Inside the Tragic Life of Nicole Brown Simpson and Her Hopeful Final Days After Divorcing O.J. Simpson

O.J. Simpson, who died April 10 at the age of 76, met Nicole Brown in 1977 when she was 18. In June 1994, two years after leaving the former football hero, she was finally starting to feel free.

By Natalie Finn Apr 11, 2024 6:00 PMTags
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Nicole Brown graduated from high school on May 20, 1977, a day after turning 18.

Three weeks later, she met O.J. Simpson.

At 29, the NFL star—who has died at the age of 76 after battling cancer—was nearing the end of his storied professional football career and had been acting on the side for a decade in TV and movies such as the disaster epic The Towering Inferno. Nurturing the Hollywood side of his aspirations, he had just bought a house at 360 North Rockingham Avenue in Brentwood. He had also been married to his first wife, Marguerite Whitley, for 10 years. They had three kids, Arnelle, Jason and newborn daughter Aaren.

If ever there was a woman whose life has been viewed through the prism of a marriage, it's Nicole Brown Simpson. 

Even those who knew her best and saw her often had so much time with her before her world became O.J.'s world, and she was just starting to make a life for herself again when she was killed on June 12, 1994, at the age of 35.

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"I feel that Nicole has gotten lost in all this," her friend Cici Shahian, a first cousin of close O.J. friend Robert Kardashian, told the Los Angeles Times in July 1994, as the world stopped to obsess over the spectacle that the arrest of O.J. Simpson for the murders of Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman had already become.

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Nicole, meanwhile, had never heard of Simpson when he walked into Daisy, the Beverly Hills nightclub where she was working as a waitress.

She was born in Frankfurt, Germany, where her Kansas-bred father, Lou Brown, was serving in the Air Force and had met his wife Juditha Baur. The young family of four, including Nicole's older sister, Denise Brown, moved back to the United States when the girls were toddlers and settled in the Orange County city of Garden Grove, Calif. Lou and Juditha had two more daughters, Dominique and Tanya.

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When the older sisters were in high school, the family moved to Monarch Beach in the coastal city of Dana Point. Nicole was crowned homecoming princess in 1976 at Dana Hills High School.

"Nicole was bubbly, always happy and smiling," teacher Bill Prestridge told the Times. She also seemed eager to start life beyond school "and go on to bigger and better things."

Nicole worked for two weeks at a clothing boutique before getting her job at Daisy.

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By the time she enrolled at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo in 1977, she was already dating Simpson—and then a few months later she moved in with him and dropped out of school, because O.J. "required that she be with him," Nicole later stated in divorce papers.


"It was a very passionate, a very volatile, a very obsessive relationship. On both sides," Cathy Lee Crosby, who knew O.J. for 15 years and had spent time with the couple, told the LA Times.

During the murder trial, Denise testified to seeing O.J. yell at her sister as far back as 1977, when she first met her future brother-in-law on a trip to Buffalo to watch him play for the Bills. Denise said Nicole had greeted a friend of O.J.'s with a kiss on each cheek and he "got real upset and he started screaming at Nicole." 

Simpson and Marguerite divorced in 1979 and that August their 23-month-old daughter Aaren drowned in the swimming pool at Rockingham, where Marguerite at first remained while O.J. rented a house with Nicole in Beverly Hills. The child spent eight days on life support at UCLA Medical Center before she died on Aug. 26.


"I fell in love with Nicole Brown immediately," Kris Jenner, who met Nicole in 1978, wrote in her 2011 memoir Kris Jenner...and All Things Kardashian. "We were destined to become best friends."

O.J. was a groomsman when Kris married Robert Kardashian on July 8, 1978, and was one of the first visitors at the hospital when they welcomed daughter Kourtney Kardashian the following April. He and Nicole and Kris and Robert vacationed together in Aspen in the winter of 1980.

Nicole "had really fallen for O.J. by then," Kris recalled. "The two of them were madly in love and had this obvious chemistry that you could feel when you were in the same room with them...they absolutely could not keep their hands off each other. He was already incredibly possessive of Nicole. Even when she would go to the bathroom, O.J. would wonder out loud when she was going to come back."

Nicole and O.J. married on Feb. 2, 1985, in the backyard of the Rockingham estate. When Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame later that year, he thanked his pregnant wife for her support, telling the adoring crowd that she "came into my life at what is probably the most difficult time for an athlete, at the end of my career... [You] turned those years into some of the best I have had in my life, babes."

Daughter Sydney was born that October and son Justin arrived in August 1988. 


The Simpsons' friends remembered the couple as being so much fun, frequently hosting parties, including annual Easter dinners and Fourth of July bashes where everyone's kids swam and ate and had a blast. They remained very close to Nicole's parents and they and her sisters were usually at all the family-friendly parties, too.

According to the LA Times, Nicole's father, Lou, ran the Hertz rental car outpost that Simpson owned at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, and O.J. paid the USC tuition for Nicole's sister Dominique. Simpson had also hired a first cousin of Nicole's, Rolf Baur, as the gardener at his estate, and then appointed him manager of two Pioneer Chicken locations he owned. Rolf's wife, Maria, worked as a housekeeper at Rockingham three times a week.

But at the same time, all of her friends were his friends, and he kept everybody close, ensuring that Nicole hardly opened up to anyone about what was really going on behind closed doors.


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"The truth is, no one really knew her during her marriage," a friend who said she had known Nicole since their early 20s told the LA Times after she was killed. "She was never free to be herself or have friends. She wasn't available for that kind of intimacy." Nicole also was prone to abruptly canceling plans or not showing up when both she and O.J. were expected somewhere, the friend added, recalling that O.J. would regularly claim that his wife was in bed with menstrual cramps.

