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OJ Simpson dies at 76 after decades lived in the shadow of ex-wife's murder

FILE - In this May 14, 2013, file photo, O.J. Simpson
FILE - In this May 14, 2013, file photo, O.J. Simpson Copyright AP Photo/Ethan Miller, Pool, File
Copyright AP Photo/Ethan Miller, Pool, File
By Euronews with AP
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After being acquitted in the criminal trial of the century, former football star was found liable for murder in a civil suit.

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O.J. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, has died at 76.

A message posted Thursday on Simpson's official X account said he died after battling cancer.

Simpson earned fame, fortune and adulation through football and show business, but his legacy was forever changed by the June 1994 knife slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles.

Live TV coverage of his arrest after an infamous slow-speed chase and the subsequent criminal trial marked a stunning fall from grace for the sports hero.

His case sparked debates on race, gender, domestic abuse, celebrity justice and police misconduct.

He was ultimately foud not guilty of murder in the criminal trial, but a subsequent civil trial saw him held liable for the deaths. The court ordered him to pay $33.5 million to family members of Brown and Goldman.

A decade later, still haunted by the wrongful death judgment, Simpson led five men he barely knew into a confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers in a cramped Las Vegas hotel room. Two of them were armed with guns, and a jury convicted Simpson of armed robbery and other felonies.

Imprisoned at age 61, he served nine years in a remote northern Nevada prison.

He was not contrite when he was released on parole in October 2017. The parole board heard him insist yet again that he had only been trying to retrieve sports memorabilia and family heirlooms stolen from him after his criminal trial in Los Angeles.

“I don’t think most of America believes I did it,” Simpson told The New York Times in 1995, a week after a jury determined he did not kill Brown and Goldman. “I’ve gotten thousands of letters and telegrams from people supporting me.”

"Blood money"

Twelve years later, following an outpouring of public outrage, Rupert Murdoch cancelled a planned book by the News Corp-owned HarperCollins in which Simpson offered his hypothetical account of the killings. It was to be titled, “If I Did It.”

Goldman’s family, still doggedly pursuing the multimillion-dollar wrongful death judgment, won control of the manuscript. They retitled the book “If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.”

“It’s all blood money, and unfortunately I had to join the jackals,” Simpson told The Associated Press at the time. He collected $880,000 in advance money for the book, paid through a third party.

“It helped me get out of debt and secure my homestead,” he said.

Less than two months after losing the rights to the book, Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas.

Simpson played 11 NFL seasons, nine of them with the Buffalo Bills, where he became known as “The Juice” on an offensive line known as “The Electric Company.” He won four NFL rushing titles, rushed for 11,236 yards in his career, scored 76 touchdowns and played in five Pro Bowls. His best season was 1973, when he ran for 2,003 yards — the first running back to break the 2,000-yard rushing mark.

“I was part of the history of the game,” he said years later, recalling that season. “If I did nothing else in my life, I’d made my mark.”

Family troubles

Orenthal James Simpson was born July 9, 1947, in San Francisco, where he grew up in government-subsidised housing projects.

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After graduating from high school, he enrolled at City College of San Francisco for a year and a half before transferring to the University of Southern California for the spring 1967 semester.

He married his first wife, Marguerite Whitley, on June 24, 1967, moving her to Los Angeles the next day so he could begin preparing for his first football season playing for the University of Southern California.

Simpson had two sons, Jason and Aaren, with his first wife; one of those boys, Aaren, drowned as a toddler in a swimming pool accident in 1979, the same year he and Whitley divorced.

Simpson and Brown were married in 1985. They had two children, Justin and Sydney, and divorced in 1992. Two years later, Nicole Brown Simpson was found murdered.

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