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One World with Zain Asher

O.J. Simpson Dies After Battling Cancer. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired April 11, 2024 - 12:00:00   ET



ZAIN ASHER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, coming to you live from New York, I'm Zain Asher.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Bianna Goldryga. You are watching ONE WORLD. And we are following a breaking story right now. News that O.J.

Simpson has died after battling cancer.

ASHER: Yes, certainly one of the most complicated -- very controversial figure in modern times. A beloved, at one point, sports legend who became a

hated villain in America because many people, of course, thought and believed that he killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, along with her

dear friend, Ron Goldman.

It is impossible not to reflect on these images. These images that dominated our screen back in the mid-90s. First, of the slow speed white

Ford Bronco chase as the police closed in on O.J. Simpson about to arrest him.

GOLODRYGA: It's one of those events where people talk about where they were at that moment. So many years later, they still reflect on that. And,

of course, subsequently, in 1994, people watched around the globe.

So many iconic moments, that trial, the gloves that didn't fit, the stunning acquittal that followed. Simpson had largely stayed out of the

spotlight in recent years, though it was recently revealed that he was fighting cancer. And on Wednesday, he lost that fight.

ASHER: CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan joins us live now. Christine, we've talked a lot on our air about just what a dramatic fall from grace

this was, of course, for O.J. Simpson. But another aspect of this case and of O.J. Simpson's life was really how much this case did in America to

raise the issue of domestic violence.

This idea that it could actually happen to anyone. Domestic violence largely went from being a private matter at the time to really exploding

into the public consciousness. Give us your take on that, Christine.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST (on-camera): That's absolutely correct. You know, go back to that time. We're talking, of course, 1994.

And, you know, this is -- cable T.V. is just beginning. And this story explodes really is our first big reality T.V. story. Tonya Nancy had

happened a few months earlier in figure skating in the Olympics. But this was huge.

And what it showed is how little we cared when women were talking about being abused. And you're right. The stories came out. The fact that the

police seemingly ignored what Nicole Brown Simpson was talking about, this mattered. And the nation listened. And whether it was network T.V. or CNN

or other cable outlets, people were riveted.

And that's absolutely the case, that from that story, that terrible, terrible story, the allegations, obviously, the murder trial, everything

that happened, the civil suit that, of course, was won by the Goldman family. We learned a lot. The nation learned a lot. And we learned to

respect and listen to women or men, if they are victims, in a way we never had before.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, I remember watching that trial and hearing all of those 911 tapes that were released the number of times that Nicole Brown Simpson

had called police during altercations and fights with O.J., pleading for them to come help her.

Her sister, Denise Brown, had testified to their concern about her well- being. And, obviously, there's the tragedy of Ron Goldman, a friend who worked with -- who was a friend of hers, a waiter at Mezzaluna, and came

over a restaurant nearby in Brentwood. And that fateful night when both of them were so savagely murdered.

And, Christine, I mean, this is a sort of confluence of the height of someone's career, given that he had succeeded so well in sports and then

went on to the entertainment world, a household name. And the first of the trial T.V., the T.V. trials -- talk about that moment for you, where --

that event.

BRENNAN: Yes, you know, well, we were all watching it and riveted. And for me, growing up as a girl who loves sports, O.J. was one of the biggest

names, obviously not just in sports, but in our culture, in our country.

And, you know, we think now of athletes, whether it's Serena Williams or very recently, Caitlin Clark, of course, LeBron, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan,

the crossover appeal of those athletes. The fact that we know them so well, not just in sports, but in our culture because of commercials, because of

being pitch men or pitch women and in just every part of our lives.


Well, O.J really was the first. He was the one. It was the Hertz commercial. And he's running through the airport. Everyone knew that. So,

you knew O.J. was a great player. He was the Heisman Trophy winner at USC, one of the greats of all time in college. He goes to the pros. He breaks

the record with over 2000 yards in a season, the 1973 season for the Buffalo Bills.

I remember watching that as he broke the record. And -- and then, of course, it was -- O.J. was much more than just an athlete. I mean, he was

in our living rooms. He was a part of our lives. And the fall from grace and the awful allegations and, of course, the civil loss by him, I think,

of course, it changed everything.

Because O.J. would never be looked at the same way again, nor he should -- should he have been looked at the same way again. But, yes, this was a man

that was a part of our lives, really for the entirety of our childhood and even, of course, adulthood.

ASHER: It is interesting because, you know, you list some of the highlights of O.J. Simpson's resume. And no doubt as a running back, he was

an iconic athlete. But when I hear his name, when I hear that name, O.J. Simpson, I do not think of the Buffalo Bills, okay? I do not think of the

Heisman Trophy. I do not think of the Hertz commercial.