"She was the type of person who would not say to me what her problems were," added Maria Baur, who told the Times she often heard the couple loudly fighting in Simpson's home office. "She wouldn't talk."

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In 1988, Nicole turned up driving a new Ferrari, which she would say was O.J.'s version of an "I'm sorry." 

The word on O.J. and Nicole's marriage and the almost seven years that they lived together beforehand was that it was explosive, that they looked blissfully happy at times but would also have intense fights. Seemingly everyone they knew socially was well aware of the volatility. 

Only in hindsight, after Nicole was killed, did it click into place.

"I didn't know that there was abuse until we heard and saw the whole thing unfold like everybody else and then heard the 911 tapes that were going to be used in evidence during the trial," Kris, who was supposed to have lunch with Nicole the day after she died, said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2016. "It was heartbreaking... Me and some of her other close friends were all really surprised and shocked by that, because we felt we really failed her as a friend. It was horrible."

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Friends of Nicole would say that she fought back with words when she could. "He'd cheat. She'd find out. She'd get angry. She'd confront him," one told the Times. "She's a strong girl and she'd confront him. And they would fight."

Mark Fuhrman, the LAPD detective who played a pivotal role in O.J.'s defense strategy at the murder trial, wrote in a 1989 memo (during an internal look at how many times Nicole had called the cops on O.J.) that he responded to a call at the Rockingham house in the fall/winter of 1985. He arrived to find a woman crying and a Mercedes-Benz with the windshield smashed in; she told Fuhrman that Simpson had smashed it with a bat.

Denise Brown testified that, while out to dinner one night with her sister and brother-in-law in 1987, "O.J. grabbed Nicole's crotch and said, 'This is where babies come from and this belongs to me.' And Nicole just sort of wrote it off as if it was nothing, like—you know, like she was used to that kind of treatment and he was like—I thought it was really humiliating, if you ask me."

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Also on the stand, Denise recalled telling O.J. sometime in the mid-'80s that he was taking Nicole for granted, after which he flew into a rage.

"He ran upstairs, got clothes, started flying down the stairs and grabbed Nicole, told her to get out of his house, wanted us all out of his house, picked her up, threw her against the wall, picked her up, threw her out of the house," Denise said tearfully. "She ended up on her—she ended up falling. She ended up on her elbows and on her butt...We were all sitting there screaming and crying, and then he grabbed me and threw me out of the house."

Nicole would go home to her parents occasionally after such blowups, but O.J. would always call and emotionally apologize, and she would go back.

When a detective called Nicole's parents on the morning of June 13, 1994, to tell them their daughter was dead, Denise also picked up from another extension. Her reaction: "He killed her! He finally killed her!" 

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Kris recalled in her book that in 1988, on a trip to New York, Nicole confided in her about her various marital troubles, that O.J. was cheating and would get physically rough during fights, and she was having a hard time getting along with her stepson, Jason, who was 19 at the time.

"She never came out and said, 'I'm being abused by O.J.,'" Kris wrote. "I so wish I would have asked her for specifics. But I didn't want to cross a line if she didn't want to talk about something, which would become one of my biggest regrets. All she told me on her walk was, 'I want to leave him and I do not know how. I don't know if I can stay. He's really hard to live with."

Nicole had changed, Kris remembered. "She became more withdrawn and private and seemed anxious. She was biting her fingernails down to the quick and just seemed to be on edge all the time."

On Jan. 1, 1989, at 3:58 a.m., Nicole called 911. At first the operator could only hear screams and what sounded like someone being hit. When officers arrived at Rockingham, Nicole, wearing sweatpants and a bra, emerged from the bushes and yelled, "He's going to kill me!" Asked who was going to kill her, she said, "O.J."

"Yes, O.J. Simpson the football player."

According to the police report from that morning, she had a black left eye, a cut lip and a bruised forehead, and there was a handprint on her neck.

"You guys never do anything," Nicole told one of the officers. "You never do anything. You come out. You've been here eight times. And you never do anything to him."

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That time, they told O.J.—who denied hitting his wife, saying he had just pushed her out of bed, that they had a drunken fight after a New Year's Eve party—that he had to go with them to the police station; instead, he drove off into the night in his Bentley.

Nicole went to the cops the next day and told them she didn't really want to press charges, but since she had signed the police report they were obligated to kick it upward to the L.A. City Attorney's Office, which filed domestic violence charges against Simpson, who had just co-starred in The Naked Gun and was working as a broadcaster for NBC Sports.

He ended up pleading no contest to misdemeanor spousal battery and was sentence to 120 hours of community service, two years of probation and twice-a-week counseling, as well as ordered to pay $500 in restitution to a battered women's shelter.

"We had a fight," Simpson told Up Close host Roy Firestone later that year. "We were both guilty. No one was hurt. It was no big deal and we got on with our lives. It wasn't that big of a deal."

A close-up photo of her bruised face was found after her death in a safety-deposit box, along with—the prosecution explained when the defense objected to it being shown in court—photos of her injuries from the New Year's Eve incident.

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Just before Christmas in 1990, Nicole bought two pairs of brown, extra-large "Aris Lights" leather gloves—one pair of which prosecutors later insisted constituted the two bloody gloves found, respectively, at the scene of Nicole and Ron's murder and outside the Rockingham house.

Also in 1990, Nicole met Faye Resnick through Kris and they became fast friends once both were single. Faye proclaimed to be a close observerin many TV interviews and in her 1994 tell-all Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted—of the goings-on between Nicole and O.J. after they split up.

Nicole filed for divorce Feb. 25, 1992.

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When Nicole and O.J. separated, she moved with the kids to a $5,000-a-month rental home on Gretna Green Way in Brentwood—not far from Rockingham—where she later rented the guest house to friend Kato Kaelin for $500 a month. She and Faye met Kate in Aspen on New Year's Eve and sometimes the aspiring actor would babysit Sydney and Justin.

