 13 and that they asserted were suffered during the fatal attack on Ronald Goldman. However none of the gloves found had any cuts. While there was blood on the glove at the crime scene, there was none on the glove found on Simpson's property.
The prosecutorial team was confident that they presented a solid case and fully expected a conviction. In polls, a large percentage of African Americans across the nation were largely unconvinced or felt that Simpson had not committed the crime, and that to convict would be to give a green light to police misconduct. Most white Americans, in the same polls, thought the case against Simpson was solid. Racial tensions grew through the trial and officials feared a repeat of the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles if Simpson received a guilty verdict.
At 10 a.m. on October 3, 1995 after three hours of deliberation and in front of an estimated 150 million American television viewers, a verdict of "not guilty" was announced. The verdict appeared to shock the prosecutorial team and likewise shocked many in white America (though even one of Simpson's lawyers feared at first that the quick verdict might mean conviction). At the same time, many African Americans around the country reacted in what has been described as a cathartic celebration that showed a very real racial divide with the case. Several television commentators concluded that the verdict demonstrated the effects money can have on the judicial system. In post-trial interviews with the jurors, a few said that they believe Simpson probably committed the murder, but that the prosecution bungled the case.
Famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi (who had handled the Manson trial) seemed to share this opinion, writing a book called Outrage: The Five Reasons O. J. Simpson Got Away With Murder. Bugliosi was very critical of Clark and Darden and pointed out many glaring mistakes that they had made during the trial. He faulted them, for example, for not introducing the note that Simpson had written before trying to flee. Bugliosi said that the note "reeked" of guilt and that the jury should have been allowed to see it. He also pointed out that there was a change of clothing, a large amount of cash, a passport and a disguise kit found in the Bronco that the jury was never informed of. Simpson had made a very incriminating statement to police about cutting his finger the night of the murders. Bugliosi once again took Clark and Darden to task for not allowing the jury to see the tape of this statement. Bugliosi also said the prosecutors should have gone into more detail about Simpson's abuse of his wife. He said it should have been pointed out to the mostly African-American jury that Simpson had little impact in the black community and had done nothing to help those blacks less fortunate than he.
Many legal experts think that the jury selection phase of the trial was crucial to the outcome. Polls and surveys at the time indicated that the public's opinion of whether Simpson was the murderer was split along racial lines. But rather than try the crime in mostly white Santa Monica, California, the prosecution decided to have the trial in Los Angeles; Bugliosi also criticized this decision in his book. During the jury selection process, the defense made it very difficult for the prosecution to challenge potential black jurors on the grounds that it is illegal to dismiss someone from the jury for racially motivated reasons. According to media reports, prosecutor Marcia Clark thought that women, regardless of race, would sympathize with the domestic violence aspect of the case and connect with her personally. On the other hand, the defense's research suggested that women generally were more likely to acquit, that jurors did not respond well to Clark's style, and that black women would not be as sympathetic to the victim: a white woman. As a result, both sides accepted a disproportionate number of female jurors. From an original jury pool of 40% white, 28% black, 17% Hispanic, and 15% Asian, the final jury for the trial had 10 women and 2 men, of which there were 8 blacks, 2 Hispanics, 1 half-Native American, half-white, and 1 white female.
Polls after the trial show that the racial divide may have been overemphasized. The typical respondent who agreed with the "not guilty" verdict was white, since the lower percentage of whites who agreed with the verdict still outnumbered the total black population. One state witness, Mark Fuhrman, plead no contest to one count of perjury after the trial. No other state witnesses were charged with perjury, even though at least three or four others had their testimony contradicted by video tape or other evidence.
In the February 1998 issue of Esquire Magazine Simpson was quoted as saying, "Let's say I committed this crime.... Even if I did this, it would have to have been because I loved her very much, right?" O.J. said that he would look for the real murderer, who he believed was a hitman. When the news media filmed Simpson playing golf, comedians joked about his lack of effort to find the murderer.
Alternative murder theories
O.J. has suggested a hitman killed Ron and Nicole. Those who agree with this theory say it is supported by the following details:
- The murder of Ron and Nicole was among a string of murders of people associated with O.J., Ron, and Nicole. Casimir Sucharski, a friend of O.J., was murdered two weeks after Ron and Nicole. On March 19, 1995 O.J.'s friend, record company promoter Charles Minor, was murdered. On July 30, 1993, eleven months before the famous double murder, Ron Goldman's friend Brett Cantor was killed with a knife in a manner identical to Ron and Nicole: from behind and across the throat and stabbed repeatedly on the arms and chest. Michael Nigg, a waiter at the Mezzaluna (Ron Goldman was also a waiter there) was shot in the head and killed. Another Mezzaluna waiter barely survived a car bombing.
- Many working at Mezzaluna were involved with the Mob and/or the drug trade.
- Photos of Nicole with known criminals of the drug trade in a hot tub and on a bed were shown on the news. O.J. said he was upset when he saw his children associated with the drug scene that Nicole had apparently become involved with.
- Barry Hoestler, a private investigator hired for the Simpson case by Robert Shapiro, said Nicole talked about the idea of opening a restaurant with Ron Goldman as her partner, and financing it with cocaine profits. Hoestler said Nicole and her friends were "over their heads with some dope dealers".
- Ron and Nicole were killed by a knife slicing across the throat and multiple stabbings. Their vocal chords were severed to prevent them from screaming. This is a common hitman technique employed to prevent the victim from alerting others. An enraged ex-husband is unlikely to know how to do this, but a hitman would know it.