I think of Nicole Brown Simpson and I think of the white Ford Bronco. What -- just walk us through your thoughts on how this trial changed the way we

view celebrities just in terms of how much we have in the past, and I guess, to a certain extent, still do put them on pedestals.

BRENNAN: You know, that's a great point. What we don't know about athletes, you know, I'm here at the Masters covering Augusta National and

Tiger Woods, obviously a much, much lesser degree. I can't stress that enough. I'm not comparing at all.

But Tiger, with his personal life and what happened, we -- we realized we knew nothing about him. Yet everyone thought they knew everything about

him, right? That's the culture that O.J. Simpson gave us. That's the how we learned about athletes was, you know, through much more than just sports.

And so, I think in many ways, I mean, for me, O.J. was forever the man who was involved in that murder. And even though he wasn't found guilty, you

know, we all, of course, have our thoughts. But 1994, 1995, O.J. was the biggest story in this country. He was what we were all talking about.

Everyone planned their day around the verdict when we found out that there would be a verdict in 1995.

I mean, you cannot overstate how big a deal O.J. Simpson was from the very time he first got into our consciousness with the Heisman Trophy, playing

college football at the University of Southern California, all the way through the NFL, the commercials. And then, of course, this tragedy.

And you're right. I mean, we should always every time we say O.J. Simpson's name, we should say Nicole Brown Simpson's name and Fred Goldman's name.

Absolutely. And I certainly plan to do that every interview I do today and moving forward, because you cannot glorify O.J. Simpson, even as he was a

great athlete, because of what happened in the decades after that.

GOLODRYGA: And what we also learned, Christine, throughout this trial and the heinousness of the details that came out of it, was how little we knew

about him himself. There was a Jekyll and Hyde complex about him publicly. He was known as being very affable, friendly to the media, always had a

smile on his face, always cast as that likable, lovable character. And then to hear this side of him, I think, was a big shock and stunning to so many

people who had looked up to him, who had watched him, who had been fans of his.

And all of that came to light throughout this very memorable trial. And of course, I can only imagine what memories this brings up for Nicole Brown's

family today and Ron Goldman's, as well. Christine Brennan, thank you.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is in Los Angeles and joins us now. Stephanie, I saw you on our network just a few moments ago, and I think you captured so well

the mood of the country in 1995 when that verdict came down, and 1994 in Los Angeles when the trial began, when the murder took place. And you can't

erase that moment in time, what a couple of years prior to that had transpired in Los Angeles.

And the fact that you had the Rodney King verdict and those officers were acquitted, and then you had the riots subsequently that followed. I

remember exactly where I was in high school, in the conversations that were being had at school among classmates, teachers, parents. It's important to

put into context.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can't start history when it's convenient to whenever we'd like to, right? That's something I constantly

say to people, that things happen because of pressures around it, Bianna and Zain. And that is exactly what the situation was here in Los Angeles at

that time. I mean, O.J. Simpson's probably one of the earliest race shifters, right?


This was this black man who became super popular, super famous because of his athletic prowess. And then, once this heinous murder, these murders

happened, everything changed for him, and he was reminded of just how much of a black man in America he was.

Now, when you look at how everything played out in the 90s, and I realize there's a lot of people who weren't even around now who may be watching

this, to remember exactly how everything changed on a dime here. But it's because of the slow buildup of pressure that was here. And it all started

in 1991. That was in March when Rodney King was beaten, and one man with a camcorder filmed it with grainy video, sent it to a local station, and

everyone saw what could happen -- and what happened. And everyone thought they knew what would happen when this went to trial. Instead, all four of

those officers were acquitted of assault, and then three out of four were acquitted of using excessive force.

People couldn't understand if there was video, how could this be the outcome? Here you had white officers, and here you had Rodney King, a black

man. That leads to -- that acquittal leads to the Los Angeles race riots, which burned the city for several days. And that anger was still spilling

over, people feeling like they weren't heard, feeling like they were being over-policed, harshly policed, and that nothing was going to change.

You have to keep in mind that by the time the L.A. riots happened, that's basically April into early May of 1992. You go from that period, and then

you've got to fast forward and look at what happens with O.J. Simpson. Keep in mind the anger is still simmering. Yeah, there's been some steam that's

let off, but it's still simmering.

And so, while people may not have been as invested in O.J. Simpson necessarily, there were a lot of people, a lot of black people, who looked

at his acquittal as, for once, the system has worked in our favor, whether they really cared about O.J. Simpson or not.

