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OJ Simpson dies aged 76 surrounded by his family

OJ Simpson first found fame as an NFL player and later commentator before the infamy of his murder trial - Sports Illustrated

OJ Simpson first found fame as an NFL player and later commentator before the infamy of his murder trial - Sports Illustrated© Provided by The Telegraph

OJ Simpson, the former NFL player whose controversial double murder trial was played out on screens across the world, has died aged 76.

A statement issued by his family on Thursday said he had “succumbed to his battle with cancer” the day before. His diagnosis was first reported in February.

The statement read: “On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

“During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace.”

The former athlete was pictured using a cane to walk in January of this year. Rumours surfaced in February that he was undergoing chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer and was in hospice care.

He denied being in a hospice but did not address whether he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Simpson rose to fame during the 1970s as a running back for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, becoming the first player to rush 2,000 yards in a season.

His footballing career was later overshadowed by an internationally publicised double murder trial, in which he was accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman.

Fred Goldman, the father of Ronald , told NBC News: “The only thing I have to say is it’s just further reminder of Ron being gone all these years.”

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said: “Our thoughts are with his families during this difficult time, obviously with his family and loved ones. 

“And I’ll say this - I know that they have asked for some privacy and so we’re going to respect that.” 

O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown at a film premiere in Los Angeles - Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images© Provided by The Telegraph

The ‘trial of the century’

Following a 90-minute car chase across Los Angeles, watched live by an estimated 95 million people on television, Simpson was arrested and faced trial in 1995.

The “trial of the century”, as his case became known, was one of the most high-profile legal battles of all time, and ended with his controversial acquittal.

Simpson’s legal team, led by Johnnie Cochran, sought to turn the focus of the trial on Los Angeles police, accusing them of manufacturing evidence against the former football star.

The criminal trial sharply divided the US along racial lines. In October 1995, one poll showed that 65 per cent of white Americans believed he was guilty, compared with a mere 18 per cent of black Americans.

A separate survey from the same year, as reported by CNN, showed that two-thirds of black Americans believed there was a conspiracy to frame Simpson for the murders amid concerns about racist policing.

In what became one of the defining images of the case, Simpson held up his hands after struggling to pull on a pair of bloodstained gloves that police had discovered. One was found at the crime scene, the other near Simpson’s guest house.

“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” Cochran told the jury. 

OJ Simpson's mugshot taken in 1994© Provided by The Telegraph

DNA evidence assembled by the police included blood samples taken from the crime scene that matched Simpson’s – in theory, placing him at the site at the time of the murders. Blood was also found in his white Ford Bronco, on his driveway, his house, and a pair of socks in his bedroom.

However, Simpson had assembled a “dream team” to fight his case in court which included Barry Scheck, a DNA expert.

The defence argued that the police scientist who collected blood samples from Simpson failed to take them immediately to a laboratory for testing – meaning they could have been tampered with or contaminated.

“We attacked the way that evidence was gathered and processed,” Mr Scheck said in 2014. “We had a 21st-century technology and 19th-century evidence collection methods.”

Two years later, in February 1997, Simpson was found liable in a civil court for the wrongful death of Brown and Goldman, and ordered to pay $33,500,000 in damages.

In 2006, Simpson sold a book manuscript titled If I Did It for $700,000 to an imprint of HarperCollins, providing a hypothetical account of the murders he had repeatedly denied committing.

A public outcry led to the cancellation of the project and hundreds of thousands of copies were pulped. Mr Goldman’s family eventually secured the book rights and republished it with the subtitle: “Confessions of the killer.” 

The new design of the title significantly reduced the size of the word “If” so that the front cover appears to read: “I Did It.”

The new edition also included a commentary from the Goldman family explaining why they had decided to release the book. The move prompted a rift with Denise Brown, the sister of Nicole, who opposed its publication.

Simpson was arrested again in Las Vegas in 2007 on charges of armed robbery and kidnapping, which resulted in his conviction and a sentence of 33 years in prison. 

Simpson at his parole hearing in 2017 - Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, Pool© Provided by The Telegraph

He was released on parole in 2017, and released from parole conditions in December 2021.

Simpson had five children – three with his first wife, Marguerite, and two more with Nicole Brown. His son, Aaren, drowned as a toddler in a swimming pool accident in 1979.

Arnelle, his eldest daughter, testified on her father’s behalf during his murder trial. She told the court that he had been on good terms with Brown and was “distraught” when he learned about her death. 

‌After losing his Los Angeles house as part of his civil case, Simpson moved to Miami with his youngest children, Sydney and Justin. Both are still thought to be living in Florida.  

Story by Tony Diver, Ben Smith: The Telegraph: 

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