From NFL all-star to public enemy number one: OJ Simpson’s life after the trial of the century

More than almost any celebrity of his generation, OJ Simpson’s life was sharply divided into two parts – before and after one shocking and seismic event that reverberated around the world.

Up until 1994, Simpson was as an All-American hero – celebrated for his prowess on the football field and later a successful career on both the big and small screen. One magazine hailed him as “the first black athlete to become a bona fide lovable media superstar”.

But after he was accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994, even his acquittal the following year after a “trial of the century” could do nothing to restore his reputation.

An electrifying car chase up and down the highways of Los Angeles in a white Ford Bronco, captured by news helicopters and broadcast around the world, meant that his trial was one of the most high-profile in American history before it had even begun. One of the first big court cases to be shown live, it was watched day by day by millions around the globe, raising issues of race, celebrity and domestic violence, and making celebrities of its lawyers, including his defence counsel and Kardashian family patriarch Robert Kardashian.

But in the decades after his acquittal, the former athlete did not help his tarnished reputation, going on to commit a spate of other crimes, including battery, speeding through manatee protection zones in Florida, and a bizarre Las Vegas robbery in which he claimed he was trying to take back some of his own sporting memorabilia and which cost him nearly nine years in prison.

Here’s a look at his life following the so-called “trial of the century”:

Further legal trouble

Despite remaining largely ostracised in the public eye in the years following the trial, Simpson went on to have further run-ins with the law, and was arrested multiple times – once with disastrous consequences.

In 2007 Simpson made national headlines again after he was arrested in Las Vegas. Along with several other men he entered a hotel room and took memorabilia items that Simpson claimed had been stolen from him.

The Los Angeles Times described some of his accomplices as “a motley cast of hangers-on who accompanied Simpson on endless rounds of golf and late-night parties” and were reportedly fellow guests at a wedding that Simpson was attending in Las Vegas at the time of the robbery.

The incident resulted in a number of charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping.

On 3 October 2008 – exactly 13 years after being acquitted of murder – a jury found him guilty of all charges and he was later sentenced to a minimum of nine years in prison, although he had faced up to 33 years behind bars. Many who didn’t believe his denials over the murders of Brown and Goldman felt his sentence over the bizarre Las Vegas escapade represented a measure of justice.

Simpson served his sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center and was granted parole in 2017. The conditions of his release were lifted due to “good behaviour” in December 2021.

Simpson in court in Las Vegas
Simpson in court in Las Vegas

Other run-ins with the law had already occurred. In February 2001, he was arrested in Miami-Dade County, Florida, for simple battery and burglary, after yanking the glasses off another motorist during a traffic dispute three months earlier. He was tried and once again acquitted.

Shortly after, Simpson’s home was searched by the FBI on suspicion of ecstasy possession and money laundering, though nothing was found.

A year later he was fined for speeding on a boat through a manatee protection zone. Simpson was driving a 30-foot powerboat near downtown Miami on 4 July 2022, when he was stopped by by an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He was issued with a $65 speeding ticket, but plead not guilty to the charges instead.


One year prior to the Las Vegas hotel debacle, Simpson wrote a book titled If I Did It.

Ghostwritten by US author Pablo Fenjves, the book was based on interviews with Simpson and set to be published by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp-owned HarperCollins in 2006.

In it Simpson hypothesized about how he would have committed the murders – had he done it. The first part provides a detailed description of his marriage to Brown, with the latter part describing the events on the night of 12 June 1994 – and how the murders could have occurred if Simpson had carried them out.

The hypothetical scenario sees Simpson enlist the help of an unwilling accomplice, with whom he shares that he plans to “scare the s***” out of Brown. He goes to Brown’s condo where a confrontation ensues between him and Goldman. Simpson later loses consciousness and later wakes up with no memory of the actual murder.

OJ Simpson always denied killing his wife and her friend (HarperCollins)
OJ Simpson always denied killing his wife and her friend (HarperCollins)

Simpson’s attorney said that there is "only one chapter that deals with their deaths and that chapter, in my understanding, has a disclaimer that it’s complete fiction."

Public outrage and a perception that Simpson was trying to profit from the two deaths prevented the initial publication of If I Did It in 2006. Brown’s sister, Denise Brown, expressed her hope that the publisher would take “full accountability for promoting the wrongdoing of criminals and leveraging this forum and the actions of Simpson to commercialise abuse.”