So, once again, the country was divided, and you saw people falling to either side. I was in New York City as a new, you know, news assistant,

basically, at my first job out of college, and back then we didn't have cell phones or all those good things. And so, the reporter who was

dictating her story to me from the courthouse asked to stay on the line so I could tell her immediately what the outcome of that verdict was.

The entire nation was gripped by this moment. They showed people in Beverly Hills who couldn't believe what was happening, and they showed groups of

black people cheering at colleges and so forth. It was a defining moment in the 90s, and it showed very much how race was still a massive factor in how

we moved throughout this country.

ASHER: It's such a great point, Stephanie. It's such a great point because you can't separate this case from race in America. How much of this case,

though, was about the evidence and the facts for black people versus viewing this entire trial through the lens of their own experiences with

police? Especially if you're a young black man in Los Angeles. You've probably, no doubt, had negative experience with police. And if not, you

know people who have.

You have family members who have. You have friends who have. How much of it was actually about the evidence versus just viewing this through the lens

of an extremely racist criminal justice system, as you point out?

ELAM: I think it's a mixture of both. There were a lot of people who watched every day. I mean, you have networks that were founded off of the

O.J. Simpson trial. People were so invested in watching every single day. They wanted to know the nitty-gritty of what people were saying. And I knew

black people who were doing that, too.

But I also knew a lot of black people who were watching that and saying, oh, I want to know what's next, or what did they testify. Because you

remember two days ago when such-and-such was, like, they were completely absorbed. But they would also say, I know even for me, and they could say

as a college graduate, I've been profiled. I know even for me.

So, it was an overlapping, an intermeshing of both of these things, of knowing what it's like to be a black person in Los Angeles back then and

also being maybe a scholar or someone who just wanted to study how this court case was being played out.

And I do think that when you look at how even, and I've talked to several police officers over the years from LAPD, they point to that as a focal

moment for the police department, saying that at that point they realized they needed to change how they were policing people because it was not

happening equally.

Even with the L.A. riots, you know, when you talk to people here, cops were all lined up blocking and protecting the rich white neighborhoods and

letting other parts of the city burn. And so, they talk about that as well to the people who lived through that time here in L.A.

GOLODRYGA: Stephanie, some of the most profound race conversations that I had been a part of, and again, I was 15 at the time, took place following

this verdict and during this trial.


And to your point, it was less about O.J. Simpson himself, because I think it's fair to say there wasn't much love lost for him. And we saw that

following his acquittal. He was not embraced really anywhere in any circle. It's what represented.

ASHER: He didn't even see himself as black.


ELAM: That's what I was going to say.

GOLODRYGA: Right. And what happened to Rodney King, let's be honest, wouldn't have happened to O.J. Simpson if he had been pulled over by

police, most likely. But it was more indicative of that environment, which is so important for you to put into context for us, than it was for how

people felt and how the black community overall felt about O.J. Simpson.

ELAM: Yeah. O.J. Simpson was one of the most recognizable people, period. Regardless of his race, he could have been a purple person with pink polka

dots. O.J. Simpson was phenomenally, super massively famous and also loved. O.J. Simpson thought that that made him no longer a black man. And so,

there were a lot of people who would think, and I heard this a lot, like, why is everyone up in arms and caring about O.J. Simpson?

He never wanted to be one of us. He left us behind. And so there were a lot of people who felt that way about O.J. Simpson. Like, you know, this man's

never done anything for me. He doesn't care about us. He's not donating to causes that will help the plight of black Americans, right? That's how a

lot of people felt at the time. And that's part of this story that makes it even more fascinating, is that here's this man who thought he was

transracial and how quickly he got reminded that he was not.

ASHER: Yeah, he suddenly got a wake up call. In fact, he only really started to embrace the black community after the trial.

ELAM: Yes. And, you know, as you point out, there was really no love lost there. I want to bring in --Stephanie, do stand by because I want to bring

in Lisa France into the conversation. Lisa, there were two sides to O.J. Simpson, wasn't there?

There was this sort of charming, dashing young man that we saw in the Hertz commercial, this athletic superstar who was very debonair. And then there

was this other side to him. That's the side that Nicole Brown Simpson talked about on those 911 tapes. Just give us your take on that.

LISA FRANCE, CNN REPORTER: Well, I actually was a brand new reporter at "The Los Angeles Times" which was the paper of record for this case. And I

arrived there two weeks before O.J. Simpson fled down the 405. So, it was an exciting time to be a young journalist. But also it was a wonder to find

out who O.J. Simpson actually was behind the scenes.

As you point out, when you listen to the tapes, I remember having an argument with someone in the newsroom who said to me, well, you know, why

do we think O.J. Simpson did this? I mean, here's a man who's famous and who could get any woman in the world. And his kids were in the house,

allegedly, when this happened.

