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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12, 1994

It's Tuesday, June 12, 2012, and it's the day where we step back in time once more. And this time, we're going to flash back to a moment in time where a heinous crime took place. And with that crime came one of the biggest media circuses ever to grace televisions and magazines all over the world.

But, of course, before we pick the date we're flashing back to,we always have to take a look at some of the other events that took place in history. So, let's have a look at the happenings of June 12, beginning with celebrity birthdates.

Celebrating a birthday this twelfth of June are David Rockefeller, George H. W. Bush, Jim Nabors, Marv Albert, Chick Corea, John Wetton (Asia), Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick), Timothy Busfield, Jenilee Harrison, John Enos III, Tim DeKay, Paula Marshall, Rick Hoffman, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Jason Mewes, Kerry Kittles, Michael Muhney, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, DJ Qualls, Wil Horneff, Robyn, Adriana Lima, Chris Young, and Kendra Wilkinson.

June 12 also happens to be a date in which we lost a lot of famous faces. We mourned the losses of Jimmy Dorsey in 1957, Bill Blass in 2002, Gregory Peck in 2003, and Don “Mr. Wizard” Herbert in 2007.

June 12 also had a lot of important events that happened throughout history as well.

1429 – Joan of Arc leads French army in their capture of the city and English commander William de la Pole in the second day of the Battle of Jargeau during the Hundred Years War

1665 – England installs a municipal government in New York City

1775 – British General Thomas Gage declares martial law in Massachusetts during the American Revolution

1860 – The State Bank of the Russian Empire is established

1864 – Ulysses S. Grant gives the Confederate Forces under Robert E. Lee a victory after pulling his troops from Cold Harbor, Virginia during American Civil War

1889 – 78 are killed in Armagh rail disaster in what is now called Northern Ireland

1898 – The Philippines declares independence from Spain

1939 – The Baseball Hall Of Fame opens up in Cooperstown, New York

1942 – On her 13th birthday, Anne Frank receives a diary for a present. Years later, it would become one of the most famous pieces of literature in a book entitled “Diary of a Young Girl”

1964 – Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life in a South African prison for sabotage, and would not get out until February 1990

1967 – Loving vs. Virginia; The United States Supreme Court declares all state laws that prohibit interracial marriage to be unconstitutional

1978 – David Berkowitz (a.k.a. The Son of Sam) is sentenced to 365 years in prison for the six murders he committed

1987 – Ronald Reagan challenges Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall

1991 – Russians elect Boris Yeltzin as president of the republic

1996 – In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a panel of federal judges blocks a law against indecency on the internet

1997 – Queen Elizabeth II reopens Globe Theatre in London

2000 – Sandro Rosa do Nascimento takes hostages during a bus robbery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; ends with death of do Nascimento and one hostage

2001 – Robert Edward Dyer sentenced to 16 years in jail for his attempt to extort money from a supermarket chain through a letter bomb campaign

So, as you can see, June 12 is a date that had a lot of happenings. And for some odd reason, June 12 seems to be linked to a lot of criminal activity and trials. Therefore, it seems only fitting that the date we're flashing back to also has that link.

Today we are going back to June 12, 1994.

June 12, 1994 was quite a busy day in history. It was the date that the Boeing 777 made its first flight, and it was the date that we lost actor/comedian Christopher Collins. But it was also the date that a brutal double murder took place in the city of Los Angeles. That was horrible enough. But when you take into account that the accused was a famous football star, that made the situation all that much worse. The result was a trial that seemed to never end, and once it did, left a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouths.

On June 12, 1994, 35-year-old Nicole Brown Simpson, and 25-year-old Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death outside of Brown Simpson's Brentwood condominium just shortly after midnight. An investigation was launched into who could have committed the murders, and immediately one suspect came to mind.

Orenthal James Simpson...better known as O.J. Simpson, former player of the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, who would later partake in an acting career, landing roles in Roots, the Naked Gun trilogy, and having several endorsement deals throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Who would have ever guessed that just fifteen years after retiring from the NFL, he would find himself as the prime suspect in one of the biggest murder trials of the decade...maybe even perhaps of the century.

Before we get to that, why don't we take a look back at what happened before the murders took place?

