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Fallen Football Hero Dies at 76

An Unforgettable “Trial of the Century”

Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on July 20, 2017.(Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, Pool,File)


(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 was found liable in a separate civil trial, has died. He was 76. The family announced on Simpson’s official X account that he died Wednesday of prostate cancer. Simpson’s attorney confirmed to TMZ on Thursday that he died in Las Vegas.


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. 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 blond 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,” said Simpson, whose parole ended in late 2021.

 

 “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 canceled 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.

 

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. “If I did nothing else in my life, I’d made my mark.”

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