And I said, when you listen to those 911 calls and you hear some of the foul things that he is screaming and yelling, and at one point we hear

Nicole Brown Simpson say, O.J., please, the kids are asleep. I said to this particular person at the time, I said, you know, there is no way that a man

who could yell such profanities and talk to the children -- the mother of his children like that would at all care about committing a crime like


You know, to me, there was an absolute disconnect between the public O.J. Simpson and the private one. And I also think people forget what a complete

circus that trial was. I had a front row seat to what was going on behind the scenes. I interviewed his best friend, Al Collings, who launched a 1-

900 number to make money off of paying stories about his relationship with O.J. and Nicole.

I also had the opportunity to interview Johnny Cochran, who we got to see be masterful in that trial. I was covering a press conference for Geronimo

Pratt, who at the time was the longest serving Black Panther in jail. And I remember talking to Mr. Cochran. He said, you know, I can't talk to you

about the case, but sister, just watch what we're about to do.

And he showed us, he absolutely showed us that if you had enough money and enough celebrity that you could go into court. And as Stephanie pointed

out, a lot of black people had really ambivalent feelings. But we got to see what for the first time as an African-American felt like the playing

field was leveled.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. And I'm dating myself here, I know. But I remember when Kim Kardashian first came on the scene. My initial thought was, is that

Robert Kardashian's family member? Is that his daughter? Because that was the Kardashian I knew.

Robert Kardashian is one of his dream team attorneys, along with Johnny Cochran, as you noted. The fact that everyday Americans knew not only the

names of the victims and obviously O.J. Simpson, but their legal team spoke volumes about how significant this trial was in their daily lives.


FRANCE: Absolutely. Because as has been pointed out, we were all riveted. I mean, you would sit and watch this. This was absolutely the definition of

must-see television at the time. And each and every one of those lawyers got the opportunity to share the spotlight and they themselves became


And I remember when I met Mr. Cochran, I thought to myself, what a dynamic man. So, to see him in person and talk to him in person, I completely

understood why he had those jurors wrapped around his finger. He was extremely charming right down to -- he remembered that I was from Baltimore

from having met me at another event.

And he said, oh, I'm going to be in Baltimore receiving an award from the Bar Association. We should get crabs together. Now, I knew that was never

going to happen, but it was just typical Johnny Cochran because he made you feel like he was relating to you as a person.

And so, if he made me feel that way as a journalist who was there to do a job, imagine how he was making the courtroom feel, how he was making those

jurors feel. He made them feel like you've got to look at this evidence. And like he said, his famous line that, you know, if the glove doesn't fit,

you must acquit.

It just it felt like he really was working magic in that courtroom. And him and along with the rest of the attorneys, they really took on what many

people thought was going to be a slam dunk case. And that turned out not to be the case at all.

ASHER: I want to just go back to a point that you touched on, which I think a lot of people felt at the time which is, this case was you got a

front row seat watching this case to learn what you could get away with. Obviously, he was acquitted. It is important to note that. But what you

could get away with in this country if you had money. Just give us your take on that.

FRANCE: Yeah, absolutely. Because O.J. Simpson could afford to hire Johnny Cochran. He could afford to have this dream team of attorneys. And your

average black person did not have that opportunity. And as you pointed out, you know, he didn't even really consider himself to be African-American.

But then when this case came about, he wanted the African-American community to --

ASHER: Yeah, suddenly he was black, right?

ELAM: Right. He wanted us all to embrace him and to say, look at this injustice that's being done. And as Stephanie pointed out when she was

talking, what really happened is people were like, you know, why should I care? But then once they saw that, hey, if you're rich enough, if you're

wealthy enough, this gives you access to the people who can actually come out here and really fight for you.

So, it really did feel like for the first time you had a black man who was going to get a fair trial, even if you did not agree with the verdict, if

you did not feel like that was actual justice, because, of course, it wasn't justice for the Brown and Goldman families. But people felt like in

a way it was justice for the black community, for every black man who had ever been wrongfully accused, who could not afford to have a Johnny Cochran

or a Robert Kardashian in their corner. O.J. stood in as a surrogate for them.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. And we should note in 1997, O.J. Simpson was found guilty in a civil lawsuit brought on by the Goldman family and Nicole Brown's

family for some thirty three million dollars. Of course, he paid maybe a penance of that before he moved to Florida. Lisa France and Stephanie Elam.

Thank you.

ASHER: Thank you, guys.

FRANCE: Thank you.

ASHER: We'll be right back with more.




