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All the People O.J. Simpson’s Trial Made Absurdly Famous

Fame and infamy have often followed those in O.J. Simpson’s orbit, with some of the biggest names in law, entertainment, and pop culture owing their stardom to the so-called Trial of the Century, which saw the football superstar acquitted for the brutal slaying of his estranged wife and her friend in 1995.

Simpson, 76, died from prostate cancer on Thursday, with the NFL Hall of Fame inductee and former Heisman winner’s legacy still defined by the murder of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson outside her Los Angeles home.

Here are some of the now-notable names who first found themselves on a national stage during the infamous trial.

The Kardashian family

O.J. Simpson consults with his friend Robert Kardashian in a courtroom.

O.J. Simpson consults with his friend Robert Kardashian during his double-murder trial.

Getty Images/Vince Bucci

Though it’s easy to forget amid the divorces, scandals, and reality TV moments, the Kardashians might not be the marquee names they are today had it not been for Simpson. Years before they were regularly fraternizing with Hollywood’s biggest names, the Kardashian family’s first brush with celebrity was at Simpson’s trial, where the disgraced athlete was represented by Robert Kardashian—father of Kim, Kourtney, Khloé, and Rob. The elder Kardashian quickly became a household name after the double murder, famously reading a note to hundreds of reporters when Simpson didn’t turn himself in to police as ordered days after the slaying. At the time of the trial, Kardashian’s ex-wife Kris Jenner—herself a former close friend of Nicole—was pregnant with Kendall, and the entire family was featured prominently in the media circus surrounding the trial and the documentaries that followed. Robert died in 2003 at 59. Caitlyn Jenner, Kris’ ex-spouse, posted “good riddance” to social media when she heard of Simpson’s death on Thursday.

Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran tries on a pair of gloves during closing arguments of O.J. Simpson’s infamous trial.

Johnnie Cochran tries on a pair of gloves during closing arguments of O.J. Simpson’s infamous trial.

Reuters

Johnnie Cochran—whose mantra, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!” became embedded in the American psyche—had already made a name for himself as a respected trial defense lawyer with a theatrical style. But the Simpson case launched him to legal stardom, making him a household name. Cochran—who’d represented many high-profile Black defendants and often worked on police brutality cases—was the target of death threats and racial attacks for taking up Simpson as a client, but was also praised for his courtroom performance where he often defended his client with rhymes that grabbed headlines. He died in 2005, aged 67. “Certainly, Johnnie’s career will be noted as one marked by ‘celebrity’ cases and clientele,” his family said in a statement. “But he and his family were most proud of the work he did on behalf of those in the community.”

Marcia Clark

Marcia Clark thanks the jury for their sacrifice and time during the O.J. Simpson trial.

Marcia Clark thanks the jury for their sacrifice and time during the O.J. Simpson trial.

Reuters

On the other side of the courtroom, Marcia Clark was declared “the most famous prosecutor in American history” by the New Yorker in 1995 for her attempt to convict Simpson. The case’s lead prosecutor, she entered the trial having won convictions in her 19 previous homicide cases, making her stunning loss against Simpson all the more devastating. More than a decade after Simpson’s acquittal, she told The Hollywood Reporter she’d never prosecute someone she didn’t believe to be guilty herself, but that she knew they “never stood a chance of winning” in Simpson’s case. “Regardless of whether race was actually allowed into evidence, or whether her we had a stronger judge, the defendant was still a famous African American who inspired a loyalty that could not be shaken in the Black community and the jury,” she said. “I don’t believe there was a way to overcome that.” Clark resigned from the district attorney’s office after losing the Simpson case and went on to bank millions with a book deal—launching a second career as an author and legal expert on news programs.

Mark Fuhrman

Former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman, left, takes to the witness stand in the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial.

Former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman, left, takes to the witness stand in the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial.

Getty Images

A homicide detective for the Los Angeles Police Department, Mark Fuhrman was one of the most controversial figures of the entire Simpson trial. He was the detective who discovered the “bloody glove” at Simpson’s property, and was recorded saying a slew of racial slurs and misogynist comments in the infamous Fuhrman tapes, which were 13 hours worth of interviews with the writer Laura McKinny that have long been viewed as a major reason the jury was swayed against the prosecution. In the tapes, Fuhrman also made references to planting evidence, which further sowed mistrust in jurors. After the trial, perjury charges were filed against him, making him the only person to have been convicted of criminal charges related to the Simpson case. His charges were later expunged and he apologized for his previous comments. He also went on to write a book about the trial and made regular appearances on national news programs.

