For high drama, it would be hard to top October 3, 1995. Few could forget exactly where they were when they heard the news. The news that O.J. Simpson was not guilty, that is.
It had been the Trial of the Century. For nearly nine months, the nation was riveted by the courtroom drama surrounding Simpson, the actor and football icon, who stood accused of the slashing murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, in a posh Los Angeles neighborhood in June 1994.
The racially charged trial exposed deep fissures in American society, which were most apparent when many African-Americans celebrated Simpson’s acquittal, while their white counterparts shook their heads with dismay, believing that his guilt was beyond reasonable doubt.
" ‘O.J.’ was a term that represented every Black person that got beat up by the criminal justice system,” author and sociologist Michael Eric Dyson commented in a FRONTLINE interview on the 10th anniversary of the acquittal, in 2005.
Others felt that Simpson’s lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, solidified support for the defendant. “That's really what it had to do with,” said Shawn Chapman Holley, former managing partner of the Cochran Law Firm in Los Angeles. “A Black, brilliant attorney winning the case against all the odds. That's what the Black people were cheering about.”
Coincidentally, Oct. 3, also marks the third anniversary of the day Simpson was found guilty of kidnapping and armed robbery in a failed attempt to recover sports memorabilia from two collectibles dealers in Las Vegas a year earlier.
He is currently serving up to 33 years behind bars.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Myung J. Chun/Pool)
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