The legacy of the O.J. Simpson trial

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What's happening: On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death outside Brown's home in Los Angeles. The killings became a major news story that would become a national obsession when Brown's ex-husband, NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson, was identified as a suspect.

Simpson led police on a low-speed chase across L.A. freeways that was watched live on television by 95 million people. The case led to "the trial of the century," in which even the legal players in the drama — Simpson's attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr., prosecutor Marcia Clark and Judge Lance Ito — became household names. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 and he has continued to maintain his innocence. Later he would serve nine years in prison for robbery and kidnapping in a case involving his sports memorabilia.

The murder trial became one of the cultural touchstones of the late 20th century. It was the subject of an Emmy-winning miniseries in 2016, and a long-form documentary about the case won an Oscar the following year.

Why there's debate: The trial brought together a number of elements that remain sources of intense debate in America: racism, equity in criminal justice, celebrity culture, biased policing, financial inequality, media exploitation and domestic violence.

The case is seen as the origin of the 24-hour news cycle that defines the media landscape today and the inspiration for a trend in criminal investigation TV programming that still draws huge ratings. For many, it was also an introduction to DNA forensics, a discipline that has transformed the criminal justice system.


The trial changed how the news is covered forever

"The trial was both the lowest moment for old-fashioned legacy media ... and also their last gasp of untrammeled relevance before the “World Wide Web” (as it was then starting to be known) rewrote everybody’s story." — Telly Davidson, National Review

The case put a spotlight on deep racial divisions in the country

"What the O.J. trial did was it pulled the festering scab of racism off to expose it again. ...Whether OJ was guilty or not often depended on the color of your skin." — Brad Hunter, Toronto Sun

The case's focus on domestic violence has led to significant positive changes

"For a lot of people, domestic violence was still very much something that happened behind closed doors…[the Simpson case] was exposure into this world of abuse, specifically physical abuse and emotional abuse, and that controlling behavior that we all started hearing about as the trial unfolded." — Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of National Domestic Violence Hotline, to People

The public first became aware of the use of DNA as evidence during the trial

"The O.J. trial was followed by the so-called 'CSI effect.' The term first coined in 2004 posited that the post-O.J. boom in televised crime procedurals that focused on forensics and scientific evidence, such as the ‘CSI’ franchise, caused actual juries packed with informed citizens to expect DNA tests and scientific evidence from every crime scene (and to refuse to convict without such backup)." — Fiona Zublin, OZY

The case highlighted a number of fractures in American culture

"O.J. Simpson’s acquittal shone a light on the deep racial chasm that existed in this nation over issues of criminal justice, race, celebrity and domestic violence. ... And 25 years later, the issues — and the chasm — are just as deep as ever." — Dara Sharif, The Root

The sensationalism and media frenzy overshadow the tragedy of two lives lost

"It is always, and most importantly, about remembering Ron and Nicole." — Ron Goldman's sister Kim to Los Angeles Times

The saga is a dark moment in American history that should be left in the past

"So we note today’s date, because it was a tragic and remarkable moment in U.S. cultural history, and of course remember where we were, but otherwise, may the rest of our lives be a 'no O.J. zone.'" — Christine Brennan, USA Today

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