Nicole Brown Simpson was once married to O.J. Simpson. They had met each other in 1977 while she was working as a waitress at a Beverly Hills nightclub. The relationship immediately heated up, even though Simpson himself was still married to his first wife, Marguerite, at the time. The couple married each other in February 1985, and together they had two children, Sydney and Justin. The couple stayed married for the next seven years, but it became clear that the marriage was not a match made in heaven. In 1989, O.J. Simpson pleaded no contest to spousal abuse, indicating that he had physically hurt Nicole on a number of occasions during their marriage. The couple split up, and Nicole filed for divorce in February 1992, citing irreconcilable differences as the main reason.

By 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson had moved on with her life. She had turned 35 on May 19 of that year, and she was looking forward to the future. On the last night of her life, Nicole ate dinner with her family at Mezzaluna restaurant, where Ronald Goldman worked as a waiter. After the dinner ended, Nicole went home, but ended up forgetting her glasses at the restaurant. After Nicole's mother phoned the restaurant to inquire about the glasses, the manager of the restaurant found them, put them inside a white envelope, and Ronald Goldman volunteered to return the glasses to Nicole, since he knew her already.

It would be the last time that Nicole and Ron were seen alive.

At the crime scene, investigators collected the evidence, which according to them pointed the finger of blame squarely on Simpson. After all, Simpson did have a history of abusing his ex-wife during their marriage, and investigators believed that they had enough forensic evidence to convict Simpson of the double murder.

Five days later, on June 17, lawyers convinced the LAPD to allow Simpson to turn himself in by eleven o'clock in the morning. The charges were serious. If Simpson were convicted, he would be condemned to death within the prison system, but his lawyers believed that if Simpson voluntarily turned himself in, it would look better for him. But as we well know by now, Simpson didn't show up, and by two in the afternoon, a warrant was sworn out for his arrest. Three hours later, Simpson's friend and lawyer, Robert Kardashian (and yes, he was the father of Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney) read a note from Simpson that some interpreted as a suicide note. The search for Simpson intensified with reporters joining the police in hopes of finding him.

It wouldn't be until 6:20pm that Simpson would be located, and it would be this sighting that would kick off the ensuing media circus that would take over the world for a year and a half.

After a motorist spotted Simpson inside a white Bronco, police tracked him down, and this lead to a police chase down Interstate 405, which ended up being highly televised. It even interrupted the 1994 NBA finals! It was big news. But if you thought that was the end of it, think again.

Jury selection began in the O.J. Simpson murder trial in October 1994, with the 12-member jury confirmed by November 1994. Opening statements began on January 24, 1995, where prosecutors intended to prove that O.J. Simpson did murder Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman the night of June 12, 1994.

Now, I won't go into great detail about the trial itself because I'm sure that you could find multiple accounts and transcripts detailing everything from the testimonies of the witnesses to the “if the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit” statement. And besides, the actual case isn't the focus of this blog entry. More along the lines of the aftermath, as well as the impact it had in the world of media.

As we all know, the trial lasted a grand total of nine months. During this time, special news reports peppered television during both daytime and primetime slots. It got to the point where it became very unpredictable when it came to watching television shows, as one never knew when a new development in the case would preempt a show. Soap operas were often a frequent casualty of the O.J. Simpson trial. At the trial's peak, viewers were lucky if they could watch their stories three times a week.

On top of that, the constant barrage of media attention that surrounded the O.J. Simpson trial were often fodder for late night talk shows. Kato Kaelin, a witness in the trial soon became a household name thanks to the talk show hosts poking fun at him every chance they had. In fact, Jay Leno really had a ball on his talk show poking fun at the participants in the trial, including having an army of Dancing Itos. Watch the clip below to see what I mean.

Truth be told, everyone who was associated with the trial was elevated to near-celebrity status. After all, watching the trial progressing was almost like a reality show...only instead of winning a million dollars, the contestants were battling against each other to either get their client convicted or acquitted. Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, Marcia Clark, Robert Kardashian, Lance Ito, Kato Kaelin, Mark Fuhrman...all of these people were thrown into the public spotlight as a result of the high-profile case.

The trial lasted until October 1995. On October 3, 1995, the long-awaited verdict had finally been reached. It was 10:00 in the morning (California time) when jurors came back with the verdict. I actually remember this moment very well. Although the verdict had been reached by the time I got out of school that day (my school day ended at a quarter past two back in ninth grade), the news was plastered on almost every channel. I think only PBS, YTV, and the Weather Network were the only three channels that didn't broadcast the verdict. Would you like to relive that moment? Have a look below.