"I only attended junior college for a very short time, because [Simpson] wanted me to be available to travel with him whenever his career required him to go to a new location, even if it was for a short period of time," Nicole stated in an affidavit petitioning for spousal and child support during their 1992 divorce proceedings. "I have no other college education, and I hold no degrees...I am not currently employed and spend my time caring for my two young children."

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During a court-ordered meeting with a career counselor, she had said that the only goal she had to date was to raise her kids well. "Beyond that I haven't thought about me," she said. "I'm sure I will get a goal someday."

They settled their divorce in October 1992 with O.J. agreeing to pay Nicole a lump sum of $433,750, plus $10,000 a month in child support. Nicole also retained the deed on a rental property in San Francisco.

All told, Nicole relished being a full-time mom, driving the kids to school and karate and dance lessons. She reconnected with her girlfriends and enjoyed both fancy nights out and hosting potluck dinners at home. She went on trips, skiing in Aspen and sunning in Cabo San Lucas. Nicole started jogging regularly and would get sitters so she could go clubbing at night after her son and daughter went to sleep.

"She became Nicole Brown, her own person," Cora Fischman, a friend and neighbor from Rockingham, told the LA Times. "She started all over again."

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Nicole also went to therapy, at first in a group with some friends, and then on her own, practically every day for a month, according to a different friend.

"She called me up and said, 'I want my husband back,'" the friend told the Times

Nicole then called O.J., but when he wouldn't take her call, she went to his house. He dismissed her, said he was fine without her. By the time she got him, he was calling to say yes, he too wanted to get back together.

On Oct. 25, 1993, Nicole called 911, telling the dispatcher with an audibly shaky voice, "Could you get someone over here now to 325 Gretna Green? He's back. Please... " Asked what "he" looked like, she said, "He's O.J. Simpson. I think you know his record. Could you just send somebody over here? He's f--king going nuts." Told to stay on the line, she replied, "I don't want to stay on the line. He's going to beat the s--t out of me." 

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The call, played in court less than two years later, was 13 1/2 minutes long. Simpson could be heard vaguely in the background, but at one point came through clearly, when Nicole told him the kids were sleeping. He said, "You didn't give a s--t about the kids when you was sucking his d--k in the living room. They were here. Didn't care about the kids then."

Nicole told the dispatcher her ex was referring to something that happened "a long time ago." (Simpson had seen her through the front window having a sexual encounter with a boyfriend in 1992.)

A couple who were her next-door neighbors on Gretna Green also testified that they would sometimes see O.J. standing outside her house, looking at it from the sidewalk.

Nevertheless, Nicole was on the sidelines with O.J. when he reported from the Dolphins-Cowboys game on Thanksgiving in 1993. They also spent Christmas together.

But on more than one occasion, Kris Jenner recalled in her book and in the 2015 LMN documentary The Secret Tapes of the O.J. Case: The Untold Story, Nicole told her friend that O.J. was going to kill her.

"At the end of Nicole's life, I think she finally was at a place where she knew she had to be more vocal with what was going on and she was in trouble," Kris said in the 2015 special. "The one thing she would tell all of us by the time, you know, it got to that level was, 'He's going to kill me and he's going to get away with it.'"

Friend Cynthia Garvey, ex-wife of retired baseball player (and now Senate candidate) Steve Garvey, told People in 1994 that she had run into Nicole at a mall the previous Christmas.

"I kept asking her, 'Are you okay?' and she kept saying, 'They won't believe me. He's charming. People don't know,'" Cynthia recalled. "When she started to cry, she stiffened her back and pulled away. I can still see her holding on to the sleeve of my jacket. Just before walking off, I pulled her pigtail and said, ‘Nicole, you be smart. You know what to do.' She was trying to be strong, but she just got in above her head."

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Eventually in 1993, Nicole sold the San Francisco property and, in order to avoid paying taxes on the sale income, quickly purchased a condo at 875 S. Bundy Dr. She moved there in January 1994.

She was going to rent a room to Kato, but Simpson—who was still very much involved in his ex's life—told Kato he could live in his guest house rent-free because it wasn't appropriate for him to live inside Nicole's house while they were supposedly in the process of working out their relationship.

Though that could be perceived as a delusion on Simpson's part, they were still seeing each other all the time, although Nicole had other men in her life. At the civil trial in 1996 after the Goldman and Brown families filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Simpson, O.J.'s attorney Robert Baker painted Nicole as desperate to get back with her ex-husband while also partying and associating with all sorts of shady characters. 

Back in 1993, the National Enquirer had reported that Simpson was begging Nicole to get back together, a headline that, when asked about it during the civil trial, he insisted was backwards, that Nicole did the begging. "I think everyone, including our family, knows it was her pursuing me," Simpson said.

In March 1994, the whole fractured family—O.J., Nicole, Sydney, Justin and his older kids, Arnelle and Jason—all went to the L.A. premiere of Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult. Also that month, Nicole and O.J. and their kids went to Mexico for Easter with Kris, then-husband Caitlyn Jenner and kids Kourtney, Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian and Rob Kardashian.

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But whatever had come before, by May 1994, Nicole decided she had to move on for good. For her 35th birthday on May 19, Simpson gave her a bracelet studded with diamonds, rubies and sapphires. She gave it back a week later.

"Nicole wanted to be free of him, she wanted to live her life with the children and raise them away from all this fiasco of the marriage," her cousin Rolf told the LA Times later that summer. "She wanted to have a happier, more peaceful life...This time it was different. She really meant it and he knew it."


Nicole had previously classified Bundy as a rental property on her tax forms and she was using the Rockingham address as her permanent home. Around Memorial Day, Simpson told her she had to stop using his address and threatened to report her to the IRS.