ASHER: All right. We're back with more on our breaking news story. Of course, the death of O.J. Simpson. He was a super celebrity back in the 70s

and the 80s. He was in sports. He was a star athlete. He was in movies. He was in T.V. shows. He did that famous Hertz commercial. And of course, he

did fall spectacularly from grace, as we all know.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, that's after he was accused in 1994 of having brutally murdered his ex-wife and her friend. And though he was acquitted, many

people believed in his guilt. Well, now his legacy is large. One of largely one of a fall from grace, as we just noted, a fall from wealth and family

and from fame and well into infamy.

We're joined now by civil rights attorney Areva Martin. Areva, thanks so much for joining us. And as we've been reflecting these past 25 minutes,

the impact of that trial in that case, the fact that everyone from Lansedo, the judge to the dream team, defense attorneys and Marcia Clark and

Christopher Darden, the prosecutors. I mean, everyone became household names.

The LAPD detective Mark Furman. And listen, I was 15 years old in these names, I knew, you know, watching every single day. It's interesting. We

keep going back to and not to take anything away from the defense team and Johnny Cochran and the infamous if it doesn't fit, you must acquit line.

We had just gotten used to or introduced to rather DNA evidence which had been introduced in this case. Accusations of it being mishandled.

I -- just walk us through the difference between a trial like that being held today, given the technology and DNA evidence that would have been

presented versus what we knew then. I mean, then it simply came down to whether a glove fit or not.

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY AND LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, one of the things we know now is that police departments around the country have

changed the way they deal with evidence, the collection of evidence and the preservation of evidence, because Johnny Cochran called the evidence in

this case a cesspool of contamination. And that was pretty much borne out by the witnesses at trial, the witnesses for the LAPD.

The way the evidence was collected and preserved was incredibly sloppy. People were walking through the crime scene without gloves, without buoys

on their feet. There was even evidence that one of the detectives went to the police department, took a vial of blood from O.J. Simpson and then put

that vial in his pocket, then returned to the crime scene with that vial of blood.

And, of course, that gave the defense team an opportunity to suggest to the jury that it was that LAPD officer that smeared O.J.'s blood at the crime

scene. So, the way that DNA evidence in particular is treated throughout this country changed dramatically as a result of all of the errors and all

of the mistakes made by the police during the collection of evidence in this case.

ASHER: And it just really shows you the power of having a good lawyer or good lawyers, plural. I mean, honestly, great lawyers, to be perfectly

honest with you, because this had nothing to do with whether or not O.J. Simpson was innocent or not. I mean, a lot of people have their own views

and a lot of people do believe that he did it.

This was about whether or not you could prove that he did it beyond a reasonable doubt. And it was really the beyond a reasonable doubt. And that

was what got him acquitted. That is the power of having great lawyers on your side.

MARTIN: Well, that's our criminal justice system. And I think I've been listening to a lot of the commentary this morning, and there is a lot of,

you know, comments being made about Johnny Cochran, of course, a superstar, a star amongst stars, a star to the lawyers, happened to be one of my

mentors when I first moved to Los Angeles as an attorney.

But the reality is in our criminal justice system, when the state, and that is the state, when the prosecuting attorney files charges against someone,

you are going up against the state and the state in our system of laws, our judicial system, has to prove its case. And they can't come into evidence

with faulty evidence, with contaminated evidence.


And let's talk about Mark Furman.


MARTIN: That was the L.A. police officer who later had to plead no contest to perjury. He actually got on the witness stand and lied. And so, when you

have the state putting forth witnesses like that, that perjure themselves on the witness stand and putting forth the kind of evidence, the faulty

evidence, the contaminated evidence in this case, the outcome should have been an acquittal. That's how our system is set up whether you're white,

black or brown.

ASHER: But Areva, but Areva, if O.J. was a poor black man without any money, without any fame at all, do you not think that the outcome would

have been different here?

MARTIN: It may have been different because perhaps a lawyer with less resources than Johnny Cochran and the Dream Team would not have been able

to poke the kind of gaping holes in the prosecutor's case that Johnny Cochran was able to do. But it shouldn't be different. That's the point

here. It shouldn't be different. It shouldn't matter about your wealth, your status, whether you're a celebrity or not.

Our judicial system should work the same for everyone. And if anyone is charged and the prosecution puts on the kind of faulty case that this

prosecution put on and puts on an LAPD officer that perjures himself, they should be acquitted.

I agree with you. We do have celebrity justice in this country and if you have money, you are able to hire folks like Johnny Cochran. But it

shouldn't be that way. But in this case, his acquittal should not be negated simply because he had Johnny Cochran. This is the outcome that

should have happened because of the case put on by this prosecuting team.

GOLODRYGA: So, you weren't surprised by the ruling?

