OJ Simpson dead: Infamous murder suspect and American Football star dies aged 76

Simpson died on Wednesday after a battle with prostate cancer

Ariana Baio
Thursday 11 April 2024 19:00 BST
Watch OJ Simpson police chase as infamous video resurfaces following his death aged 76
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OJ Simpson, the football star who shot to international notoriety after he was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend, has died aged 76.

Simpson, who was battling prostate cancer, died on Wednesday surrounded by his children and grandchildren, according to a family statement released on social media.

Often regarded as one of the greatest running backs of all time, Simpson’s football and acting career became overshadowed by the media circus of his 1995 “trial of the century” for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.

His acquittal, by a mostly Black jury, became a seminal moment in US cultural history. It came just three years after the Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted for beating Rodney King, sparking the 1992 LA race riots.

After news of his death broke on Thursday, an attorney for Goldman’s family said Simpson “died without penance.”

Although he was acquitted of the criminal charges, a civil court in 1996 found him guilty of their murders and ordered him to pay over $30 million to the victim’s families. He only paid some of the debt before his death.

A father of five children (one of whom died as a toddler), Simpson had spent his later years leaning into his notoriety — including his 2016 book "If I Did It", the rights of which ended up going to Goldman’s family, and regularly commenting on other high-profile murder and legal cases.

His family asked for “privacy and grace” in their time of mourning

O.J. Simpson listens to audio recording played during an evidentiary hearing for O.J. Simpson in Clark County District Court in Clark County District Court May 16, 2013 (Getty Images)

Orenthal James Simpson was born on 9 July 1947 in San Francisco, California to Eunice and Jimmy Lee Simpson.

From a young age, Simpson displayed immense athletic talent. Through high school and early college, he played football as both a running back and defensive back, earning the Junior College All-American team title.

Simpson attended the University of Southern California, leding the Trojans to victory against UCLA in the 1967 Victory Bell game by just one point.

Emerging into the professional football sphere as the number one draft pick in 1969, Simpson played for the Buffalo Bills for eight years before moving to the San Francisco 49ers until 1979.

Throughout his impressive football career, Simpson earned him the titles of Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year and more.

Running back O.J. Simpson of the Buffalo Bills looks on from the sideline during a game against the Denver Broncos at Rich Stadium on October 5, 1975 in Orchard Park, New York (Getty)

After leaving the professional football field, Simpson pivoted to acting, notably playing Detective Nordberg in the 1988 cop spoof movie Naked Gun and Harry Jernigan in the 1974 disaster film Towering Inferno.

OJ Simpson poses for a promotional photo for ‘Firepower’ in 1979 (ITV/Shutterstock)

In 1967 he married Marguerite Whitley and together they had three children, Arnelle Simpson, Jason Simpson and Aaren Simpson. Aaren tragically died at just 23 months old from drowning.

While still married to his first wife, Simpson began dating Brown whom he met at a nightclub in Beverly Hills. After his divorce from Whitley, Simpson and Brown married in February 1985. Together they had two children, Sydney Simpson and Justin Simpson.

Brown and Simpson were married for seven years, during which accusations of spousal abuse emerged. Simpson pleaded no contest to the charges. The two were divorced in 1993, citing irreconcilable differences.

Simpson and his then-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, arrive for the opening of the Harley-Davidson Cafe in New York on Oct. 19, 1993. (AP1993)

On 12 June 1994, Brown and Goldman were returning home from dinner when the two were brutally stabbed to death outside of her home in Brentwood, California. The knife was never found but police discovered a bloody glove at the scene.

With prior allegations of abuse, Simpson became the prime suspect in the case. The most televised trial in history began with a two-hour police car chase through the streets of Southern California, with Simpson riding in the back of a white Ford Bronco.

Simpson had failed to hand himself in to face the murder charges, and a warrant was out for his arrest. TV networks played the chase live, with nearly 100 million people watching.

OJ Simpson’s mugshot (LAPD)
Motorists wave as police cars pursue the Ford Bronco (white, R) driven by Al Cowlings, carrying fugitive murder suspect O.J. Simpson, on a 90-minute slow-speed car chase June 17, 1994 (Getty)

Then, for nine months, the murder trial captivated the country, and highlighted the complicated legacy of racist policing by the Los Angeles Police Department.

The prosecution presented DNA evidence linking Simpson to the scene of the crime and the bloody glove matched one found at his home.

Simpson’s all-star defence team made up of Johnnie Cochran, Alan Dershowitz, F Lee Bailey, Robert Shapiro and Robert Kardashian poked holes in the case. They argued that photo evidence was mislabeled, DNA had been stored improperly and the matching glove was obtained without a search warrant.

In one key moment during the trial, Simpson tried on the bloody glove found at his home, which appeared to be too small for him. It emerged years later, in a 2016 documentary, that he had stopped taking his arthritis medication two weeks before, which meant his hands were swollen.

O.J. Simpson, wearing the blood stained gloves found by Los Angeles Police and entered into evidence in Simpson's murder trial, displays his hands to the jury at the request of prosecutor Christopher Darden in this file photograph from June 15, 1995 (REUTERS)

On 3 October, 1995, 150 million people tuned in to watch and hear the historical verdict: Simpson was acquitted.

The trial, which had divided Americans largely on racial lines, led to mixed and intense reactions.

Simpson’s reputation never recovered after the murder trial. He later served nine years in prison: for armed robbery over sports memorabilia, following a 2007 incident in a Las Vegas hotel room.

In later years, as documentaries and film adaptations of his life and the murder trial were released, he spent his time tweeting videos of himself talking about football, golf and politics.

In clip, OJ denies reports he is in a hospice and quotes Donald Trump to say ‘you can’t trust the media’ social media twitter (OJ Simpson/X)

“My health is good,” he said in an 11 Feb post, as he sat poolside in Las Vegas, talking about football, just weeks before his death. “Obviously I’m dealing with some issues, but hey I think I’m just about over it and I’ll be back on that golf course hopefully in a couple of weeks.”

Amber Jamieson contributed to this report.

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