How Well Do You Remember The OJ Simpson Trial?

by Caitlin Flynn

As someone who's always been interested in true crime, I eagerly tuned in for the first episode of Ryan Murphy's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and immediately became hooked. Although I knew the basics about the Simpson case, I was only 6 years old at the time of the murders and 7 years old when 150 million people watched live as Simpson was found not guilty. Watching the series, I've repeatedly been shocked by how little I actually know about the case details. Like many people, I've always associated the "gloves don't fit" quote with the Simpson trial — but that's mainly because it's constantly referenced in pop culture, even on sitcoms like Seinfeld. Since the case was so widely covered by the media, it's interesting to explore how our ages have affected our knowledge of O.J. Simpson's trial — especially those of us who were too young to fully understand what was going on as the events unfolded.

Back in the day, my parents barely had the TV on when I was around, so I didn't absorb anything via the televised news. I remember overhearing older girls at my dance studio talking about the murders. My parents discussed the aspects of Simpson's prior domestic violence and the disturbing Fuhrman tapes when they thought I was out of earshot, but that was kind of it.

Today, we are accustomed to a 24-hour news cycle where cameras are everywhere, but this was a new phenomena at the time of the Simpson trial. American Crime Story strives for accuracy and mostly delivers, but how does it compare to our memories?

Here's how 17 people of all ages describe their knowledge and perceptions of the Simpson case, before it was a glint in Ryan Murphy's eye:

1. Rose (1958)

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It was shocking to me when Simpson was charged with the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman because it seemed so incongruous with his public persona. The publicity around the case was inescapable and the number of people who tuned in and watched the Bronco chase, the trial, and the verdict was a first. The relentless coverage of every aspect of the murder case is the first time I remember the public tuning in, watching, and being obsessed with the private life of a celebrity, something that is so common now. Also, the O.J. trial was the first trial I remember everyone being so interested in, with much debate about the accused's guilt — something that regularly occurs now (Serial, Jinx, Making a Murderer).

2. John (1958)

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The first thing I remember is that it was one of only a handful of times work stopped, the television was turned on, and everyone crowded into conference room to watch the verdict being announced — something that never happened. The second thing that strikes me is that I remember it as the beginning of the 24-hour news cycle and the involved parties seemed to be playing to the cameras, particularly Cochran and Ito. The third thing I remember is learning about the LA Police Department and all the problems they had in terms of lack of diversity. My overriding memory is that it illustrated the racial divide in the country.

3. Lisa (1967)

I don't remember specific details about the O.J. Simpson case except for the glove and the chase on the highway. I remember everyone being obsessed with watching the court proceedings on TV and it all was really bizarre. I remember feeling sorry for the prosecutor. I had grown up knowing of Simpson as a hero, jumping over luggage in the airport commercials.

4. Mike (1984)

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I mostly remember the white Bronco car chase, the courtroom drama and incessant reporting about the courtroom drama, the outsized personalities, elementary school classes halted to watch the verdict — it all just seemed like a huge circus. As I've grown older and as the case has been revisited recently, I've realized just how tied up with serious, larger issues of race and the criminal justice system this whole case was (especially the history and problems of the LAPD). It puts the racially divided reaction to the verdict in context, and it is hard to think about the case now without also thinking about Ferguson, Black Lives Matter and policing in big cities like New York and Chicago. In a weird way, all the hoopla surrounding the case makes a lot more sense to me now than it did at the time.

4. Ron (1985)

Because we were so young, I don't think my fellow students and I fully grasped the nature of what was going on, because I can recall sitting at lunch some days and the girl next to me (we had assigned seats) was named Nicole. Since most kids only heard the names of the news and didn't really understand what had happened, everyone thought it was entertaining that our names were Ron and Nicole. When his "not guilty" verdict was announced, we were in line at recess heading back into the building, and the recess aids had told us, but mostly each other, the news. Most of them seemed disappointed, but we were all for some reason very happy because someone was found not guilty.

5. Kate (1985)

My parents raised me on the Naked Gun movies, and the bulk of my O.J. Simpson trial knowledge came from Saturday Night Live. So, for me (someone who surprisingly didn't watch the Ford Bronco chase, or excerpts of the trial), the O.J. Simpson case was a punchline, the accused an easy joke for Jay Leno monologues. Since the mid-'90s, however, my obsession with true crime took me down quite a few O.J. Simpson trial Wikipedia rabbit holes, and the true details of the case made me realize how insanely flawed the criminal justice system is — on every level. And then the new claims that Simpson might have CTE just go to show that no case is black and white, even two decades later.