The day after the announcement of If I Did It’s publication, an online boycott encouraged Americans to ignore the book and complain to publishers and booksellers, with similar boycotts held in Australia and Europe. Within four days of the book’s announcement, almost 60,000 people had signed an online petition developed by Goldman’s family,

A bankruptcy court subsequently awarded the book’s rights to the Goldman family, who released the work in 2007 via New York City publishing house Beaufort Books. The title was changed by the family to: If I Did It: Confessions of a Killer. The word “if” appears in small writing on the cover.


Simpson’s trial was one of the first major celebrity trials to be broadcast on television, sparking immense public interest around the world. As a result, its contents subsequently spawned multiple TV series, movies, and docuseries by networks both in the US and abroad.

Among those were a 2000 BBC documentary titled OJ Simpson: The Untold Story, which was sold as shedding “new light on the case”. That same year, US network CBS released American Tragedy, a TV movie in which Simpson is played by Raymond Forchion.

The onscreen scrutiny continued for the next two decades.

A documentary mini-series, OJ: Made in America, premiered on 22 January 2016 at the Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Ezra Edelman, the five part film won the 2017 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

One of the most high profile adaptations of the trial was FX’s cable TV miniseries The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, which was also released in 2016.

Simpson’s trial was the focus of multiple TV series (PA Archive)
Simpson’s trial was the focus of multiple TV series (PA Archive)

The series was based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life: The People v. OJ Simpson. It starred Cuba Gooding Jr as Simpson, as well as John Travolta and David Schwimmer.

Simpson was also regularly the focus of jabs from popular comedy shows including Saturday Night Live (SNL) and 30 Rock.

Late comedian Norm McDonald in particular took issue with the disgraced athlete, dedicating multiple sections on SNL’s Weekend Update to tell jokes at his expense. Macdonald, who died in 2021 aged 61, later claimed he was fired from SNL over the repeated jibes.

“In his book, OJ Simpsons says he would’ve taken a bullet or stood in front of a train for Nicole. Man, I’m going to tell you, that is some bad luck when the one guy who would’ve died for you kills you,” Macdonald said in one episode before the verdict.

Following the news of the former American football star’s acquittal in 1995, Macdonald quipped: “Well, it is finally official. Murder is legal in the state of California.”

Being fired did not stop Macdonald’s vendetta against Simpson, though. Hosting ESPN’s Espy Awards one month after he left SNL, he congratulated Charles Woodson on winning the Heisman Trophy – previously won by Simpson himself in 1968. “That is something that no one can ever take away from you,” he said, “unless you kill your wife and a waiter”.

Joking about the murders

Despite being lambasted by the press and the media, Simpson provoked more controversy by joking about the murders in an interview with TV presenter and comic Ruby Wax. Wax later described Simpson as “the most complicated character on Earth”

“His presence was very jagged,” she said, speaking in 2023. “I couldn’t look in.”

During the orignal broadcast Wax said that Simpson told her after filming that he had a surprise for her – after whichhe opened a door and pretended to stab her with a banana.

Wax added: “I think it was his idea of a joke.”

Simpson also reportedly said that Simpson called her on April Fool’s day after wrapping up the interview to tell her “I did it” before adding, “April Fool”.

Social media presence

The former pro-athlete remained in the public consciousness with fairly active profiles on social media, though his notoriety continued to follow him.

In January 2021, during the global pandemic he shared a photo of himself receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, and encouraging others to get it when their time came. The caption read: “Get your shot. I got mine!!!”

Twitter users reacted with outrage to the post, sharing memes relating to the infamous murder trial and questioning “how the murderer get the vaccine before the rest of us?”

Simpson continued to ine, offering his opinions on a range of subjects from politics to sports.

In February, in some of his final tweets before his death Simpson announced that he was “just about over” some of the health “issues” he’d been having.

“My health is good”, he wrote on X. “I mean, obviously, I’m dealing with some issues, but hey, I think I’m just about over it and I’ll be back home on that golf course hopefully in a couple of weeks.

Simpson’s death from prostate cancer was announced on X, via his social media profile on Thursday 11 April by his family.