MARTIN: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I mean, from the beginning, Johnny Cochran and his team were able to lay out to this jury all of the mistakes

made by the police department. And you cannot ask someone to be found guilty to face potentially life in prison without parole on the kind of

evidence that was put forth in this trial.

Now, a lot of folks don't agree with the outcome, but you can't have it both ways. You can't love the system when the outcome is one that you favor

and then criticize it when it's one that you don't. This is the way the system should work. The prosecutors made huge errors in this case, and they

admitted it. They changed their policies. The LAPD had tremendous changes in the way that it presents cases, and they charged Mark Herman. They

charged one of the star police officers involved in this case with perjury. That's a huge deal. We cannot underestimate how significant that is. Police

officers should not come into court and lie. That's not the way cases should be made in this country or in any judicial system.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah and he had a history of making terrible racist remarks, just a lot of incompetence in terms of his work.

ASHER: Right. He used the N-word a bunch of times.

GOLODRYGA: Areva Martin, thank you so much for joining us.

MARTIN: Thank you.

ASHER: Our coverage of O.J. Simpson's death continues after a short break.




ASHER: Welcome back to ONE WORLD. I'm Zain Asher.

GOLODRYGA: And I'm Bianna Golodryga.

ASHER: All right, back to our breaking news this hour. Obviously, the death, everybody's talking about it. The death of former NFL star O.J.

Simpson, dying at the age of 76 from a battle with cancer. His family announced his passing on social media.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, the sports commentator in Pro Football Hall of Famer's career was overshadowed with his acquittal in the murder of his ex-wife,

Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman in 1995. The case referred to at the time "The Trial Of The Century." CNN's Stephanie Elam looks back.


ELAM (voice-over): O.J. Simpson soared to fame as number 32 for the Buffalo Bills.

O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER NFL STAR: I'm sorry for all of it.

ELAM (voice-over): And plummeted to infamy as inmate number 1027820 in the Nevada Department of Corrections. In between, Simpson led a life filled

with more surreal drama than all of his various film and T.V. projects combined.

UNKNOWN: O.J., are you a suspect?

UNKNOWN: Come on, come on.

ELAM (voice-over): Mass media experts say Simpson's sensational televised low-speed chase --

UNKNOWN: I have O.J. in the car.

ELAM (voice-over): --arrest and murder trial --

JOHNNIE COCHRAN, ATTORNEY FOR SIMPSON: -- doesn't fit, you must acquit.

ELAM (voice-over): -- stand as the first reality show and perhaps the greatest three-ring television phenomenon ever. At one point, the world

heard O.J. Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, say, "I don't want to stay on the line. He's going to beat the shit out of me." Then later,

Simpson was charged with the horrific murders by knife of Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman.

UNKNOWN: Ron and Nicole were butchered.

ELAM (voice-over): The trial made lawyers and even witnesses household names.

UNKNOWN: Orenthal James Simpson not guilty of the crime of murder.

ELAM (voice-over): When the jury freed Simpson, celebration erupted in parts of Los Angeles. But Simpson would never recapture his idol status.

Simpson first sprinted into the national spotlight as the Heisman Trophy winning running back at the University of Southern California. Then 11

spectacular years with the NFL vaulted him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Simpson cashed in on the popularity.

UNKNOWN: Go, O.J., go.

ELAM (voice-over): Becoming a pitch man for Hertz and an actor. Becoming well-known for the "Naked Gun" movies.

UNKNOWN: O.J. Simpson as you've never seen him before.

ELAM (voice-over): Simpson played a lawman on screen and ran into trouble with the courts off screen. He lost the multi-million dollar wrongful death

suit brought by the families of his ex-wife and Ron Goldman, then moved to Florida.

In 2000, Simpson was accused of assault in a road rage incident in Miami. He was found not guilty. In 2005, he was found guilty and fined for

stealing satellite television. Then in 2007 in Las Vegas, police arrested him on several felony charges including kidnapping and armed robbery.

In that case, Simpson and armed accomplices raided a hotel room in what he called an attempt to just get back some of his stolen belongings.

SIMPSON: And I didn't know I was doing anything illegal. I thought I was confronting friends and retrieving my property.

ELAM (voice-over): The Nevada jury never bought his story and instead sent him to prison. He was released on parole nine years later in the dead of

night with no fanfare and no bright future. Just the distinction of arguably the greatest rise and fall in pop culture history.



GOLODRYGA: Well, he wasn't just the defendant in what has become known as the trial of the century. O.J. Simpson was also one of the most

accomplished NFL players ever to take the field.

ASHER: Yeah, he was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and former sports commentator as well as a Heisman Trophy winner for best college

player in 1968. The Heisman Trophy Trust released a statement today highlighting this achievement and extending sympathy to O.J.'s family.

