Thursday, June 12, 2014

Remembering the Simpson-Goldman Murders

It is still vivid in memory.

It's been a couple of decades, but, in many ways, it seems as if it happened yesterday.

Sometime during the evening hours of June 12–13, 1994, the ex–wife of former pro football star O.J. Simpson, Nicole Brown Simpson, was murdered in the courtyard of her southern California townhouse. The body of a young man, Ron Goldman, was found a few feet from her.

They had both been stabbed repeatedly. Nicole's head had nearly been cut off her body.

The bodies were found shortly after midnight, about half an hour after a Chicago–bound airplane on which O.J. was a passenger left Los Angeles International Airport.

There were a lot of other details that emerged in O.J.'s trial, which came to be regarded as the trial of the century. It was also — as far as I can tell — the public's first real introduction to DNA evidence.

But, on that mid–June day in 1994, what was widely known was that Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were dead. From outward appearances, Goldman was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He worked as a waiter at the restaurant where Nicole had dined with her family that evening, and her mother had left her glasses there. Nicole called the restaurant and was told that they would be brought to her home. Goldman, who was working in the restaurant that night, apparently volunteered to take the glasses when he finished work.

The assumption at the time was that Goldman had interrupted the attack on Nicole.

It was revealed later that Ron and Nicole were friendly. They had been seen riding together in Nicole's car, and the exact nature of their relationship remains uncertain to this day.

As for the DNA evidence, people had to be educated about that by the prosecution when O.J.'s trial got under way in 1995. But all of that was still in the future on this day 20 years ago.

O.J., of course, was acquitted of the murders — but was later held liable in a civil trial. Years later, he was convicted of an apparently unrelated offense in Nevada and given a sentence that, while not a life sentence, was expected to wind up being a life term, given O.J.'s age. After recent legal rulings, though, O.J. could be released as early as 2017.

But that wasn't the end of it.

I guess it was to be expected that the 20th anniversary of the murders would bring new revelations, and it has. The National Enquirer, for example, recently published an article claiming to tell why O.J. killed Nicole.

Goldman's sister recently told the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles that forgiveness for the murder of the brother to whom she was especially close is not possible for her.

Last month, Lili Anolik suggested in Vanity Fair that the Simpson trial was the first reality TV show. It was a point I hadn't considered before, but it made sense.

Or perhaps it was more like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The trial brought forth a string of witnesses for the prosecution who could have been a 1995 version of the cast of Desperate Housewives with all achieving a certain amount of rather short–lived fame. It was established during the trial that at least one of Nicole's friends/house guests had a cocaine problem, and it was suggested by the defense during the trial that drug dealers could have committed the murders and that their actual target had not been Nicole but rather her friend.

By the time the trial began, the murders themselves were almost afterthoughts; the human tragedy was mostly ignored. Ron and Nicole were vivid as people only in the memories of those in the court — and outside the court — who knew them. To everyone else they were props in a courtroom drama.

There was a wide range of human wreckage left in the wake of those two deaths.

The image that stays with me is of the streams of blood that could be seen on the pavement outside Nicole's townhouse in the news reports 20 years ago — and the children who were left without a mother. At some point, O.J. was awarded custody of his children, and they moved to Florida.

Those children are adults well into their 20s now. I often wonder what their lives were like after their mother was killed and their father was accused of the crime.

All I know is that the oldest, Sydney, was arrested in connection with a school incident nearly 10 years after her mother's death and sentenced to 50 hours of community service. Last I heard, she was waiting tables in Atlanta.

I think her brother is still in Florida.

No comments: