3 October 1995: The day the “Trial of the Century” came to a close.
More than half the population of the United States - around 150 million people - were glued to their TV screens as Orenthal James Simpson, better known as O.J., cried tears of joy in a Los Angeles courtroom.
On 3 October 1995, the football player was found ‘not guilty’ in the brutal stabbing murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, outside her LA home.
The trial had been ongoing for nine gruelling months, with some 150 witnesses called to the stand and a jury that had been sequestered for longer than any other jury in the history of the state of California.
It was dubbed the “trial of the century” by US media, which saw in the case a winning formula for ratings: A beloved football hall of famer accused of murdering his glamorous ex-wife with a Hollywood backdrop and a theatrical (albeit slow) car chase that was broadcast around the world.
But the O.J. Simpson murder trial also spoke to the deep divisions and wounds festering among Americans, touching upon issues like the treatment of African-Americans by police, domestic violence and the influence of wealth in society.
It took place in a city still scarred by the Rodney King riots three years prior – which broke out in response to a ‘not guilty’ verdict for four LA police officers, who were filmed savagely beating an African-American man.
The verdict in the O.J. case split the country along racial lines. A CBS poll at the time showed 76 percent of white Americans believed he got away with murder, while 78 percent of black Americans felt he was innocent.
That racial divide has narrowed over the years – 41 percent of black Americans now think O.J. was guilty of murdering his ex-wife. More than a decade after his acquittal, Simpson ended up serving nine years in prison for a different crime, after a jury found him guilty of armed robbery in 2008.
The O.J. Simpson murder case continues to enthral audiences around the world, decades after the verdict was handed down by the court.
In 2016, a 10-part dramatised mini-series about the trial starring Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr., “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson,” won an Emmy award for best limited series. That same year, a documentary produced by ESPN, “O.J.: Made in America” won an Oscar.
Although Simpson was released from prison in 2017, he continues to face legal troubles.
Following the criminal case for murder, Simpson was sued by the victims' families for wrongful death. A civil court found him liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman and awarded their families $33.5 million in damages.
Since then, Goldman's family has been in a decades-long battle to get Simpson to pay that money, which has grown to about $40 million (€38 million) with interest.