You heard it here folks. Orenthal James Simpson was found NOT GUILTY.

Certainly the verdict had a huge impact on the world. In particular, within the United States. The date that the verdict occurred, it was estimated that over 100 million people tuned in to watch the verdict live on of the largest viewing audiences ever for a live television event. Those same people dropped everything that they were doing to watch the verdict live on television. Long-distance phone calls reportedly dropped by 58% the day of the verdict, while activity on the New York Stock Exchange decreased by 41%. Water consumption was also at an all-time low during the hour the verdict was announced, upon the speculation that people avoided using the bathroom so that they wouldn't miss the verdict! Even Domino's Pizza recorded an increase in pizza orders just before the verdict was read.

As far as the verdict itself went, reaction was very mixed. A lot of people believed that O.J. Simpson had gotten away with murder (and well, I'll admit it...I was one of those people, and still feel this way eighteen years later). But some never believed for a moment that O.J. Simpson was capable of murder. Whether you find it unsurprising or not, many of O.J. Simpson's supporters were predominately black or Hispanic. In fact, there was a fear among many residents of Los Angeles that if Simpson was found guilty, it would cause another spree of rioting, similar to that of the April 29, 1992 riots linked to the Rodney King trial.

It seems hard to believe that a murder trial could cause so many people to drop everything that they were doing to witness, but back in late 1994/early 1995, that's exactly what a lot of people did. It would seem highly unlikely for another trial to have as much media impact as the O.J. Simpson murder case. When you stop and think about it, the entire trial was almost like a soap opera itself. There were characters of all backgrounds, both representing good and evil, and the case ended up with an ending that divided people for several years.

It's been eighteen years since Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman lost their lives, and at the end of it all, none of us really know what exactly happened the night of June 12, 1994. It's entirely possible that O.J. Simpson could have been innocent the whole time, but given his recent activities, I highly doubt that. When you consider that he wrote a book entitled “If I Did It”, which more or less depicted what would have happened IF he did kill Nicole and Ron, I don't know...for someone protesting that they were innocent the whole time, I would think that the last thing I would do is cast more suspicion on myself. But, again, who knows what went on in O.J.'s mind at the time.

Though, O.J. Is not the only one to write books about the trial. Marcia Clark, Johnnie Cochran, and Mark Fuhrman also wrote books about their points of view during the most-watched murder trial of the century. There have even been books that have speculated on other possible scenarios regarding the murder, including a 2008 book by Mike Gilbert which accuses O.J.'s son, Jason of committing the crime!

But here's a little bit of a footnote. If you are one of the ones who believed that O.J. Simpson got away with murder, you might take some consolation in the fact that in 1997, O.J. Simpson was ordered to pay over $33 million in damages to the Goldman family after losing his wrongful death civil trial. To help with the payments, some of Simpson's belongings were auctioned off, including his Heisman trophy. The auction raised half a million dollars, all of which went to the family of Ronald Goldman.

And then there was the 2007 robbery case in which Simpson reportedly entered a hotel room at the Palace Station in Las Vegas, Nevada and stole sports memorabilia at gunpoint. A couple of days later, after initially being let go after questioning, Simpson was arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, robbery, and using a deadly weapon. A trial followed suit, and unlike his last high-profile court case, where he was set free, this time, Simpson couldn't hide from the truth. He was sentenced to a thirty-three year prison sentence in 2008, with possibility of parole in 2017, and as of right now, his home is the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada.

Funny how life works out. In the end, O.J. Simpson ended up getting away with murder, but still ended up in jail for an unrelated crime. Although I'm sure it is of little comfort for the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, who ended up losing their lives on June 12, 1994.

A double murder in which we may never know what truly happened. Sure doesn't stop us from speculating though.

1 comment:

  1. Living in California my whole life, I have to tell you it was crazy here during that time. I am a huge football fan, and I loved O.J. Simpson. It bothered me when I heard the news about the domestic violence charges. After the murders and trial, it was obvious he was guilty. His verdict came only a few years after the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, so I know the possiblity of riots was a big concern. I hope that had nothing to do with the decision of the jury. Thankfully, he was found guilty in the wrongful death suit. The families of both vicitims made statements at the time that they felt justified by the fact that he had been found responsible for deaths of Nicole and Ron even though the criminal trial was a joke.