In a diary entry dated June 3, per Jeffrey Toobin's The Run of His Life, Nicole wrote, quoting O.J., "'You hang up on me last nite, you're gonna pay for this bitch, you're holding money from the IRS, you're going to jail you f--king c--t. You think you can do any f--king thing you want, you've got it comming [sic]--I've already talked to my lawyers about this bitch--they'll get you for tax evasion, bitch, I'll see to it. You're not going to have a dime left bitch' etc."

On June 6, Simpson sent her a formal letter instructing her to stop using the Rockingham address, a letter she reportedly showed to Cici Shahian on June 7—the same day Nicole called a Santa Monica women's shelter for victims of domestic abuse and said she was being stalked by her ex-husband.

The defense floated the unsubstantiated theory at trial that Nicole had been killed by drug dealers who were at her house looking for Faye Resnick because cocaine use had landed her in debt. Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran asked LAPD Detective Tom Lange on the stand if he was aware that Faye had stayed with Nicole from June 3, 1994, until June 8, when she checked into rehab.

The cop said he had conflicting reports on that.

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On June 9, Nicole's friend and real estate agent Jeane McKenna put the Bundy condo up for lease at $4,800 a month and then they went looking for new places for Nicole to live.

"She knew the kids really liked Bundy and wouldn't want them to move, so she wanted to do something special for them, to give them something they would want—especially a pool," Jeane later said, per The Run of His Life. "And by the end of the day, we found a place for her in Malibu, a one-story contemporary with a pool and a view of the ocean, for $5,000 a month. I remember walking up the hill there with her. We were smoking. Nobody smokes in Brentwood, so we used to sneak it together, and she was saying, like she couldn't really believe it, 'I can really do this. I can lease the house and move. I can really do this.'"

O.J. was by then dating model Paula Barbieri, and she was on his arm at a black-tie event the night of June 11.

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Nicole was supposed to have lunch with Kris on June 13. 

"She said she wanted to show me some things and talk about what was in her safe," Kris told Ellen DeGeneres. "And so now unfortunately it all makes sense that that's probably what she wanted to reveal to me that next day, which broke my heart because I will always feel horrible that I didn't pay enough attention."

On June 12, 1994, a Sunday, Nicole got up early, made the kids breakfast and took them shopping. Later that afternoon, she went with dad Lou, mom Juditha, Denise and some other family members to daughter Sydney's dance recital. Afterward they went to dinner at Mezzaluna, an Italian restaurant in Brentwood. O.J. had been at the recital but was not invited to go to dinner.

"I didn't want to go," Simpson later said in an interview for E! True Hollywood Story: O.J., Nicole & Ron: Countdown to Murder, which aired in 1998. "To be honest, I was tired. At this particular time, I was avoiding Nicole. I thought she owed me an apology." He smiled. "And I just didn't want to go. I thought I'd see Paula. I was tired, and I just didn't want to sit up there and go through this [whole situation with his in-laws]."

The Browns left Mezzaluna at 8:30 p.m.

"We were going to take a lot of trips," Denise told E!, recalling the plans they started making that night. "We were going to do a lot of stuff. And I think that was probably the best talk we'd had in a long time. Then when we left, walking out the door, it was 'I love you, Nic.' And that was the last thing I said to her."

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Shortly after 9 p.m., O.J. called Nicole. Then Faye called from rehab, later recalling in her book that Nicole said during their 15-minute chat that she would always support her and said, "'I just want all of us to have a healthy and happy life.'"

At 9:40 p.m., Juditha called her daughter to say she'd left her glasses at the restaurant. Nicole called Mezzaluna and asked her friend Ron Goldman, a waiter there, if he could drop them off at her house. He left the restaurant at 9:50 p.m., telling a co-worker he would return the glasses to Nicole on his way to meet some friends in nearby Marina del Rey.

Before work that day, the 25-year-old had played in his usual weekend softball game.

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"He was always a good kid," Ron's father, Fred Goldman, told 20/20 years later about his eldest child, who was just starting college when he moved with his dad, sister Kim Goldman, stepmom and her three children to Southern California from Chicago in 1987. "He was fun, he had a good sense of humor, always laughing...He had a good heart."

Ron aspired to open his own restaurant one day and have a family of his own, Kim, told E! News ahead of the launch of her podcast Confronting O.J. Simpson. "He was a young guy that just loved life and had an infectious smile and had a zest for living...and I miss him a lot." 

A neighbor who lived diagonally across the alley behind Nicole's place later told authorities he heard a dog start barking at 10:15 p.m.

At 10:55 p.m., Steven Schwab, another neighbor out walking his own dog, came across a big white Akita barking in the alley. Steven didn't know the dog, but saw it had an expensive collar, as well as blood on its paws.

AP Photo/Lois Bernstein

The Akita followed Steven home, and he and his wife gave the dog some water outside their place, wondering what to do. Another neighbor, Sukru Boztepe, returned to the complex at 11:40 p.m. and volunteered to keep the dog overnight. But the dog—Sydney and Justin named him Kato—was too restless, so Sukru and his wife, Bettina, went out for another walk.

The dog led them back to the front of 875 Bundy just after midnight, and that's when Boztepe looked past the front gate and saw a woman lying in a pool of blood.

Sydney and Justin had been asleep upstairs when their mother and her friend were murdered outside, Nicole's head nearly severed by the deep cut to her throat and Ron stabbed at least 22 times.

A bath was drawn upstairs and there was a partially eaten bowl of ice cream left behind.

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"She was nothing but a woman who put other people in front of herself," a friend remembered Nicole to CNN. "She cared so much about her kids, Sydney and Justin, and her family. She was such a warm woman."

