Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
O. J. Simpson
Orenthal James Simpson (born July 9, 1947), known by the initials O.J. (a common American abbreviation for orange juice) and nicknamed The Juice, is a Hall of Fame former college and professional football player and film actor. Simpson is perhaps now most famous for being accused of the 1994 killing of his wife and his acquittal in criminal court in 1995 after a lengthy and highly publicized trial, and the subsequent finding of liability for the deaths in civil court.
His college football career at the University of Southern California (USC) was dynamic and highly charged, earning him the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award, the nickname "The Juice", and the distinction of being the first player selected in the 1969 professional football draft.
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.
Barry Sanders ran for 2,053 yards in 1997 and gained 2,000 rushing yards over his final 14 outings of the 1997 season. 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, won the the 1975 American Superstars competition.
O. J. the Actor
After his retirement from football, O. J. went on to a successful film career with parts in films such as the television mini-series Roots, and the motion pictures Capricorn One, and The Naked Gun 1, 2, and 3. Simpson's popular persona and natural charisma landed him numerous endorment deals. He was a spokesman for the Hertz car rental company and appeared in comic book ads for Dingo shoes.
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 indicated that Simpson could 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 low-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.
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.
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. Illustrator Matt Mahurin of TIME was the one to alter the image, saying later that he "wanted to make it more artful, more compelling."
What followed 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 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, high-profile lawyers, including 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 (who they painted as a racist) had planted evidence at the crime scene. In all, 150 witnesses gave testimony during the eight-month-long trial.
Fuhrman denied on the stand that he was a racist or had ever used the word nigger to describe black people. The defense found tapes of Fuhrman using the word. These notorious Fuhrman tapes became one of the cornerstones of casting doubt on Fuhrman's credibility and Simpson's acquittal. Fuhrman was recalled 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 had even had partners who were black that spoke highly of his dedication to duty and professionalism. 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 the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit."  The prosecutors tried to perform damage control by explaining that the blood-soaked glove shrunk 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. Polled African Americans across the nation were largely unconvinced or felt that he had committed the crime, but 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 100 million 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 a what has been described as a cathartic celebration that underscored a very real racial divide. Several television commentators concluded that the verdict demonstrated the effects money can have on the judicial system. In post-trial interviews with the jurors, several 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 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 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. 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 person 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 was convicted 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.
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.
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 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)
- Bugliosi, Vincent. 1997. Outrage: 5 Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away with Murder. Seattle: Island Books. ISBN 0-440-22382-2
- Cotterill, Janet. 2002. Language and power in court, a linguistic analysis of the O. J. Simpson trial. Basingstoke: Palgrave. ISBN 0-333-96901-4
- Felman, Shosana. 2002. The Juridical Unconscious: Trials and Traumas in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00931-2
- Garner, Joe. 2002. Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgettable Moments. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 0-7407-2693-5
- Hunt, Darnell M. 1999. O. J. Simpson facts and fictions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-62456-8
- CNN - Judge allows new shoe photo in Simpson trial - Jan. 6, 1997
- MSNBC - Man behind Simpson guilty verdict - Updated: 8:32 p.m. ET June 13, 2004
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