CNN Sports' Carolyn Mano is live for us. Carolyn, does that statement from the Heisman Trophy Trust strike you as a bit tone deaf? It just sort of

feels strange to me, given what happened in 1994, for any one of us to focus solely on O.J. Simpson's achievements, given what came later.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon to you both. You know, it does sound a bit tone deaf, given everything that we've remembered

over the course of the day. And it's one of multiple statements. The Pro Football Hall of Fame also issued a statement that was a bit more nuanced,

that really just detailed Simpson's resume.

But in listening to that piece, you're reminded, at least I am, of two things. You're ultimately reminded that what happened to Nicole Brown

Simpson and Ron Goldman was a complete tragedy. And you're also reminded that the story of O.J. Simpson's life is something of an American tragedy

in terms of his fall from grace.

When you think about the way that he was revered as a larger-than-life sports icon who came from modest beginnings, you think about the fact that

his father was a custodian and a cook. His mother was a nurse's aide.

He rose to fame through USC, became a Heisman Trophy winner, was drafted to the Bills. And after a couple of seasons, started to have this phenomenal

career as a running back, was a Pro Bowler, was a Hall of Famer, became a sports analyst, became an actor. And so he was, at the time, one of a

handful of people who was viewed as larger-than-life.

And remember, too, that just like the news landscape was not as diluted at the time back in the mid-'90s and 1994 when all of this started to occur,

the sports landscape also was not nearly as diluted. And so you think about Game Five of the NBA Finals between the Knicks and the Rockets. Bob Casas

was at the call at Madison Square Garden.

And they actually went into picture-in-picture at the time and had O.J.'s car chase overlapping with the NBA Finals. And Casas has said publicly that

O.J. actually tried to call him at the time because they had a relationship. He was a sports analyst and that he couldn't pick it up

because he was at MSG doing the game.

All of that to say, this was something that was so much bigger than anybody had seemingly really experienced at the time. And you remember exactly

where you were watching the trial. But when I look at that piece and I think about ultimately his sports career and the way that he was disgraced,

all of it is really tragic.

GOLODRYGA: I don't know, Carolyn, I mean, I think to Zain's point about something just being distasteful and tone deaf. And first of all, I don't

know why there was a rush to release any statement. The fact that you don't mention at all in those statements the lives and families of Ron Goldman

and Nicole Brown Simpson.

And in a way, it's kind of an insult to every other Heisman winner who wasn't accused of murdering their ex-wife and a friend. And he's had 30

years following that trial to make any sort of attempt at redemption. And he did anything but that. So I think I think one could -- could really

question even the statement now.

And all these years later, obviously, a very gifted athlete. But clearly there was so much more in his in his life and obviously the tragedy that

unfolded for his ex-wife and her friend. Carolyn Manno, thank you.

ASHER: Thank you, Carolyn.

GOLODRYGA: CNN's Jean Casarez joins us now from New York. Jean, I know you got to know O.J. as well. And that's what really led to one of my earlier

questions about this Jekyll and Hyde image of a man who you described as being very congenial, friendly with the press, beloved by his fans, always

cast in such a lighthearted, loving role and being really admired in his professional career.

Obviously, all of that came crumbling down in 1994 where we got to know a really dark, sinister and violent other side to him.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, so true. I was the correspondent for his Las Vegas criminal trial where he was charged, along with all of his

friends and buddies, with kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. And his personal items had been sold, his trophies,

pictures, memorabilia. And they were in the hands, the rightful hands of new owners.


Well, he and his friends decided, no, we should have them, O.J., you should have them. We're going to help you go get them. So, they had meetings at

the hotel and everything in Las Vegas. And so, they went to confront the new owners. Well, two of his cohorts had guns on them. And there they are

in the room. They wouldn't let the people out of their home where the memorabilia was. It was actually in a in a room somewhere, I think. And so,

the charges were kidnapping, serious felonies. I mean, in Las Vegas, Nevada, kidnapping is a life felony.

So, I remember the initial hearing after he was charged and it was like a red carpet event. I remember being there saying this is strange because it

was like glamour, right? But this is someone that's just been charged with serious felonies. But that was the aura about him all the time.

And then when we got to the trial, he was just -- he was out on bond. So, he was just in the hallways and he was talking and he was nice, not only to

the media. He was nice to anybody. He was just really kind.

Now, let's compare that with I have known for decades the attorney that was trying to get the civil judgment from Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron

Goldman's families because he was found liable. And they've been trying to get a dime out of him for years, according to their attorney. He doesn't

want to give up money.

