OJ Simpson, acquitted but fallen superstar

OJ Simpson, who died at the age of 76 on Thursday, was an essential character in American culture and a society which was marked by the controversial acquittal in 1995 of this former American football star for the murder of his ex-wife.

Despite this surprise acquittal, the story of Orenthal James Simpson, his full name, is that of an inexorable decline for a man sometimes considered the first great black star in the United States.

Born in San Francisco on July 9, 1947, he was raised by a single mother, abandoned by her husband when the child was five years old.

Suffering from rickets as a child, he later became an exceptional athlete and had a brilliant career in the National Football League (NFL). He was crowned player of the year in 1973 while playing for the Buffalo Bills.

Attractive, charismatic, the man who was nicknamed “The Juice” — because of his initials corresponding to “Orange Juice” — enjoyed immense popularity which he would maintain well after the end of his professional career, in the late 1970s.

Even before hanging up his boots, he was sought after by cinema and television, notably in the series Roots (1977), and delights advertisers with his charm and slightly deep voice.

His natural presence on screen would also lead him later to a career as a sports commentator.

In 1985, he married his second wife, a blonde beauty, Nicole Brown, who gave him two children, and led an opulent life. They divorced in 1992.

While he gradually moved away from the spotlight, Simpson will return to the center of the news as the main character in one of the most fascinating legal cases of the 20th century.e century in the United States.

Prison for theft

On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown was discovered dead in Los Angeles in a pool of blood, next to the body of her friend, Ronald Goldman, who was also brutally murdered.

After a pursuit lasting several hours on the highways of Los Angeles, followed live by television cameras filming from helicopters, Simpson was arrested by the police.

Genetic analysis identifies Simpson’s blood at the crime scene, that of the victims in his car and at his home. “OJ” maintains his innocence, but he is charged with a double murder.

A year later, at the end of a spectacular trial, also broadcast live on television, a Los Angeles jury acquitted him. This decision provokes a wave of indignation in the United States and divides opinion between blacks and whites, three years after bloody racial riots in the Californian megalopolis.

The ex-player was later found responsible for the deaths of the two victims during a civil trial in 1997 and ordered to pay damages of more than $33 million to their families, which he never did.

He then moved to Florida, where his property was protected from seizure aimed at satisfying the decision of the civil court in California, on the other side of the country.

But he does not disappear from the public space, monetizing his appearances, in particular… during a conference of serial killer enthusiasts.

In 2007, he was talked about again in the legal column, arrested in Las Vegas for having stolen sports souvenirs with five henchmen from a hotel-casino in the city, at gunpoint.

In early October 2008, he was convicted of 12 counts and then sentenced to 9 to 33 years in prison. He had been on parole since 2017.

Although he still owed tens of millions of dollars to the families of his ex-wife and her partner, the law allowed him to keep his professional football retirement pension: $25,000 per month.

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