Has the nation ever watched any one trial more than OJ Simpson's?
From the murder of two people in a Brentwood home spawned a media circus that made celebrities of nearly every person involved: the floundering comedian who stayed in the guest house, the charismatic trial lawyer, the judge, even the maid — about whom 1000+ word articles were written.
The trial's verdict was read on October 3, 1995 — 20 years ago. You can watch the video here and hear the gasps and cries of shock in the courtroom:
Do you remember where you were? We talked with several Angelenos who do:
Treacy Colbert — Healthcare writer, Long Beach, CA
I was in a hair salon in Long Beach. The television was on in the salon but I wasn't really paying particular attention to it. When the verdict was announced, I didn't feel anything necessarily emotionally. But I must have had a massive adrenaline surge. Because I was eight months pregnant at the time, and the baby did this huge backflip and handspring in my belly—it lurched around in a way that I had never felt before that, and didn't feel since.
It felt like the baby was jolted by what I was feeling.
Raghu Manavalan — Radio producer, Los Angeles, CA
I was in the third grade when I heard about the OJ Simpson verdict coming through. I was in class, actually, and our teacher decided to turn it on.
We were actually talking about the OJ Simpson trial a lot in class. Our teacher held an informal poll where we would have to write "innocent" or "guilty" on a piece 0f paper and fold it up and put it in a box in front of the classroom. I think she was trying to teach us about civics and jury duty, perhaps?
We were talking about it after the verdict came through: who picked innocent? Who picked guilty? I went to elementary school in Culver City. Demographic-wise, it's pretty diverse. There are a lot of black students and white people as well. I remember when we were talking about what we all chose, about 18 black kids all said they picked "innocent" and the two white kids picked "guilty."
Laurie Strong — Retired Los Angeles city employee, Las Vegas, NV
When I heard the OJ Simpson verdict, I was serving on jury duty in the South Bay area, waiting to be called for a jury. In the previous weeks before that, [the trial] was the only thing that appeared to be on television.
When the trial came to an end and the verdict was read, there were all sorts of emotions that surfaced within that jury room. There were tears from people who were happy. A lot of people were shocked. And on the far side of the jury room from me there were a couple of men that were not happy with it—they were on opposite sides.
It got kind of out of control, there was some yelling. The yelling progressed to some shoving. And after that it broke out into a brawl between the two men, which sent everybody scattering. It took a minute for the bailiff to come downstairs, where we were. And there were also police officers that came down. It was very chaotic, there was a lot going down at the time.
Bernard Parks — Retired Los Angeles Police Chief and City Councilman
I was assigned to what we call our "Bureau of Special Investigations" and so our role was not different than any other day. There was no expectation of a community response. There wasn't this ingrained feeling of the community being abused as it was with Rodney King. And so there were people that had their hard, hard feelings about this case. But it wasn't the type of feelings that would cause them to spill out onto the streets.
My judgement is that the credibility of the case was driven more by Johnnie Cochran's reputation than OJ Simpson's. I think people in the community clearly related to Johnnie Cochran. He had been a part of the community for decades.
And I think people clearly began to draw from their own conclusions—many of them on a racial basis. That OJ was innocent in many photos that were shown, and the aftermath, if you were black. Many people that were white viewed it as a complete abdication of justice.
I was very surprised [at the verdict]. In fact, Bernard Junior and I recently were interviewed by a guy from England who came over to talk to us about OJ Simpson. And he's telling us all this theory about how this guy is innocent. We're listening to him, saying "well that's not quite the evidence that we were aware of."
And then in the middle of the interview, he stops and says "you do think he's innocent, right?"
And we look at him and say "No! He's not innocent."
Linda Jay – Activist, Los Angeles, CA
I was in the courtroom, in the last row. I've always been fascinated with the justice system. Being an advocate and being an activist, I just like to see how the system works.
I felt that he wasn't going to be convicted, for a long time. And then, just in the last day or two I wasn't for sure.
If you see the video of me now, when they play that verdict back, and they show OJ and Johnnie Cochran and him kind of resting his head on his shoulder. Then they show the Goldmans, they show the Browns, and then if the tape keeps rolling, you're going to see me in the back row. And you're gonna see the look on my face. I was kind of acting silly. I didn't know how to take that verdict, one way or the other.
What do you remember about the verdict? Let us know in the comments!