- Nicole's best friend was Faye Resnick, a cocaine addict. Someone broke into Resnick's apartment to take documents and photographs. Later, Resnick skipped town. O.J.'s defense team said Nicole and Ron may have been killed by drug dealers to scare Resnick into paying her drug debt. Prosecutors said there was no evidence to back this theory.
- Blood collected near the bodies was so dried up that the DNA was destroyed. A DNA match to O.J. was impossible. On July 3, a small quantity of fresh blood was found on Nicole's back gate with no photo records of its existence on June 13 or June 14. This blood's DNA matched O.J. Simpson's DNA. According to the theory, the fresh blood should have dried too, so it must have been taken from O.J.'s blood (the blood he gave to the police) and was planted there later.
- There was an unexplained DNA mix on the steering wheel column of the car. The DNA was neither O.J.'s, nor Nicole's, nor Goldman's.
- The "car testimonies" of Park and Kato, which suggest unexplained movement of vehicle/s, were supressed from the trial.
- Al Cowlings once served as a bodyguard for convicted drug smuggler Joey Ippolito.
- Joey Ippolito escaped from a Florida jail three weeks before the murders and made many calls to O.J. According to the theory, Ippolito probably hired a hitman to commit the drug related murders. Frankie Viserto is one hitman known to be close to Ippolito. In the past, Viserto has tortured and beheaded his victims with a knife.
- Nicole's sister Denise Brown was often seen and photographed with ex-Mob enforcer and FBI informant Tony Fiato, a recruit of Ippolito. Denise denied that Fiato was her boyfriend.
- Police detectives broke state law and their own policy when they waited hours to summon the county coroner.
- In violation of policy, evidence remained in the processing room for three days before the first piece was booked in the secure ECU. The evidence was on a table top, and could be handled by anyone with access. 70 to 80 police personnel had access.
- Someone broke into Robert Shapiro's office, forced open a locked filing cabinet, and stole confidential papers related to the case.
- O.J. Simpson said that only once, in 1989, had he and Nicole got into a fight that injured her. Nicole used makeup in one of the photos showing her with facial bruises after the fight. He said Nicole's written statements of domestic abuse were a plan to get out of a prenuptial agreement.
On February 4, 1997 a civil jury in Santa Monica, California found Simpson liable for the wrongful death of Ronald Goldman, battery against Ronald Goldman, and battery against Nicole Brown. Attorney for plaintiff Fred Goldman (father of Ronald Goldman) was Daniel Petrocelli. Simpson was ordered to pay $33,500,000 in damages. However, California law protects pensions from being used to satisfy judgments, so Simpson was able to continue much of his lifestyle based on his NFL pension. Since these trials, Simpson has been largely regarded as a pariah by many in the entertainment industry and elsewhere, and he has been unable to continue his acting or any other career as a result. In 2000, O.J. won custody of his children in high profile cases against the Brown family. He moved from California with his children to Miami, Florida. In Florida a person's residence cannot be seized to collect a debt under most circumstances.
After the trials
Even after his two trials Simpson was never far from the news. He seemed to have a knack for appearing in news stories that often had nothing directly to do with him. He was accused of illegally accessing signals from DirecTV. In 1998 at the end of an interview conducted by Ruby Wax for BBC1, Simpson mimed stabbing her with a banana while mimicking the theme music from Psycho. Prior to the 2004 Orange Bowl football game featuring Simpson's USC Trojans, the former football star showed up unannounced at a USC practice. Much to the shock of many, the Southern California coach Pete Carroll allowed Simpson to come onto the field and mingle with the players and pose for pictures. Carroll responded to the criticism by proclaiming "we respect our Heisman Trophy winners." Simpson had planned a long series of news appearences to mark the tenth anniversary, in June 2004, of the killings, but ended up being shoved aside when another news story took over the airwaves -- the death and funeral of former President Reagan.
Other related litigation
The civil and criminal trials of O.J. Simpson were not the only important legal cases that were spawned by the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman on June 12, 1994.
- Gerald Chamales and his wife, Kathleen, bought a house next to O.J.'s just ten days before the murders of which he was accused. The media circus and hordes of curious tourists tormented them (and the rest of O.J.'s neighbors) for the next four years. Their subsequent legal battle with the IRS culminated in the rule that they could not apply the drop in their house's value as a casualty loss deduction on their income tax return, because it was only temporary.
- O.J.'s houseguest on the night of the murders, Brian "Kato" Kaelin, sued Globe Communications for $15 million after it ran a headline in one of its tabloid newspapers insinuating that Kaelin was the real murderer. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendant, but on appeal, Kaelin convinced the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that he had a valid claim for defamation. Kaelin settled his lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.
- A New Hampshire intellectual property attorney, William B. Ritchie, challenged the validity of O.J.'s trademarks under a federal statute that bars immoral, deceptive, or scandalous subject matter. Ritchie argued that because of the whole sequence of events from 1994 through 1997, O.J.'s very name had become immoral and scandalous and thus could not be protected as a trademark. Ritchie convinced the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that he had standing to challenge O.J.'s trademarks under the Lanham Act. O.J. has since abandoned his trademarks.
- The Klansman (1974)
- The Towering Inferno (1974)
- The Cassandra Crossing (1976)
- Capricorn One (1978)
- The Naked Gun - From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
- The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991)
- The Naked Gun 33⅓:The Final Insult (1994)
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