Kato Kaelin

Brian ‘Kato’ Kaelin closes his eyes and grimaces as he thinks about his answer during cross examination in the O.J. Simpson trial.

Brian ‘Kato’ Kaelin closes his eyes and grimaces as he thinks about his answer during cross examination in the O.J. Simpson trial.

Reuters

The actor Brian ‘Kato’ Kaelin was one of the Simpson trial’s most memorable and dramatic figures, testifying as a witness for the prosecution. He was staying in a guest house on Simpson’s Rockingham estate on the night of the double murder, and witnessed some of Simpson’s movements that he said contradicted what the defense was claiming—suggesting Simpson had lied in his alibi. He received considerable media attention during the trial, but perhaps became even more famous in its aftermath—when he won a landmark libel case against the National Examiner for running a front-page story that featured Kaelin shirtless with the headline, “Cops think Kato did it!” That ruling found that a headline could be libelous, and Kaelin settled a $15 million lawsuit out of court. He issued a statement Thursday about Simpson’s death, saying, “Nicole was a beacon of light that burned bright. May we never forget her.”

Lance Ito

Judge Lance Ito listens to defense motions in the O.J. Simpson trial.

Judge Lance Ito listens to defense motions in the O.J. Simpson trial.

Getty Images

Lance Ito presided over Simpson’s case—and, like the trial’s other characters, was not without controversy. The judge was both praised and skewered for his willingness to let in as much evidence as possible into the trial. That stance has been cited as a reason why the controversial Fuhrman tapes—which could show evidence of bias—were permitted to be played in court, a decision that experts have often deemed a turning point in the trial. After the acquittal, Ito used his newfound celebrity to work to reform the judicial system in California. Born to two parents who served in Japanese internment camps during World War II, he spent the latter half of his career calling for an increase in interpreters, and enforcing rules for foreign-national defendants in the court. He retired in 2015.

Greta Van Susteren

Greta Van Susteren smiles outside the White House Correspondents Association Dinner in 2019.

Greta Van Susteren at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner in 2019.

Reuters

For millions of Americans, their daily updates on Simpson’s year-long trial came from the legal analyst Greta Van Susteren, who appeared regularly on CNN to discuss the proceedings, poking holes in the arguments of both the prosecution and defense. Though Van Susteren was a respected legal analyst prior to the trial, as she reminded everyone again on Thursday, her coverage of the Simpson case catapulted her into another stratosphere of media stardom that has stuck with her to this day. She’s been a prominent voice on countless other national trials and issues. That included her being a prominent legal voice on network television during the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal, which she argued should not have been an impeachable offense. Van Susteren now has a show on the far-right, pro-Trump cable news network Newsmax.

Nancy Grace

Nancy Grace poses for a portrait, staring forward and smirking.

Nancy Grace, who now hosts a show on Merit Street Media, photographed in 2019.

Getty Images/Gary Gershoff

Nancy Grace was still a prosecutor in Atlanta when Brown Simpson and Goldman were murdered, specializing in prosecuting serial offenders of murder, rape ,and child molestation. As all eyes turned to Simpson’s case, however, Grace emerged as one of the most-watched legal analysts—favored by those who felt strongly that Simpson did carry out the double murder. She first appeared on Court TV with Jack Forward, where she exclaimed that Simpson was undoubtedly behind the crime. She maintained that stance throughout the trial, pointing out evidence she said showed a pattern of abuse by Simpson. She told Oprah years later that it felt like she got “kicked in the stomach” when the jury returned to find Simpson not guilty. “I felt the system failed,” she said. Verdict aside, Grace and her southern drawl had won over U.S. viewers, and she made a career out of hosting true-crime shows, including stints at Court TV, briefly alongside Cochran, and at HLN, where she had a nightly show. She now hosts Crime Stories With Nancy Grace on Dr. Phil’s Merit Street Media network.


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