In October 1995, OJ Simpson was acquitted in one of the most sensational murder trials of the 20th century.
As millions of stunned viewers watched on, the former American football star was declared not guilty of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman.
The trial had become a global media circus and despite much evidence indicating Simpson’s guilt, his lawyers accusations of evidence tampering and racism amongst the LA Police convinced the jury to reluctantly acquit.
The general consensus regarded the verdict as a miscarriage of justice — Simpson was obviously guilty and had bought the acquittal with his expensive all-star team of lawyers.
The media strongly focused on Simpson’s guilt. One notorious Time magazine cover was deliberately darkened, allegedly to show Simpson in a more sinister light. Few countenanced the idea that Simpson might be innocent.
A high profile American TV show dramatized the OJ Simpson case in 2016, with actor Cuba Gooding Jr. playing OJ. It followed much the same de-facto narrative about the crime as has been featured in the media since 1994.
In recent years, however, some investigators have challenged this widespread belief that Simpson was guilty of the murders and begun to focus on his son Jason.
Jason Simpson, the theory goes, was a deeply troubled and violent young man who did not have an alibi for the night and carried knives on his person.
Could Jason be the true murderer of Nicole and Ron?
Jason’s violent temper
Private investigator Bill Dear has spent several years pursuing his theory that Jason Simpson was the real murderer, going as far as sifting through his trash in search of evidence. In his book 'O.J. is Innocent and I Can Prove it', Dear cites Jason's history of violent outbursts as proof for his theory.
Dear says he found evidence Jason was diagnosed with IED - 'Intermittent Explosive Disorder’, a syndrome characterized by extreme outbursts of anger and rage over often trivial matters.
According to Dear, at the time of the murders Jason was on probation after being arrested for attacking a former employer with a knife. Two months earlier he violently assaulted Jennifer Green, his then girlfriend. On another occasion, he attacked a former girlfriend and sliced off her hair with a knife.
Dear also found what he says are Jason's personal diaries. They appear to reveal a man tormented by obsessive feelings of violence. One entry reads — "It’s the year of the knife for me. I cut away my problems with a knife. Anybody touches my friends — I will kill them. I’m also tired of being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
Jason apparently became so terrified by what he might do during these violent rages that on one occasion he checked himself into a mental hospital. In Dear's book he suggests Jason had been prescribed antipsychotic drugs for his IED but had stopped taking them shortly before the murders.
The murders of Nicole and Ron Goldman were particularly savage — Nicole Brown was stabbed multiple times in the head and neck, one cut so deep it almost decapitated her. Ron Goldman suffered dozens of stab wounds to his head, neck and body in a prolonged fight with the murderer.
Police described the brutal murders as 'rage killings'. Could Jason have attacked Nicole and Ron Goldman in a violent fit? He certainly had the means — a 'Jekyll and Hyde' personality and, as a chef, he was known to routinely carry knives about with him.
Dear claims Jason also had a motive — on the night of the murders Nicole was reportedly due to bring the family to Jason’s restaurant where he was going to cook for them, an event he was looking forward to. However, Nicole canceled the engagement at the last minute which greatly upset him.
As the sufferer of a mental illness that made him prone to exaggerate minor incidents, could this perceived slight have pushed Jason to murder?
Jason was never considered a suspect by the police, who immediately fixated on his father. He wasn't even questioned and it was always thought he was working at Jackson’s restaurant in Beverly Hills at the time the murders occurred.
But Dear found Jason’s time card for that night and discovered an odd irregularity. Where all the other entries were printed, the time Jason clocked off on the night of the murders had been written in afterwards by hand.
Dear also interviewed workers at the restaurant and discovered Jason had actually closed the kitchen early that night because business was slow.
If Dear’s claims are correct, Jason not only lied about his alibi but his whereabouts at the time of the murders are unknown.
OJ’s lack of injuries
The murder of Ron Goldman followed a prolonged struggle with his attacker. Goldman — a strongly built man more than 20 years OJ’s junior was a karate black belt and there was evidence he put up a fierce defense of his life.
Goldman's body and fists were covered in dozens of bruises, scratches and cuts — even his shoes had cuts on them, indicating he had kicked his murderer.
Forensic pathologist Michael Baden estimated Goldman may have struggled with his attacker for up to 15 minutes.
Yet when OJ’s body was examined and photographed by the police the next day, aside from a small cut on his finger, he was entirely free of any mark or injury.
How could OJ have been in such a violent struggle with Goldman the night before and not have sustained any injuries?
Even the cut on his finger, much trumpeted by the prosecution, seems unlikely to have occurred during the murders as there was no corresponding cut in the bloody glove the attacker was thought to have worn.
Whilst much of the convincing forensic evidence against Simpson was undermined by allegations of sloppy handling and tampering, some evidence also exists that point to his innocence.
Blood and skin found under Nicole’s fingernails, as well as blood splatter on her back, matched neither her, Ron Goldman or OJ Simpson and are unidentified to this day. Jason was never interviewed by the police and never gave a DNA sample, was the blood his?
The navy blue knit cap found at the scene matched a knit cap Jason was known to wear before the murders. Hair from an Afro-American male, as well as dog hairs, were found in the cap. One picture showing Jason wearing an identical cap has him reclined on his bed with his dog.
No knife matching the murder weapon was ever found amongst OJ’s belongings. However, a knife found amongst Jason’s belongings is consistent with the wound thought to have been inflicted with the butt of a knife on Nicole’s head.
The Bronco chase
When it became apparent Simpson was going to be arrested for the murders he left what appeared to be a suicide note with the media and took off in his white Ford Bronco.
Driven by his old friend Al Cowlings, OJ was on the back seat of the vehicle with a gun up to his head. In bizarre scenes broadcast live on TV, the Bronco could be seen in a slow speed chased followed by 20 police cars.
After more than an hour of pleading Simpson was finally persuaded to put the gun down and he handed himself in to the authorities.
In the Bronco the police found $8,000 in cash, a change of clothing, a loaded .357 Magnum, a passport, family pictures, and a fake goatee and moustache.
Simpson’s extraordinary behaviour was clearly indicative of some kind of guilt and many took it almost as a confession. Would OJ really have tried to commit suicide if he was, in fact, innocent of the crimes? Or did he realise he was going to take the rap for his son Jason and panic?
Bloody footprints found at the scene matched OJ’s rare size 12 Bruno Magli shoes.
Simpson denied ever owning a pair of the shoes but investigators uncovered multiple photographs showing him wearing the Bruno Maglis. It seems at the very least OJ was present at the crime scene, but was he the murderer? Or was his presence there an attempt to cover up for Jason?
Multiple witnesses report seeing Simpson near the vicinity of the crime scene around the time of the murders, but none reported seeing Jason.
Local resident Jill Shively nearly colliding with OJ’s speeding Bronco when it ran a red light close to the murder scene just minutes after the attacks were thought to have occurred.
“O.J. was inches away from me,” she said. “His eyes were like a madman’s. He waved his arms and screamed: ‘Move! Get out of my way!’”
Nicole’s neighbour Robert Heidstra also testified seeing a white vehicle similar to Simpson’s Bronco rapidly leaving the murder scene.
These witnesses look bad for OJ. But they are not evidence that he killed Brown and Goldman, only that he may have been present at the crime scene.