GOLODRYGA: Jean Casarez, thank you.

ASHER: Thank you, Jean. And our coverage of O.J. Simpson's death continues after this short break.


ASHER: All right. Back now to the death of O.J. Simpson. His original claim to fame was as a legendary football player.

GOLODRYGA: CNN World Sport's Andy Scholes joins us now. Andy, I think you and I were probably doing the exact same thing as much younger, younger

sports fans, basketball fans, Houston Rockets fans watching them in the finals, playing the Knicks. And then all of a sudden our screens turned to

a car chase in Los Angeles with a white Bronco inside. There, we saw O.J. Simpson. The world was watching. For us, it was a what the hell's going on

moment. But clearly that -- that that really changed the way we cover these -- these incidents.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN WORLD SPORT: Certainly. And, you know, myself, I was an 11 year old Houston Rockets fan. I remember exactly where I was. I was at

my friend Nick's house. We were watching Rockets versus Knicks. NBA finals into the game. And all of a sudden here pops a breaking news story.

And Bob Costas, you know, who is our colleague now, starts talking about his colleague at the time, O.J. Simpson, in a car chase down a highway in

Los Angeles. And myself and you probably two of the only people were like, what are you doing with the game in a little box when -- when we're trying

to watch the NBA finals? But, you know, then this turned into just this massive story.


And, you know, I was in middle school. But again, I remember that's all anyone would talk about is what was going on with O.J. Simpson. And then I

remember the next summer, every single day, you know, you're not going to school, but you're watching T.V. But what was on T.V. all day? It was the

O.J. Simpson trial.

So, I vividly remember that watching that with my sister and my mom during the day to see what was going on. And then you just -- you just you just

learn the whole story as you know, as a kid in the United States. You know, O.J. Simpson, who was this great football player in college. He won the

Heisman Trophy.

Then he went to the Buffalo Bills and had one of the greatest seasons we've ever seen in NFL history in 1973 when he ran for 2003 yards. And he did

that in just 14 games. You think about how incredible that was, because now there's 17 games running backs don't even come close to getting that kind

of number.

So, O.J. Simpson certainly was an incredible football player, but one of the biggest falls from grace. You know, we've -- we've ever seen it, you

know, as someone in the United States who grew up as a kid when this was happening. It's just something that just became one of the most things you

remember in your life.

You know, remember we were when it was the white bronco. You remember when the verdict came down and how big of news that was. And then, you know, I

also remember watching the civil trial when the Goldman parents, you know, won the huge verdict against O.J. Simpson.

And then, of course, you followed O.J. the rest of the way. You followed him any time he was in the news. And when he when he got in trouble and

went to went to prison for what happened there in Las Vegas, it was just always big news. And, you know, someone who grew up with O.J. Simpson so

much in your life. You know, you know, it's -- it's something you're just you never forget.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. And here we are, history repeating itself in a way because we're taking away from another sporting event, the Augusta

National. So many people want to be focused on what we're going to see from golf right now. But obviously, this is a major news story and really the

end of a chapter of what was, as you said, just a significant, tragic fall from grace. Andy Scholes, thank you.

ASHER: We'll be right back with more. Thanks, Andy.


ASHER: All right, let's continue with our breaking news coverage of the death of O.J. Simpson at the age of 76. He was tried and, of course,

acquitted in the 1994 brutal killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. And the trial, of course, was watched by


CNN's Elizabeth Wagmeister joins us live now from Los Angeles. And when I say millions, I mean, not just the trial, but that Bronco chase was watched

by about 94 -- 94, 95 million Americans who were literally transfixed by O.J. on the 405 driving at, what, 35 miles an hour with a stream of police

cars behind him.


Ninety five million people. You can't imagine those kinds of television numbers in today's world other than maybe the Super Bowl. Just talk us

through how that chase really changed the media landscape.

ELIZABETH WAGMEISER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It did change the media landscape. And you are absolutely correct. You rarely see

those types of numbers for anything. This transfixed the nation and still continues to do so. As Bianna said before the break, even now, the media

coverage just proves that the O.J. Simpson story has forever fascinated the minds of Americans. It wasn't just the Bronco chase.

The trial really changed the way that media treats high profile court cases. We may not have had the Johnny Depp- Amber Heard case in the way

that it was if it weren't for the O.J. Simpson case. So, this continues to transfix audiences.

ASHER: All right, Elizabeth, we have to leave it there. We are out of time. Elizabeth Wagmeister, live for us there. Thank you so much.

GOLODRYGA: And that does it for this busy news hour of ONE WORLD. I'm Bianna Golodryga.

ASHER: And I'm Zain Asher. Appreciate you watching. "Amanpour" is up next.