When the children, then 8 and 5, were ushered out of the house through a back door by police on the morning of June 13, they had no idea what had happened. Sydney called the house phone from the police station, leaving a message asking her mom why she and Justin were there. "Mommy, please call me back. I want to know what happened last night...Please answer, Mommy!"

Nicole's funeral was June 16.

The next day, O.J. was supposed to turn himself in to police, but instead took off in his white Ford Bronco, his childhood friend Al Cowlings behind the wheel. O.J. sat in the back seat, at one point holding a gun to his own head, saying he wanted to see his mother and then be with Nicole. He had left behind a letter, which was read at a press conference by Robert Kardashian, insisting that he had nothing to do with Nicole's murder.

"I loved her, always have and always will," O.J. wrote. "If we had a problem, it's because I loved her so much."

But the whole thing just got more surreal from there. Read on for 25 bizarre facts you forgot about the O.J. Simpson murder trial:

Close Watch

O.J. Simpson met Nicole Brown in 1977 and divorced his first wife, Marguerite, in 1979. He married Nicole on Feb. 2, 1985; their daughter Sydney was born eight months later, and son Justin was born in 1988.

"You guys never do anything," Nicole told police when they arrived at the Simpson home at 360 N. Rockingham Ave. in L.A.'s posh Brentwood neighborhood, responding to a domestic abuse call in the the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 1989, according to reports about that night. "You never do anything. You come out. You've been here eight times. And you never do anything about him."

Simpson insisted he didn't beat Nicole, only pushed her out of bed. Then, told he needed to go with the officers to the police station, he drove off instead. A few days later, Nicole went to the station and said she didn't really want them to proceed with a prosecution, but she consented to out-of-court mediation.

On May 24, 1989, Simpson was sentenced to 24 months of probation, ordered to perform 120 hours of community service and pay fines totaling $470, and was told to attend counseling twice a week (he was allowed to do it by phone) after pleading no contest to misdemeanor domestic violence.

Nicole eventually moved out with Justin and Sydney and filed for divorce in February 1992. They settled that October, with O.J. agreeing to pay her a lump sum of $433,750, plus $10,000 a month in child support, and she retained the title of a rental property. She eventually bought a condo at 875 S. Bundy Drive in Brentwood and moved there in January 1994.

All the while, Simpson was alternately threatening her and trying to get back together. According to prosecutors and witnesses, O.J. had stood outside and looked through her window on multiple occasions, including one time when she was having sex with a boyfriend. Per Jeffrey Toobin's 1996 book The Run of His Life, in a diary entry from June 3, 1994, Nicole detailed a recent threat from Simpson: "'You hang up on me last nite, you're gonna pay for this bitch...You think you can do any f--king thing you want, you've got it comming [sic]..." and so on.

She called a battered women's shelter in Santa Monica on June 7, 1994, to lament that her ex was stalking her. Five days later she was dead.


Tinted Window

TIME came under fire for darkening O.J's complexion when the publication ran his mug shot on the cover in June 1994, with critics arguing it was cheaply playing up the Black-male-murder-suspect angle and pointing out that Newsweek had run the photo without altering the color.

Managing editor James R. Gaines relayed in a statement posted on an AOL message board (remember AOL Time Warner?) that "no racial implication was intended, by TIME or by the artist"—but that yes, the photo given out by the LAPD had specifically been handed to an artist to turn into cover art for the story, which would include interpreting it as he saw fit.

"It seems to me you could argue that it's racist to say that blacker is more sinister," Gaines said, "but be that as it may: To the extent that this caused offense to anyone, I obviously regret it."

The Publishing Industry

Dozens of books have been written about this case, including O.J.'s inexplicable 2007 tome If I Did It: Confessions of a Killer, but his first contribution to the canon was I Want to Tell You, which came out on Jan. 7, 1995, when the trial was barely underway.

The book purportedly comprised the defendant's answers to the thousands of letters he'd received since going to jail, an attempt to get ahead of the picture the prosecution planned to paint of a vicious abuser who had finally made good on all his threats. It sold more than 650,000 copies.

Ripped From the Headlines

Twenty-one years before the O.J. saga got the slick, Emmy-winning treatment in The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and Ezra Edelman won an Oscar for the epic documentary O.J.: Made in AmericaThe O.J. Simpson Story, starring Bobby Hosea and Jessica Tuck, which was mainly about O.J. and Nicole's volatile relationship, was rushed to Fox. 

The New York Times called it "not a movie the defense team would want the jury to see" and an accidental counterbalance to O.J.'s "self-serving" book.

Fox made a point of not airing the TV movie until the jury had been sequestered.

Missing Perspective

An over-confident Marcia Clark didn't put Jill Shively, who told a grand jury that she saw O.J., in his white Bronco, speeding down Bundy shortly after 10:45 on the night of the murders, on the stand during the trial. Moreover, Clark instructed the grand jury to dismiss Shively's testimony, saying she couldn't in good conscience have them consider information she didn't have full faith in.

Clark was actually pissed that Shively had sat down with Hard Copy before she was due to give testimony, and the prosecutor figured she had plenty of other witnesses and evidence to nail O.J. with. Who needed one more connecting him to the location in a time frame that fit the crime?

Facts vs. Fiction

O.J. bombed a lie detector test defense attorney Robert Shapiro arranged for him to take, registering a minus-24, according to The Run of His Life. Polygraph results aren't admissible in court, but can play a role in directing the course of an investigation—and in helping defense attorneys determine the best strategy.

Alan Dershowitz, who mainly advised the defense team from across the country while teaching at Harvard, told the New York Daily News in 2016, when FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson had everybody talking, that the fact the polygraph test results went public suggested there may have been a violation of attorney-client privilege.

"There were only four in the world who knew about the lie-detector test," Dershowitz said. "I was not one of them. The four people were [Robert] Kardashian, who died, Bob Shapiro, O.J. Simpson and the man who conducted the lie-detector test."

