Double Murder Leads to Sensational O. J. Simpson Trial Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The discovery of the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman marked the beginning of one of the most notorious scandals and criminal trials in American history. Brown Simpson’s former husband, O. J. Simpson, was charged with the crime and found not guilty, but he was found responsible for the murders in a civil trial. Simpson moved to Florida to avoid payments to the Brown and Goldman families on the civil judgment of $33.5 million.

Summary of Event

On the night of June 12, 1994, a couple walking their dogs came upon the dog of their neighbor, Nicole Brown Simpson. The Akita, wandering the streets, had what appeared to be blood stains on its fur. The neighbors, knowing that Brown Simpson’s dog was not allowed to run loose, brought the dog to her condominium on Bundy Drive. Upon reaching the entry gate to the complex, they saw a ghastly, macabre scene and immediately notified police. [kw]Murder Leads to Sensational O. J. Simpson Trial, Double (June 12, 1994) [kw]Simpson Trial, Double Murder Leads to Sensational O. J. (June 12, 1994) Simpson, Nicole Brown Goldman, Ronald Simpson, O. J. Los Angeles;Simpson/Goldman murders Simpson, Nicole Brown Goldman, Ronald Simpson, O. J. Los Angeles;Simpson/Goldman murders [g]United States;June 12, 1994: Double Murder Leads to Sensational O. J. Simpson Trial[02650] [c]Murder and suicide;June 12, 1994: Double Murder Leads to Sensational O. J. Simpson Trial[02650] [c]Publishing and journalism;June 12, 1994: Double Murder Leads to Sensational O. J. Simpson Trial[02650] [c]Radio and television;June 12, 1994: Double Murder Leads to Sensational O. J. Simpson Trial[02650] [c]Law and the courts;June 12, 1994: Double Murder Leads to Sensational O. J. Simpson Trial[02650] [c]Racism;June 12, 1994: Double Murder Leads to Sensational O. J. Simpson Trial[02650]

The police found the bodies of thirty-five-year- old Brown Simpson and her acquaintance, twenty-six-year-old Ronald Goldman. The two had been stabbed and slashed to death. The bruising on Brown Simpson’s face and head showed that she was punched and bludgeoned into unconsciousness and was stabbed several times in her neck. She was nearly decapitated from a deep cut across her throat. Her body lay at the foot of a short flight of steps, and her blood ran down the tiles of the walkway. It appeared that she was unable to fight her attacker.

Goldman appeared to have struggled with his attacker. He received several defensive wounds and several shallow stab wounds and deep knife wounds to a thigh and to his aorta and neck. He also caused his murderer to lose a large leather glove, which would play a part in the criminal trial of the suspect in his and Brown Simpson’s murder. Goldman was a waiter at a nearby restaurant, where Brown Simpson and her family had dined earlier that evening. After his shift, he returned Brown Simpson’s mother’s eyeglasses, which she had forgotten at the restaurant, to Brown Simpson.

The exact circumstances of the murder remains unknown, but the forensic reconstruction of the crime scene suggests the following: Brown Simpson was the primary target and Goldman was a secondary, or even situational, target. Evidence on their bodies and at the crime scene suggests that Brown Simpson was bludgeoned and stabbed into unconsciousness before Goldman was attacked and killed. The attacker returned to Brown Simpson, grabbed her hair, pulled her head back to expose her throat, and made a fatal knife slash.

The murders, for the most part, were unremarkable as common domestic homicides. They were, however, exceptionally violent and brutal, suggesting a crime of passion. The sole suspect in the case, O. J. Simpson, the former husband of Brown Simpson and a former star professional Football football player, made this case remarkable. Although he was retired from football, Simpson kept himself in the public eye by limited acting and by promoting products on television. He also was noted by the media for his golf games with the rich and famous. His celebrity status made this domestic homicide case a different case altogether. The criminal evidence made him the only suspect.

Although the police investigation and interrogation were less than illustrious, the evidence against Simpson was overwhelming. His blood (from a deep finger cut) was found at the crime scene. Blood from both victims and from the suspect was found in or near Simpson’s Ford Bronco and on a glove found near the crime scene. Hair from Goldman and fibers from the Bronco were found on that same glove, and the matching glove was found on Simpson’s property. The glove type was uncommon, yet Simpson owned a pair. Furthermore, Simpson had received promotional knives from a manufacturer, any number of which could have been used in the murders.

Most usually, brutal murders are precipitated by an emotionally significant event in the life of the perpetrator. On the day of the murders, Simpson had been embarrassed in public after Brown Simpson failed to save a seat for him at his daughter’s recital. In a packed auditorium, he was forced to wander up and down the aisles to find a seat. Also, his girlfriend at the time testified that she had broken up with him the day of the murders.

