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O.J. Simpson, ex-NFL star acquitted of murder, dies at 76

April 11, 2024

The former star NFL football player, who was acquitted in a sensational murder trial in 1995, has died after a battle with cancer, his family said.

Black-and-white image of OJ Simpson during 1995 trial
O.J. Simpson's murder trial was a media circus driven by the role celebrity, race and money plays in justiceImage: Pool/AFP/Getty Images

O.J. Simpson, the former US football player and protagonist in a sensational murder trial has died of cancer at age 76, his family said on Thursday. 

"On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer," a message signed by the family said on social media site X, formerly Twitter.

"He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren," the statement said.

O.J. Simpson and the 'trial of the century' 

After his success as NFL hall of fame running back for the Buffalo Bills, Simpson became a film and television celebrity.

However, his legacy was forever changed after his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were killed in a knife attack in 1994. 

Simpson was a suspect, and would famously end up leading police on a live televised slow-speed chase down a Los Angeles interstate in the back of a white Ford Bronco driven by a friend.

It was one of the most watched events in television history, and ended with Simpson's arrest. 

A screen shot of a white Ford Bronco being chased by police
In 1995, O.J. Simpson led police on a nationally televised police chase before being arrestedImage: Joseph Villarin/AP Photo/picture alliance

Simpson was eventually acquitted in 1995 for the murders in what was dubbed the "trial of the century." 

The trial sparked public debate in the US on celebrity justice and heightened racial tensions around the country. 

According to surveys carried out after the trial, a majority of Blacks agreed with the acquittal, while most of the country's white population believed Simpson was guilty of the murders.

Critics also pointed to Simpson's acquittal to argue that powerful and wealthy people could avoid conviction due to being able to pay for better lawyers.

In a separate 1997 civil trial, a jury found Simpson for the deaths, and ordered him to pay over $35 million to the families of Brown and Goldman.

In 2007, Simpson was jailed after being convicted of armed robbery and other felonies. He and five other men, two of whom were carrying firearms, confronted sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel.

The former football star claimed that he was attempting to recover memorabilia and heirlooms that had been stolen from him. He was released on parole in October 2017.

Black-and-white image of OJ Simpson in 2013 during evidentiary hearing over 2008 armed robbery conviction with two police officers behind him largely out of view
Simpson was jailed in 2007 after being convicted of armed robbery and was released on parole in 2017Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Reactions to Simpson's death 

Goldman's father said that Simpson's death was "no great loss to the world."

"The only thing I have to say is it's just further reminder of Ron being gone all these years," Fred Goldman told broadcaster NBC. 

An attorney for the Goldman family said his team will continue to work to collect civil judgment money from Simpson.

"He died without penance. We don't know what he has, where it is or who is in control. We will pick up where we are and keep going with it." lawyer David Cook said.

Meanwhile, a statement by Pro Football Hall of Fame President Jim Porter centered on Simpson's achievements as an athlete.

Buffalo Bills running back O.J. Simpson scores a touchdown in 1976
Despite his controversial status, O.J. Simpson remains in the Pro Football Hall of FameImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

"O.J. Simpson was the first player to reach a rushing mark many thought could not be attained in a 14-game season when he topped 2,000 yards. His on-field contributions will be preserved in the hall's archives in Canton, Ohio," Porter said.

sdi/wmr (AP, AFP, Reuters)