However, maybe there were more.

Defense team member F. Lee Bailey, no big fan of Shapiro then or now, told Huffington Post's Highline in 2019 about his co-counsel, "He f--ked up the case on day one by giving O.J. a polygraph test that was totally impossible. You never give those under the circumstances, and he called me immediately saying, 'What do I do next?' And I said, 'Well, first you stop being an a--hole. You call before you give the polygraph test, for Christ's sake!' I saw the charts before he tore them up, and they were nothing but junk." (Shapiro did not comment on Bailey's remarks.)

Search for an Accomplice

The prosecution was convinced that O.J. didn't pull it off alone, TIME later reported, and they assigned officers to keep an eye on O.J.'s childhood friend and confidante Al Cowlings and O.J.'s grown son Jason, from his first marriage, but never gathered evidence that proved the defendant had an accomplice.

Cost of Living

After leading police on a 50-mile chase that traversed multiple L.A. freeways, O.J. in the backseat and Cowlings behind the wheel of the former football star's white Ford Bronco, O.J. surrendered at his home and was taken into custody on June 17, 1994. He remained jailed without bail for the duration of the trial. The time he spent on suicide watch cost taxpayers $81,000, after which the price of incarceration averaged out to $55.69 a day. 

According to the L.A. County auditor's office, the case cost the city about $800,000 a month.

Front Seat Driver

Before Marcia Clark invited Christopher Darden onto her team, he was in charge of investigating Cowlings, who was initially arrested on suspicion of aiding a fugitive. The DA's office ultimately opted not to charge him, citing a lack of evidence.

The Dream Team

Though some drew more attention than others and half of them didn't speak in court, there were at least 10 lawyers who worked on O.J.'s case: civil rights activist Johnnie Cochran; Robert Shapiro; F. Lee Bailey; DNA experts and founders of The Innocence Project Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld; Cochran's associates Carl Douglas and Shawn Holley; O.J.'s longtime friend Robert Kardashian; Gerald Uelmen, then the dean of Santa Clara University's law school; and Alan Dershowitz.

Kardashian died of esophageal cancer in 2003, and Cochran died of brain cancer in 2005. Shapiro steered his practice into civil litigation after the trial and co-founded Legal Zoom; he started the Brent Shapiro Foundation for drug abuse awareness after his son died of an overdose in 2005. Douglas and Holley are still practicing trial attorneys who have represented a slew of celebrity clients.

Uelmen was appointed executive director of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice in 2006. Scheck and Neufeld teach at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law. Bailey, later disbarred in the states of Florida and Massachusetts, died in 2021. Dershowitz retired from teaching in 2013 and made recent headlines as a former lawyer for Jeffrey Epstein and as an outspoken critic of the investigation into whether President Donald Trump colluded with Russia (which he insisted was not a defense of Trump but a defense of due process and civil liberties).

The World's Most Famous Houseguest

Brian "Kato" Kaelin, an aspiring actor who was staying in O.J's guest house, initially moved into Nicole's guest house in January 1993, a month after meeting her in Aspen. He planned on moving into the Bundy condo to help take care of the kids, he testified, but moved onto O.J.'s property instead because he didn't want Kaelin hanging around his ex-wife so much.

Kaelin testified that, on June 12, O.J. returned from daughter Sydney's dance recital and told him that Nicole was preventing him from spending time with Sydney, and he complained that the dress Nicole wore that night was too tight. He and O.J. went to McDonald's and got back at about 9:40 p.m., Kaelin remembered. 

Then, at around 10:45 p.m., he heard three loud thumps against his wall. Kaelin went outside but didn't see anything other than a limo waiting. The driver, Allan Park, testified that he saw O.J. go into the house at 10:55 p.m.

O.J. came out at 11 p.m. and Kaelin helped him load his luggage into the limo, except for a backpack O.J. insisted on putting in the trunk himself, Kaelin testified. Park drove O.J. to LAX, where he had an 11:45 p.m. flight to Chicago. (He returned to L.A. on a 12:10 p.m. flight the next day.)

"I had a radio show and there would be constant death threats to me," Kaelin later said on OWN's Where Are They Now? "There'd be faxes [saying] 'Kato should be killed.'

Talking to Barbara Walters in 2015, Kaelin concluded about his old friend, "In my opinion, yes, I think he's guilty."

Man's Best Friend

Kato Kaelin was close enough to the family that Justin and Sydney Simpson named their dog Kato—and it was Kato the Akita's frantic barks that drew a neighbor, who was out walking his dog, toward Nicole's house at around 10:15 p.m. Not knowing who the Akita belonged to, the neighbor took it home with him, figuring he and his wife could keep it for the night before searching for his owner.

But Kato seemed so nervous, the couple took him outside and the dog led them back to Nicole's house, where they saw that on the path just behind the gate there was a woman lying in a pool of blood.

If the Shoe Fits

Italian shoemaker Bruno Magli got some free publicity when a bloody print at the murder scene was matched to a size-12 Bruno Magli Lorenzo boot.

O.J. denied owning a pair and said later in a deposition for the civil trial that he'd never wear "those ugly ass shoes," but photos were dug up much later showing him wearing the brand on two separate occasions.

"He was very nice," Sam Poser, an associate buyer at Bloomingdale's for men's shoes who testified about showing a pair of Lorenzos to O.J. but couldn't remember if the football star actually bought them, told Footwear News in 2016. "He bought a bunch of dress-casual stuff—he wanted something that was comfortable. But I remembered what he didn't buy more so than I remembered selling him that particular shoe... Eventually, after the [criminal] trial was over, they found the photograph of O.J. wearing the Bruno Magli shoe at a Bills game. In the civil case, which I was deposed for, they stipulated that he was indeed wearing those shoes. Had they found that photograph prior to the criminal trial, that could have been a game-changer."