Simpson’s murder trial was a media sensation. Every aspect of the trial was filmed, reported upon, discussed in print and on the air, and remarked upon by media-appointed experts. Major debate about race, racism, and domestic violence surfaced not only among commentators but also a divided public, and Simpson’s defense relied heavily upon issues of race and racism as factors in the investigation and trial. The prosecution focused heavily on domestic violence and violence against women during the trial.

On October 3, 1995, Simpson was found not guilty of murdering Brown Simpson and Goldman. Jury members, who had deliberated only four hours, later stated that prosecutors failed to prove Simpson’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

O. J. Simpson, in an infamous court scene, is unable to put on the leather gloves the prosecution claimed he wore as he allegedly murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

It is commonly believed that the incompetence of key professionals in the murder investigation and trial compounded the injustice against the victims, their families, and the people of the state of California. Prosecutors, a criminal-trial court judge, and police investigators performed their professional duties with incredible incompetence, and Simpson was freed as a result.

Impact

Finding little closure for their losses in the verdict in the criminal case, the Brown and Goldman families responded by suing Simpson for wrongful death. On February 5, 1997, a civil court awarded $33.5 million to the Brown and Goldman families. Publicly vowing never to pay the victims’ families anything, Simpson sought refuge against the civil judgment by moving to Florida, where his earnings, house, and pension would be protected to some degree from seizure.

The Simpson trial and media coverage had far-reaching social impact. The outcome of the criminal trial led to further public distrust of the criminal justice and legal systems, concluding that justice is differentially investigated and distributed based upon a defendant’s race, socioeconomic status, and fame. The murder trial also solidified the belief that hero-worship stymies justice. A large percentage of those persons involved in the murder investigation and trial appeared star struck in Simpson’s presence. The jury, along with onlookers, seemingly ignored the overwhelming evidence against Simpson and determined in favor of the celebrity. Also, the principals in the case, including key witnesses, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judge, were made into celebrities as well.

In hindsight, it became clear that the media invented and repeated “facts” that first were embraced by a public obsessed by the case. For example, in every major city, the news media, also obsessed with the case, found experts (most of whom had dubious credentials) to speak on the case and predict the outcome of the trial. These so-called talking heads became the mainstay of trial coverage for many, if not most, media outlets. As the trial progressed, however, many viewers began to question the veracity of these news reports and commentaries, casting doubt on news reporting as a whole.

Perhaps most significant, though, was the not-guilty verdict in the murder trial, which polarized the public along racial lines on a scale not seen since the 1950’s and 1960’s, the height of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. The trial was interpreted by both blacks and whites as having been overwhelmingly about race. Simpson, Nicole Brown Goldman, Ronald Simpson, O. J. Los Angeles;Simpson/Goldman murders

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bugliosi, Vincent T. Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996. A study of the Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman murders by a successful felony prosecutor, and an explanation as to how the abundant and quality evidence points solely to Simpson as the murderer. Examines in detail how the murder trial went wrong.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clark, Marcia, and Teresa Carpenter. Without a Doubt. New York: Viking Press, 1997. Critical appraisal of all major actors and happenings in the Simpson trial by the deputy district attorney who led the prosecution.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">The Family of Ron Goldman, with William Hoffer and Marilyn Hoffer. His Name Is Ron: Our Search for Justice. New York: William Morrow, 1997. Discusses the impact of the murder of Ronald Goldman on his family. Also looks at Goldman’s life, little discussed by the media.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fuhrman, Mark. Murder in Brentwood. Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1997. Foreword by Vincent Bugliosi. Fuhrman, one of the heavily criticized police investigators in the case, presents a careful analysis and critique of the crime-scene investigation, the follow-up investigation, the weight of the evidence, and the murder trial itself.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Goldman Family. If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. New York: Beaufort Books, 2007. Contains the original manuscript of Simpson’s fictional tell-all book If I Did It, which was never published. This edition, which includes the chapter “He Did It”—pointed commentary by the Goldman family—also includes an afterword by murder-victims advocate Dominick Dunne.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hunt, Darnell. O. J. Simpson, Facts, and Fictions: News Rituals in the Construction of Reality. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. A scholarly study of the differences across racial lines in the public perception of the Simpson trial, including the way the media used these perceptions to shape its coverage of the trial.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Newton, Michael, and John L. French. Celebrities and Crime. New York: Chelsea House, 2008. Written especially for younger readers, this book examines the intersection of celebrity and crime. Discusses how law enforcement handles celebrities accused of criminal acts, and celebrities victimized by crime. Includes a chapter on the Simpson case.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Toobin, Jeffrey. The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson. New York: Random House, 1996. An excellent account of the Simpson trial by a knowledgeable criminal attorney and accomplished journalist. Toobin, a former prosecutor, covered the trial for The New Yorker.

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