By Saul Roth
In July 1994, Orenthal James Simpson was charged with murder in the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and friend Ronald Goldman. The trial that followed became something like an entertainment extravaganza as well as a legal proceeding; it lasted nearly four months before ending without conviction.
The media hails the OJ Simpson case as “The Trial of The Century.” This court proceeding was filled with conspiracy and controversy, but it also involved some powerful celebrity. One major aspect in this trial were all these new kinds of evidence that had been gathered by police officers during their investigation.
On June 17th, There were reports that Simpson was seen riding in a white Ford Bronco on the I-5 freeway at around 6:20 pm, and his cell phone records confirmed this. The police tracked calls he made to friends just before 7pm when they captured sight of him heading north through Southern California. When Officer Dixon finally caught up to them – Cowlings yelling out from inside about how Simpson was there with him.
The helicopter chase had been going on for too long, and one of the news station helicopters ran out of fuel. They were able to get another camera feed from their colleague still in pursuit.
The people of Los Angeles were glued to their TVs on Wednesday, watching in awe as the city streets emptied and drink orders stopped at bars. Every broadcast station aired coverage of this major story – even those who weren’t covering it actively. Police finally caught up with him near some buildings downtown. An estimated 95 million viewers nationwide watched without interruption from 8am-noon.
The Simpson family drama continued when he demanded to speak with his mother before turning himself in. The chase ended at 8:00 pm, 50 miles away from home where Simpson’s son Jason ran out of the house gesturing wildly and 27 SWAT officers awaited.
On June 20, Simpson was arraigned for two counts of murder and pled not guilty. The following day a grand jury heard evidence on whether to indict him but were cancelled due to too much media coverage which could have influenced their neutrality in court proceedings. Instead they held an excessive probable cause hearing where it became clear how important transparency is when dealing with such serious crimes like these.
The fears that race riots would break out in Los Angeles if Simpson were convicted grew. As a result, all police officers on duty had to stay awake for 12 hours and be ready at any moment because they could not predict what might happen next.
At 10:07 am on Tuesday October 3rd 1995 OJ Simpson walked out of court free. An estimated 100 million watched or listened around the world. Long distance telephone call volume declined 58% while trading at NYSE decreased 41%.