September 24, 1995
From 'CNN Presents' and Correspondent Jim Moret
Minutes after midnight June 13, 1994, Los Angeles police arrive at a bloody crime scene. They find no witnesses and no murder weapon, just two victims brutally stabbed to death. One is Ron Goldman, a 25-year-old waiter. The other, Nicole Brown Simpson, is the stunning ex-wife of football legend O. J. Simpson.
Simpson rushes home from a business trip to Chicago and talks to police. "It is not my belief that he's being treated as a suspect," says Howard Weitzman, Simpson's lawyer, at a press conference. But within days, Simpson is the prime suspect. He promises to surrender, then disappears. (128K AIFF sound or 128K WAV sound)
The famous low-speed chase rivets a nation, and at his Brentwood home, Simpson surrenders. The star athlete now faces prosecutors convinced he's guilty of murder.
Simpson assembles what's called a legal dream team to fight the charges in court and after two months of intense screening, a majority black jury is picked -- twelve people Simpson's lawyers call a jury of his peers. "I think we have, hopefully, 12 people who can be fair and impartial," asserts Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran.
As jurors assemble inside the courtroom, satellite trucks, cameras, and souvenir hawkers create a circus outside and L.A. County spends $8 million on lawyers and logistics. (34K AIFF sound or 34K WAV sound)
Millions of viewers a day watch the case on TV. One study says U.S. industry loses more than $25 billion as riveted workers turn away from their jobs to the trial. The case leaves Americans talking about race and police misconduct as the defense vilifies a key prosecution witness as a racist, rogue cop who framed O. J. Simpson. "First thing -- anything out of a nigger's mouth for the first five or six sentences if a f--ing lie," says detective Mark Furhman in an a taped interview.
The trial focuses national attention on a host of issues, but for the jury of 12, there's only one decision -- guilt or innocence. Judge Lance Ito instructs them to consider only facts in evidence and to acquit O. J. Simpson if they have reasonable doubts about his guilt or convict him if they don't.
Simpson's lawyers want to convince all 12 jurors he's innocent, but they'll take only one -- one hold-out can hang the jury and end the trial without a conviction.
"Obviously, a defense lawyer wants all 12 jurors, but if he can't have 12, one will do because hanging a verdict is just -- is almost as good as winning a case," explains CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren.
On the other side of the legal war, the prosecution must win all 12 jurors' votes to declare victory, leaving no room for reasonable doubt.
"If there's two reasonable interpretations of the evidence -- meaning circumstantial evidence -- and one points to the defendant's innocence and one points to the defendant's guilt, the jury must adopt that interpretation that points to the defendant's innocence," says legal analyst Roger Cossack.
As the jury weighs the evidence and the nation awaits the verdict, O. J. Simpson's future and his freedom hang in the balance.
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