NATIONAL NEWS

O.J. Simpson, fallen football hero acquitted of murder in ‘trial of the century,’ dies at 76

Apr 11, 2024, 8:13 AM | Updated: 8:25 am

Image: O.J. Simpson attends his parole hearing at Lovelock Correctional Center July 20, 2017 in Lov...

O.J. Simpson attends his parole hearing at Lovelock Correctional Center July 20, 2017 in Lovelock, Nevada. (Pool photo via Getty Images by Jason Bean)

(Pool photo via Getty Images by Jason Bean)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — O.J. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, has died. He was 76.

Simpson’s attorney confirmed to TMZ he died Wednesday night in Las Vegas. A message posted Thursday on Simpson’s official X account — formerly Twitter — said he died after battling cancer.

“He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren,” the statement said.

Simpson earned fame, fortune and adulation through football and show business, but his legacy was forever changed by the June 1994 knife slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles.

Live TV coverage of his arrest after a famous slow-speed chase marked a stunning fall from grace for the sports hero.

He had seemed to transcend racial barriers as the star Trojans tailback for college football’s powerful University of Southern California in the late 1960s, as a rental car ad pitchman rushing through airports in the late 1970s, and as the husband of a blonde and blue-eyed high school homecoming queen in the 1980s.

“I’m not Black, I’m O.J.,” he liked to tell friends.

The public was mesmerized by his “trial of the century” on live TV. His case sparked debates on race, gender, domestic abuse, celebrity justice and police misconduct.

A criminal court jury found him not guilty of murder in 1995, but a separate civil trial jury found him liable in 1997 for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million to family members of Brown and Goldman.

A decade later, still shadowed by the California wrongful death judgment, Simpson led five men he barely knew into a confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers in a cramped Las Vegas hotel room. Two men with Simpson had guns. A jury convicted Simpson of armed robbery and other felonies.

Imprisoned at age 61, he served nine years in a remote northern Nevada prison, including a stint as a gym janitor. He was not contrite when he was released on parole in October 2017. The parole board heard him insist yet again that he was only trying to retrieve sports memorabilia and family heirlooms stolen from him after his criminal trial in Los Angeles.

“I’ve basically spent a conflict-free life, you know,” Simpson, whose parole ended in late 2021, said.

Previous coverage: O.J. Simpson a ‘completely free man’; parole ends in Nevada

Public fascination with Simpson never faded. Many debated if he had been punished in Las Vegas for his acquittal in Los Angeles. In 2016, he was the subject of both an FX miniseries and five-part ESPN documentary.

“I don’t think most of America believes I did it,” Simpson told The New York Times in 1995, a week after a jury determined he did not kill Brown and Goldman. “I’ve gotten thousands of letters and telegrams from people supporting me.”

Twelve years later, following an outpouring of public outrage, Rupert Murdoch cancelled a planned book by the News Corp-owned HarperCollins in which Simpson offered his hypothetical account of the killings. It was to be titled, “If I Did It.”

Goldman’s family, still doggedly pursuing the multimillion-dollar wrongful death judgment, won control of the manuscript. They retitled the book “If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.”

“It’s all blood money, and unfortunately I had to join the jackals,” Simpson told The Associated Press at the time. He collected $880,000 in advance money for the book, paid through a third party.

“It helped me get out of debt and secure my homestead,” he said.

Less than two months after losing the rights to the book, Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas.

Simpson played 11 NFL seasons, nine of them with the Buffalo Bills, where he became known as “The Juice” on an offensive line known as “The Electric Company.” He won four NFL rushing titles, rushed for 11,236 yards in his career, scored 76 touchdowns and played in five Pro Bowls. His best season was 1973, when he ran for 2,003 yards — the first running back to break the 2,000-yard rushing mark.

“I was part of the history of the game,” he said years later, recalling that season. “If I did nothing else in my life, I’d made my mark.”

Of course, Simpson went on to other fame.

One of the artifacts of his murder trial, the carefully tailored tan suit he wore when he was acquitted, was later donated and placed on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Simpson had been told the suit would be in the hotel room in Las Vegas, but it turned out it wasn’t there.

O.J. Simpson’s early life

Orenthal James Simpson was born July 9, 1947, in San Francisco, where he grew up in government-subsidized housing projects.

After graduating from high school, he enrolled at City College of San Francisco for a year and a half before transferring to the University of Southern California for the spring 1967 semester.

He married his first wife, Marguerite Whitley, on June 24, 1967, moving her to Los Angeles the next day so he could begin preparing for his first season with USC — which, in large part because of Simpson, won that year’s national championship.

Simpson won the Heisman Trophy in 1968. He accepted the statue on the same day that his first child, Arnelle, was born.

He had two sons, Jason and Aaren, with his first wife; one of those boys, Aaren, drowned as a toddler in a swimming pool accident in 1979, the same year he and Whitley divorced.

Simpson and Brown were married in 1985. They had two children, Justin and Sydney, and divorced in 1992. Two years later, Nicole Brown Simpson was found murdered.

“We don’t need to go back and relive the worst day of our lives,” he told the AP 25 years after the double slayings. “The subject of the moment is the subject I will never revisit again. My family and I have moved on to what we call the ‘no negative zone.’ We focus on the positives.”

___

Biographical material in this story was written by former AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch.

National News

Associated Press

Latest deadly weather in US kills at least 18 as storms carve path of ruin across multiple states

VALLEY VIEW, Texas (AP) — Powerful storms killed at least 18 people, injured hundreds and left a wide trail of destruction across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where dozens sought shelter in a restroom during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S. The storms inflicted their […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: Asian shares mostly higher after rebound on Wall St

Asian shares were mostly higher on Monday after U.S. stocks bounced back from Wall Street’s worst day since April to finish higher for the week. U.S. futures slipped while oil prices advanced. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 added 0.3% to 38,758.96 and the Kospi in Seoul jumped 0.7% to 2,705.87. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 surged 0.7% to 2,705.87 […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Lightning strike kills Colorado rancher and 34 head of cattle

DENVER (AP) — A lightning strike killed a Colorado rancher and 34 head of cattle over the weekend, officials said Sunday. Mike Morgan, 51, was feeding his cattle from a trailer when he was struck and died on the scene despite life-saving efforts, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said. The lightning bolt struck on wide […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Former ‘General Hospital’ actor Johnny Wactor killed in downtown Los Angeles shooting

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former “General Hospital” actor Johnny Wactor was shot and killed when he interrupted thieves stealing the catalytic converter from his car in Los Angeles, his family said Sunday. The shooting occurred around 3 a.m. Saturday when the victim approached three men in downtown LA, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Brown University president’s commencement speech briefly interrupted by protesters

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Protesters briefly disrupted an outdoor commencement address given by Brown University’s president on Sunday. Shortly after Christina Paxson began, her speech was interrupted for several minutes by shouting as she told the graduates, “I would really like to give you your degrees.” She eventually resumed with some people continuing to shout. […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Six skydivers and a pilot parachute to safety before small plane crashes in Missouri

BUTLER, Mo. (AP) — Six skydivers and a pilot on board a small plane parachuted to safety before it crashed near a county airport in western Missouri, leaving the plane “a total loss,” officials said. Preliminary information indicates the plane that crashed early Saturday afternoon was flying a skydiving mission, according to the National Transportation […]

13 hours ago

O.J. Simpson, fallen football hero acquitted of murder in ‘trial of the century,’ dies at 76