Where are they now? Key players in O.J. Simpson murder trial 25 years after the trial of the century
The June 12, 1994, killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman brought the “Trial of the Century” that saw O.J. Simpson acquitted of the murders. From Johnnie to Kato to Ito, the trial brought together a fascinating cast of charters. Here’s a look at where they are now.
Two years after Simpson’s 1995 acquittal, a civil court jury found him liable for the deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman, and ordered he pay their survivors $33.5 million. He got into a series of minor legal scrapes ranging from a 2001 Florida road-rage incident (he was acquitted) to racing his boat through a protected Florida manatee zone in 2002 (he was fined). His most serious transgression came in 2007, however, when he and five others barged into a Las Vegas hotel room with guns and robbed memorabilia dealers of property that Simpson said was his. He served nine years in a Nevada prison and was paroled in 2017. Now 71, Simpson lives quietly in Las Vegas where he says he plays golf nearly every day with a group of “retired guys.” He also poses for selfies with the many people still enamored with his celebrity. Simpson told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he will never discuss the murders again.
THE VICTIMS’ SURVIVORS
Ron Goldman’s sister, Kim, was 22 and broke into hysterical sobs when the not guilty verdict was read. These days she counsels troubled teens as executive director of a Southern California-based nonprofit, The Youth Project, and is a speaker to victims’ rights group. She has authored several books and on Wednesday — the 25th anniversary of her sister’s death — begins a 10-episode podcast titled “Confronting: OJ Simpson,” in which she says she’ll discuss all aspects of the trial. Goldman, now 47, lives in a Southern California suburb with her 15-year-old son.
Fred Goldman, Ron’s father, has relentlessly pursued Simpson through civil courts, maintaining it is the only way to achieve justice for his son. Goldman’s family has seized some of Simpson’s memorabilia, including his 1968 Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player that year. The family has also taken the rights to Simpson’s movies, a book he wrote about the killings and other items to satisfy part of the $33.5 million judgment that Simpson refuses to pay. Goldman, 78, lives with his wife, Patti, in Arizona, where both are Realtors.
Denise Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister, has remained the family’s most outspoken critic of Simpson, although like the Goldman family she refuses to speak his name. The former model has become a victims’ rights advocate and a speaker, urging both women and men to leave abusive relationships. She said she has gotten over her anger with God for the killings but has never forgiven Simpson and will not watch any films or documentaries about the killings.
THE LEGAL DREAM TEAM
Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., Simpson’s flamboyant lead attorney, died of brain cancer in 2005 at 68. His refrain to jurors that “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” sought to underscore that the bloody gloves found at Simpson’s home and the crime scene were too small for the football legend when he tried them on in court. After the trial, that line became a national catchphrase. Following the trial Cochran expanded his law firm to 15 states and frequently appeared on television. He also became the inspiration for bombastic lawyer Jackie Chiles on the TV sitcom “Seinfeld.”
Robert Kardashian died of esophageal cancer in 2003 at age 59. He had renewed his law license specifically to defend Simpson, and his longtime friend stayed in Kardashian’s home between the time of the murders and his arrest. When Simpson fled authorities in a white Ford Bronco on June 17, 1994, Kardashian read to reporters a rambling message Simpson had left behind as a bizarre, nationally televised, slow-speed freeway chase unfolded. Since his death, Kardashian’s fame has been eclipsed by that of ex-wife, Kris, and children, Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob, thanks to their reality show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
Robert Shapiro, the first member of Simpson’s defense team, continues to practice law. In 2005 he founded the Brent Shapiro Foundation to help steer young people from drug and alcohol addiction after his 24-year-old son died of an overdose. He also co-founded LegalZoom.com, a do-it-yourself service for people seeking to file legal documents without the help of attorneys, and RightCounsel.com for people searching for an attorney.
Barry Scheck was the lawyer who introduced DNA science to jurors as he attacked police methods of evidence collection to undermine the prosecution’s forensic evidence case. He and fellow Simpson lawyer Peter Neufeld co-founded The Innocence Project that uses DNA evidence to exonerate wrongly convicted prisoners. The project has helped overturn hundreds of convictions.
F. Lee Bailey was the lawyer who played a key role in exposing racist statements made by one of the prosecution’s key witnesses, police Detective Mark Fuhrman, undermining Fuhrman’s credibility. When he joined the defense team, Bailey already was famous for his role in some of the most high-profile cases of the 20th century, including that of heiress-turned-bank-robber Patricia Hearst. Bailey, now 86, was disbarred in Massachusetts and Florida in the early 2000s for misconduct in handling a client’s case. His efforts to be reinstated have been unsuccessful.
Marcia Clark, the trial’s lead prosecutor, quit law after the case, although she has appeared frequently as a TV commentator on high-profile trials over the years and on numerous TV news shows. She was paid $4 million for her Simpson trial memoir, “Without a Doubt,” and has gone on to write a series of crime novels.
Chris Darden, the co-prosecutor, was criticized for having Simpson try on the bloody gloves without first ensuring they would fit. He is now a defense attorney himself. He recently represented the man charged with killing hip-hop mogul Nipsey Hussle before withdrawing from the case, saying his family had received death threats. Darden has also taught law, appeared on television as a legal commentator and wrote of his Simpson trial experiences in the book, “In Contempt.”
Lance Ito, who retired in 2015, presided over approximately 500 trials after the one that made him such a household name that “The Tonight Show” briefly featured a comedy segment called “The Dancing Itos,” in which Ito lookalikes in judicial robes performed. After the Simpson trial he had to remove his name plate from his courtroom door because people kept stealing it. Ito has never discussed the trial, citing judicial ethics.
Brian “Kato” Kaelin, a struggling actor living in a guest house on Simpson’s property, testified he heard a bump during the night of the murders and went outside to find Simpson in the yard, something prosecutors say showed Simpson was sneaking back home after the killings. Mocked on talk shows as America’s most famous houseguest, Kaelin has gone on to appear in reality shows, in small parts in TV sitcoms and films, and to launch a clothing line for slackers. In recent years he’s been a regular at Wizard World Comic Con in St. Louis.