Fixer Upper

Defense attorney Carl Douglas later told Dateline that his team switched up some of the decor in O.J.'s Rockingham Avenue home before the jury toured it to make it seem as if the tarnished football hero was more in touch with his cultural roots than he really was. Out went a half-naked picture of girlfriend Paula Barbieri, in came African art and a photo of O.J's mother.

Deputy District Attorney Cheri Lewis had argued that it would be inappropriate for jurors to see sentimental tokens in O.J.'s home, such as photos of him with his kids or his trophy room full of memorabilia from his glory days playing for USC and the Buffalo Bills. Especially, Lewis stressed, since Nicole's condo had been stripped of furniture, mementos and anything else that made it personal and warm, a place she had lived with her children.

The tour of the Bundy crime scene included O.J.'s house to help the jury get a sense of the distance between the two locations and whether or not O.J. could have killed Nicole and Goldman, then have returned to his place in time to get in a car with limo driver Allan Park and catch his 11:45 p.m. flight to Chicago. 

Remote Control

Dershowitz made some appearances in court but mainly served as a member of O.J.'s defense team from afar while busy with his day job, teaching at Harvard Law School. During the trial, he simultaneously watched CNN and Court TV, which was televising all of it, and would fax his fellow attorneys memos in real time that they could read right there in the courtroom.

''This is the first trial of the 21st century in some respects,'' he told the Christian Science Monitor in February 1995. ''Having a lawyer outside the courtroom monitoring the case who has quick access to research is the wave of the future. I think more big law firms with complex litigation are going to move to this model."

Candid Camera

Judge Lance Ito considered pulling the plug on the cameras televising the trial (he prevented them from broadcasting the gory crime scene photos), but the defense was on the side of the public having the right to see the whole story play out and, as many remember, the proceedings turned into must-see TV.

At the same time, Ito was very conscious (and concerned) about his own press, and he delighted in the celebrity attention he got, such as in the form of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno's recurring bit featuring the "Dancing Itos."

"He had thought it was great and loved it and wanted all of us to see it in chambers," Peter Neufeld later told TIME. "You may find that amusing on a personal level, but I can assure you that on a professional level it is so unacceptable, for a judge who is presiding over a murder where two people lost their lives in the most gruesome and horrible fashion, and where a third person has his life on the line, to bring the lawyers into chambers to show them comic revues."

The Race Card

Chris Darden tried to argue that the jury shouldn't be allowed to hear the recording of Mark Fuhrman using the n-word because it would upset the Black jurors (who made up a majority on the panel) too much and therefore prove prejudicial against Fuhrman. 

"If you allow Mr. Cochran to use this word and play the race card," he said, "the direction and focus of the case changes: it is a race case now."

Johnnie Cochran wasn't having it.

"I am ashamed that Mr. Darden would allow himself to become an apologist for this man," the seasoned activist and litigator said, among other things, in castigating opposing counsel. After which, Cochran hugged O.J. and left for a funeral.

"First of all, I had told Darden not to take Fuhrman," Cochran recalled to TIME in 2001. "But I was really disappointed with him. He came into the judge's chamber with a copy of Andrew Hacker's book, Two Nations. He gives Ito one of these things. I can't believe he's doing this. And basically, he's saying, if you allow these jurors to hear the word it's the most vile word in the dictionary; it'll turn this trial into whether these jurors believe that the brothers on the street think 'the man' is getting a fair trial. My first reaction was to say to Darden, 'N---er,  please...'"

"I was so furious with him," the attorney continued. "I felt it was an insult to all Black people. When I got up and spoke, that was not scripted. That was just from my heart."

The Glove Debacle

The infamous extra-large leather gloves, one found at the crime scene, the other behind O.J.'s house, made for a matching set and were like a pair Nicole had bought for her then-husband in 1990 at Bloomingdale's. Only 200 pairs were sold in the whole country that year.

A trace of Goldman's DNA was on the glove found at Rockingham and fibers on that glove matched carpeting in O.J.'s Bronco. Traces of O.J's, Nicole's and Goldman's blood were all found in the Bronco. Also, a sock with drops of both O.J.'s and Nicole's blood on it was found in his bedroom.

O.J. said he must have left his blood behind at Bundy some time when he was over there playing with his kids. The story of how and when he cut his finger kept changing, at first saying it happened in Chicago, but then he said it happened in L.A. and he reopened the cut in Chicago. 

When O.J. tried on the gloves in court, at Darden's insistence and much to Clark's dismay and the defense's amusement, he raised his hands and declared, "They don't fit."

"If it doesn't fit, you must acquit," Cochran said in what became perhaps the most quoted—everyone can remember a rhyme—statement of the entire trial. One, incidentally, that Gerald Uelmen suggested, though Cochran's delivery was key.

"But what I was really proposing was that it would provide a good theme for the whole argument," Uelmen told TIME, "because so much of the other circumstantial evidence didn't fit into the prosecution's scenario." 

Glove Slap

It ended up providing one of the most memorable moments of the whole trial and a real coup for the defense, but in a pretrial hearing O.J.'s lawyers initially tried to get the glove found at Rockingham thrown out, citing unwarranted search and seizure, a violation of O.J.'s Fourth Amendment rights.

"I thought we presented a very compelling case that the glove should have been suppressed," Uelmen said on Frontline in 2005. "And the ironic thing is that if the judge had granted that motion and thrown out the glove, I think the result in the O.J. case would have been different. Mark Fuhrman would have been out of the case. They had a pretty compelling case without the glove. The glove kind of opened the door to all of the questions about Mark Fuhrman's credibility and his racism. And when he then became such an important witness in the trial, that then opened the door to all of the problems that Mark Fuhrman created for their case.

