Sour Juice: O.J’s acquittal 20 years later



O.J. Simpson looks on from a grandstand box at Churchill Downs prior to the 130th Running of the Kentucky Derby, Saturday, May 1, 2004 in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by STEVE DESLICH/KRT

Joe DeNardo, Chief Editor

October 3rd marked the twenty year anniversary of the infamous not guilty verdict in the “trial of the century” when football star and American icon O.J. Simpson walked out of the Los Angeles courtroom a free man—and yet there’s still a stench of wrongful acquittal that’s hung in the air before the ink was dry on the verdict.

Truth be told I love this story—or rather I love iconic events in American history that people know exactly where they were when these moments occurred. However there are so many factors that make this saga of events that much more…juicy.

 First you look at O.J.—the 6’1″ cool talking sports and entertainment personality who was so loved and respected by everyone in the country that there’s no way he could be guilty of double murder. Then you add Hollywood spice— the gorgeous Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman are the victims, the beautiful Los Angeles setting, hell even the Kardashians played a part!

But then we look at the details—that facts that a celebrity’s divorcee and her friend are slain while the estranged husband hitches a ride in a Ford Bronco with a gun to his head and then it gets a little surreal. “This isn’t O.J.,” we think to ourselves. “This is the work of a psychotic killer who couldn’t possibly be the man we’ve worshipped and idolized for all this time…”

Then Robert Shapiro, the head of Simpson’s defense team, told O.J. that they were going to try and get the charges reduced from murder to manslaughter. That’s when reality became something that we couldn’t trust anymore—that’s when we realized that O.J. wasn’t the American Treasure we saw on TV. We became enveloped in this modern tragedy as the details about angles of stab wounds and blood samples that had the entire country doubting O.J.’s innocence.

“The evidence was overwhelming,” Simpson’s trial prosecutor Marcia Clark told Fox News. “[The verdict] pretty much shook my belief in the system.”

Clark had her doubts about the pureness of the trial as the drama continued to play out.

“I knew if there was a verdict, it was going to be a not guilty,” Clark said. “And still there was this little part of me that said, ‘But they can’t! They can’t do it!’”

And so the seemingly never-ending soap opera played on—Johnny Cochran, Robert Kardashian and the rest of the “dream team” come up with the shadiest of stories (that evidence was planted and the whole thing was meant to frame O.J.) and all of a sudden the trial is skewed to where it becomes a matter of Simpson’s race.

Practically overnight all the evidence and witnesses the prosecution came up with vanished—not literally but in the sense of how the public viewed the trial. A popular conspiracy includes how after the infamous 1992 L.A. riots the jury didn’t want to see the city burn (which would’ve most likely been the result of a guilty verdict).

The point is we need to find a compromise—recognize that just because someone is black or white it doesn’t make them judicially invincible. Violence and rioting are never the right way to react to an abusive, misleading man serving the time he is required to serve.

The graves of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman have aged and cracked for twenty years. Every significant person from this trial is at this point basically irrelevant. O.J.’s serving a thirty-three year sentence for armed robbery. Robert Shapiro struck it big in the Legalzoom business and “doesn’t like to talk about it.” Johnny Cochran and Robert Kardashian are both dead.

What significance do these events have two decades later? The answer is simple: it’s a stain—red wine spilt on the silk sheets of the American Justice system. It reminds us that no matter what the century, the media can flip public opinion in an instant and can interfere with what is right and wrong.

It reminds us that whether we like it or not our thoughts matter. We as a nation have the opportunity to uphold our trust in the Justice System or we can threaten to riot and swing the outcome to what may not be the truth. One must look past the cameras and drama to find the one thing the two murder victims families sought after: justice.