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Inside the bizarre private life of OJ Simpson

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Inside the bizarre private life of OJ Simpson

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OJ Simpson has died at 76-years-old (Picture: AP/Reuters)

OJ Simpson, the ex-NFL star who was accused and ultimately acquitted of killing his ex-wife and her friend in 1994, has died at 76 years old.

His family released a statement that said: ‘On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren. During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace.’ 

In 2023, Simpson posted a video on X sharing that he had ‘caught cancer.’ He said: ‘It looks like I beat it.’

While Simpson didn’t specify the nature of the cancer at the time, reports have now revealed that he was suffering from prostate cancer

Simpson is best known for his notorious legal battle surrounding the deaths of  Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, who were found slain in Los Angeles on June 12, 1994.

The trial was a momentous cultural moment, with people all over the world closely following the dramatic events that unfolded as Simpson fought to prove his innocence.

Now, in the wake of his death, people all over the world are reckoning with the ex-athlete’s dark and complex legacy.

Early life

Simpson won the Heisman torphy, the highest honor available to a college football player, in 1968 (Picture: AP)

Simpson was born in 1947 and grew up in public housing in the Potrero hill neighborhood. He was born to parents Eunice Simpson, a hospital administrator, and Jimmy Lee Simpson, a bank custodian. 

His father was a well-known drag queen in the San Francisco Bay Area and apparently came out as gay later in life before dying of AIDS in 1986, according to Jeffrey Toobin’s book, The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson.

Simpson had trouble with the law early on. As a teenager he was a member of a street gang called the Persian Warriors and was briefly held at a juvenile detention facility.

‘I was always the leader ― the baddest cat there,’ Simpson told the Times in 1975. ‘You had to be.’

Children and Marriages

Simpson and Nicole Brown had two children, Sydney Simpson and Justin Simpson (Picture: Bei/Shutterstock)

Simpson was first married in 1967 at the age of 19 to Marguerite L. Whitley. Together, they had three children: Arnelle L. Simpson in 1968, Jason Lamar Simpson in 1970, and Aaren Lashone Simpson in 1977. Tragically, in August 1979, Aaren drowned in the family’s swimming pool.

The NFL player met Nicole Brown when she was a waitress at a Beverly Hills nightclub in 1977. They began dating shortly after, despite the fact that Simpson didn’t divorce Whitley until 1979. 

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Brown and Simpson dated for a further six years before marrying in 1985. The couple had two children, Sydney Brooke Simpson who was born in 1985 and Justin Ryan Simpson who was born in 1988. Simpson pleaded no contest to spousal abuse in 1989 but the marriage ultimately lasted until 1992. 

Simpson first married Marguerite Simpson in 1967 and had three children with her (Picture: Getty Images)

His eldest child, Arnelle, is perhaps best known as she testified on Simpson’s behalf at his trial. She claimed that her father was ‘emotional,’ ‘distraught’ and ‘out of control’ when he found out about Brown’s death. 

She later said of her father, according to CBS: ‘As a family, we recognize he’s not the perfect man, but as a man and a father he has done his best to behave in a way that speaks to his overall nature and character.’ 

Very little is known about Simpson’s other children and their relationship’s with their father in the wake of the murder trial. 

Football career

Simpson first rose to fame as a running back for the University of Southern California as number 32 (Credits: AP)

Simpson is considered one of the best American football players of all time, ultimately gaining entry into the pro ball hall of fame in 1985.

He began his spectacular career as a running back in college, earning the highest possible honor, the Heisman Memorial Trophy, in 1968.

He was the top overall pick in the NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills in 1969. He played nine years for the Bills and then finished his career with two years with the San Francisco 49ers.

He was the only player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a 14-game season and he is the only player to rush for over 200 yards in six different games in his career. He was NFL Player of the Year in 1972, 1973, and 1975.

Simpson became known as ‘the Juice’ during his time with the Bills, a reference to his initials O.J. as in orange juice. His star power was so massive that for a time the Bills’ offensive line was nicknamed ‘The Electric Company,’ a play on juice as a slang term for electricity or power. 

Net worth

Simpson briefly worked as a NBC Sports sideline reporter after his athletic career (Picture: Kirby Lee/WireImage)

Several outlets have estimated the ex athlete’s net worth at approximately $3million (£2.4m) at the time of his death but little is known about Simpson’s financial situation.

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Despite the not guilty verdict in the original murder trial, a civil court jury found him liable for the deaths of his ex and her friend and awarded $33.5m (£26.7m) in damages to the family’s of the victims.

That debt likely remained largely unpaid at the time of Simpson’s death, Reuters reports, but did mean that the victim’s family’s were entitled to portions of Simpson’s earnings throughout his life. 

The murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman

O.J. Simpson and his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, first met in 1977 (Credits: AP)

Nicole Brown Simpson filed for divorce from Simpson in February 1992. She later told friends and authorities that Simpson was stalking her in the wake of the divorce, even spying on her having sex with her new boyfriend and repeatedly threatening to kill her.

On June 12, 1994, the night of the fateful murders, Simpson and Brown attended their daughter Sydney’s dance recital despite their fractured relationship.

Brown and other members of the family went to a restaurant afterwards without Simpson. Ron Goldman, a friend of Brown’s, worked at the restaurant.

An hour later Brown and Goldman’s bodies were found dead outside Brown’s home from stab wounds. Brown’s throat had also been slit.

Murder trial and media frenzy

An infamous moment in Simpson’s trial came when he attempted to put on a glove found at the scene of the murder(Credits: AP)

Simpson was reportedly told about the murders while away in Chicago, and when asked to turn himself into the police as a person of interest, he tried to flee in a white Ford Bronco driven by a close friend of his. The slow-speed car chase was covered widely, becoming a major media event.

When Simpson eventually was apprehended by the police, a 10-month trial began that made headlines all over the world.

Simpson’s attorneys claimed that all of the blood evidence found at the crime scene was planted and a part of a wider police conspiracy against Simpson.

Simpson led the LA police on a long and high profile car chase following the murders (Picture: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Famously, the defense asked Simpson to try on a glove that was found at the scene of the crime. When the glove didn’t fit, his lawyer announced the now notorious line: ‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.’

There was plenty of evidence against Simpson, including bloody footprints that seemingly could only have belonged to him as they were made by a rare and expensive pair of Bruno Magli Italian shoes. They were in his size and only 29 pairs of that size had been sold in the US.

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His blood was also found at the crime scene, but DNA evidence, which was relatively new at the time, was far less trusted by the average person than it is today.

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The chance that the sample randomly matched Simpson was estimated to be one in 170million at the time. The chance of an accidental match is estimated at more like one in a billion today.

Ultimately, the jury took less than four hours to find Simpson not guilty.

The case is widely remembered as the trial of the century, with issues of race, domestic violence, and celebrity all suddenly being thrust into the spotlight because of the media frenzy surrounding the trial.

Simpson smiled and celebrated when he was found not guilty in the murder trial (Credits: AP)

Simpson’s legal team, nicknamed the dream team, was also thrust into the public eye.

Robert Kardashian – ex-husband of Kris Jenner and father to Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob – was among the lawyer’s to represent Simpson.

The team was initially led by Robert Shapiro and subsequently Johnnie Cochran.

The team also included F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, Shawn Holley, Carl E. Douglas, and Gerald Uelmen.

Simpson was acquitted in that trial, but later served nine years in prison after being convicted in 2008 on 12 counts of armed robbery and kidnapping in an attempt to steal back sports memorabilia he had previously auctioned off. 

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