"So ironically, if the judge had followed the law, and I think the law really required her to suppress that evidence..."

Ultimately, he said, "I thought we presented a very compelling case of reasonable doubt, and we had a great jury."

Under Attack

While Marcia Clark, a part of the L.A. County District Attorney's Office's special trials unit since 1989, was trying to prosecute O.J. for murder, she was also constantly put on the defensive. Her style was criticized, so she got a new hairdo and was criticized for that. Her ex-husband sued her for primary custody of their two sons during the trial, alleging she was working too much to properly take care of them. The National Enquirer published old topless photos of her taken on a vacation with her then-husband. Even a potential juror, a woman, when asked if there was anything she might hold against the prosecution, told Clark, "I think your skirts are too short, how about that?"

She was dismissed. But not before Judge Ito cracked, "I was wondering when someone was going to mention that."

But the families of the victims she was trying to get justice for had the utmost confidence in her, at least heading into the trial.

"She seems always to be concerned with our family, how we're doing, and at the same time there's never a doubt in my mind she's working 25 hours a day, 10 days a week, on this case," Fred Goldman, Ron's father, told the New York Times. "On a scale of 1 to 100, she easily gets 110."

Nicole's sister Denise Brown told The New Yorker, "I think Marcia is wonderful, a terrific woman, and I think my whole family will vouch for that one."

Reasonable Doubt

Aside from suggesting that detectives tried to frame O.J., the defense proposed the theory that the murders were drug-related, committed by dealers who came to the house looking for Nicole's friend and—up until the day before the murders—house guest Faye Resnick, an interior decorator who later became a familiar face on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Resnick co-wrote a couple of books stemming from the case, starting with Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted, which came out in 1994, right in the middle of jury selection. Thanks to all the salacious details she included about Nicole's purported sex life, Resnick became only a questionably helpful witness for the prosecution, despite her firm belief that O.J. had battered Nicole through the course of their relationship and ultimately killed her. 

Shattered: In the Eye of the Storm, about how the trial affected Resnick, came out in 1996.

Battered Reputation

Bob Shapiro brought F. Lee Bailey on board for his extensive murder trial experience, of which Shapiro—a criminal defense attorney more inclined to cut deals—had none. Bailey was best known for defending Albert DeSalvo, who later confessed to being the "Boston Strangler" serial killer, on assault charges and heiress Patty Hearst when she went on trial for helping her kidnappers rob a bank. (Both convictions.)

Some of Bailey's key moments during the O.J. trial included him goading Darden into having O.J. try on the gloves in court and his cross-examination of Fuhrman.

After O.J. was acquitted, Bailey said on CNN that Shapiro initially wanted O.J. to plead guilty to manslaughter—a charge Shapiro denied, though it was widely reported that conversations about a possible plea were held at his office.

"We tried to fire Shapiro for being an a--hole," Bailey told Huffington Post's Highline in 2019. "O.J. told him, 'You're benched,' and Bob said, Fine. I'm going out to give the public my opinion of your guilt.' O.J. knew that would be devastating before the trial, so we kept Bob aboard."

Bailey was later disbarred in Florida and Massachusetts and set up a consulting firm in Maine, but wasn't able to acquire a license to practice law. 

He told the ABA Journal in 2014 he believed his work on the case "hurt in Florida, Massachusetts and in Maine. There has been a strong wave of judicial resentment against me for my role in the O.J. Simpson trial."


Under cross-examination by Bailey, Fuhrman denied having ever having used the n-word, a statement that was handily proved untrue by the defense, which had a recording of him using the epithet in conversations he had with an aspiring screenwriter. Without the jury present, the detective then asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself when asked whether he had planted or manufactured evidence in the O.J. case.

In a memorandum obtained by the New York Times, Dershowitz had puzzled over why the prosecution felt the need to have Fuhrman testify, since he had only spotted the glove at O.J.'s and pointed it out to fellow detectives. He wasn't the one who physically removed it from the scene and checked it into evidence, therefore he wasn't part of the chain of custody.

Before the trial concluded, Fuhrman, a 20-year veteran of the LAPD, had retired. He pleaded no contest to perjury in 1996 and in 1997 he released Murder in Brentwood, about the O.J. case, the first in a number of books he's since written about true crime, media and the justice system. He moved to Idaho and became a regular guest on Fox News 

Throughout, Fuhrman has maintained that he went by the book in the O.J. case and the evidence proved his guilt. He told the New York Post in 2016, "There will be another O.J., and what we have learned is that political correctness and stupidity trump justice."

Alternate Takes

Over the course of the trial, 10 out of the 27 people seated—12 jurors and 15 alternates—were dismissed for various reasons. Only four of the original main jurors were left to decide the verdict.

Lionel Cryer was originally selected as an alternate but ended up ascending to the main panel. "I was not excited," he told E! News in 2017. "I looked around at all the people I was going to be making this decision with and I thought, this is going to be quite a ride." 

In the end, 10 women and two men found O.J. not guilty. Nine of the jurors were Black, two white and one Hispanic.

Hollow Victory

"Sometimes, I turn around and I look at the Goldmans, and if you could see the hurt and suffering on their faces," Chris Darden told the Los Angeles Times during the trial. "Sometimes, I see them, and they're smiling, but when they are in the courtroom, sometimes they are dying inside... The victims just keep mounting up. The Goldmans are victims. The Browns are victims. The Simpsons are victims. Sydney and Justin Simpson are victims. We're victims because the grief and the pain and the suffering are spread around equally."

In one of the justice system's quirkier quirks, despite being found not guilty of murder O.J. was found liable for Ron and Nicole's deaths in a civil trial and was ordered to pay $33.5 million to the Goldman and Brown families. 

Which he has not done.

(Originally published June 12, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT)

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