Murder saga that holds America in thrall

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The Independent Online
The OJ Simpson case and the run-up to the trial has held all of America in thrall since last June. It began on 13 June, when the bodies of Simpson's ex-wife Nicole, 35, and her friend Ronald Goldman, a 25-year-old waiter, are found shortly aftermidnight outside her townhouse in Brentwood, Los Angeles. They had been stabbed to death. OJ Simpson flies back from Chicago, where he had flown from LA at 11.45pm the night before. JUNE 14: Police sources say that blood-stains found in Simpson's car and driveway link him to the slayings. They also have a pair of blood-stained gloves.

17: After breaking an agreement to surrender to Los Angeles police, Simpson takes off in a white Bronco. Some 95million American television viewers watch a 60-mile low-speed chase around southern California's freeways, in which he is cheered on by thousands of onlookers. It ends with his arrest. He is charged with the murders.

22: Emergency telephone calls made by Nicole Simpson months earlier are released. A terrified Nicole is heard desperately asking for help while OJ rants and rages in the background.

JULY 1: During a preliminary hearing, Simpson's lawyers hand a judge a sealed envelope. It is believed to contain a knife purchased by Simpson five weeks before the murders.

21:Simpson's lawyers open a free-phone number and offer a $500,000 (£322,00) reward for evidence leading to the "killer or killers". It is disconnected a month later, after logging 250,000 mostly useless calls.

22: Simpson pleads "absolutely, 100 per cent not guilty".

SEPTEMBER 9: Prosecutors announce they will not seek the death penalty, but want life in prison without parole, if he is convicted.

15 Relatives of Nicole, Goldman and Simpson give television interviews. The victims' families increasingly claim that Simpson is guilty, before agreeing not to comment further - as long as the defence does the same.

26: Jury selection starts at Los Angeles Superior Court. It takes more than a month. The panel comprises eight blacks, and eight women. There are two whites.

OCTOBER : Paula Barbieri, Simpson's girlfriend, appears in Playboy.

17: A tell-all book by Faye Resnick, a friend of Nicole's, hits the bookstores. Judge Lance Ito briefly halts jury selection to examine the book. It is part of a multi-million dollar OJ industry.

DECEMBER 7: Nicole's family announces plans for a foundation for abused women.

22: Supporters of Simpson set up a $1.95-a-minute telephone line to take call from fans.

JANUARY 4: The defence drops plans to contest the admissibility of DNA evidence - which the prosecution say shows shows that drops of Simpson's blood were found at the murder scene. Judge orders jurors to be sequestered.

9: Plans for a book and audiotape by Simpson are announced.

11: Prosecutors argue that Judge Ito should allow the jury to hear evidence that Simpson repeatedly stalked, threatened and beat Nicole. They detail 62 alleged incidents over 17 years - although they later drop 18 of them.

17: Prosecution documents allege Simpson hit his first wife, Marquerite Thomas Simpson. She has denied it.

18: Judge Ito rules that domestic-violence evidence is admissible.