6. Mary (1986)

I remember how much it saturated all of the media I was exposed to: TV, newspapers, conversations, etc. in a way that looking back now seems even more intense considering how diffuse media is now compared to then when we relied on TV and print without the internet or a 24/7 news cycle. I remember the image of him trying on the gloves as the most significant image that stayed in my mind. I didn't really understand the specifics of the trial — I just remember that no one in my life thought he was innocent.

7. Caitlin (1986)

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I remember the day O.J. Simpson was found not guilty, I was walking home from school and my older brother and his friend jokingly shouting, "The Juice is loose." I thought it was funny because of the Starburst commercial, but I also thought it was cool that I knew something about Simpson's trial. It made me feel old and important since my parents had watched it and I kind of followed along as best I could at 9 years old. It wasn't until I became older that I could actually comprehend how terrible the deaths of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were. I always assumed Simpson was guilty since it just seemed like common knowledge that he had done it — everyone I knew said he had.

8. Nereyda (1987)

I don't really remember any details about the O.J. Simpson trial except maybe something about a glove and the flurry the media ran with every night. It was the only thing on the news, talk shows, comedy shows for awhile and I also remember there being a lot of talk about him being guilty. I DO remember his face clearly from the trial — how could I not? It was pasted everywhere.

9. Dana (1988)

My memory of the O.J. case is very vague. My only recollection was that everyone seemed to think he got away with killing someone. It is a complete blur and I do not feel like I have an an understanding of that case.

10. Lia (1989)

I remember that it was a thing. I can vaguely remember hearing stuff about it on TV, but I only would've been 6 years old. I also remember joking about his name being "O.J." Like if my mom would have a grocery list that said "o.j." and I'd be like, "O.J. Simpson hahaha." But for all I know, that could've even been a couple years after the trial that I was joking like that; it was just engrained in my head at that point.

11. Charlie (1989)

Until I started law school, I mostly just associated the Simpson case with the famous "gloves don't fit" line and how that was the moment the prosecution's case fell apart. I only learned about the trial in depth when I took my first criminal law class.

12. Hayley (1990)

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I was born in 1990, so I remember almost nothing about the O.J. trial. It's something I have always been conscious of (I hear the name O.J. and immediately think murder, the white Bronco, and something about a glove), but I really have never thought about the details and I don't think I ever watched the trial when it was on TV. I'm obsessed with American Crime Story now, though, and I keep Googling every single question that comes up, because I find the whole thing so fascinating and I'm almost amazed I wasn't at all aware of how big the story was at the time.

13. Martha (1991)

All I knew about the case was that there was a Bronco chase and the phrase "if the gloves don't fit, you must acquit." I had no idea O.J. was suicidal. I also had no idea how slow the Bronco chase was. I thought he was legitimately attempting to evade the cops, I didn't know they were just casually trailing him/escorting him home.

14. Elizabeth (1991)

I don't remember exactly how I heard about it for the first time, but it's one of those fascinating stories that when it gets brought up I always Google it for details. I remember the images of Nicole Brown Simpson and how young she looked at the time of her death. In terms of trial details, I learned most of those from a TV special I watched a few years ago.

15. Samantha (1992)

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For most of my life, all I knew about the O.J. Simpson case was that there was a weirdly slow car chase in the white Bronco, the concept of a glove fitting or not fitting being important, and that many people assumed he committed the murders despite being found not guilty. The only reason I even knew that much was because of hearing my family talk about it, and references to or jokes about the trial on TV. Once the Kardashians became a thing, I learned that their dad was one of O.J.'s lawyers. It wasn't until I started watching American Crime Story that I learned just how complex and totally insane the entire trial became, and how it reflected a ton of bigger issues in society.

16. Alexandra (1993)

I was born on September 9, 1993, so I hadn’t even turned 1 when Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered. Since I was so young when it happened, I don’t remember hearing about it growing up. I didn't learn about the case until I was in high school and everything I know about the case mostly came from the Internet. My younger sister and I both watch American Crime Story (she was born in 1996) and we have been talking about it recently, but we never spoke about the case before the show.

17. Rachel (1993)

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I don't remember anything about the trial or the aftermath — my first O.J. memory is reading in a magazine that he had a book coming out about if he committed the murders.

As the critical and commercial success of American Crime Story illustrates, people are still incredibly interested in the O.J. Simpson case. Whether we remember the events vividly or we only learned of them later, the trial and the issues it raised remain highly relevant to this day.