It’s hard to believe that it was 20 years ago this week that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were fatally stabbed in L.A.’s ritzy Brentwood neighborhood. The murders took place in front of a Bundy Drive condo, less than a mile up the street from where I write this, and led to the so-called “trial of the century,” of football legend-turned actor O.J. Simpson. All this week you’ll see, hear and read stories about the case, whether you like it or not.
The first few weeks of the Simpson saga were a blur to me. My father had just died and I was away from work, busy handling funeral arrangements. I listened to coverage of the Bronco chase while driving home from the hospital. It was all people talked about that afternoon, but little did I realize that history was being made that day, and in the days, weeks and months to follow. The court coverage and the crazy circus atmosphere outside the Criminal Courthouse at “Camp O.J.” does not bring back pleasant memories, as it might for some colleagues who spent months covering the case. Apparently the lengthy trial proved a bonding experience for some of those folks.
I’m sure if you were to ask anyone who followed the news coverage what they remember of it, they’d mention the Bronco chase, the blood at the murder scene, Simpson’s “dream team” lawyers, some of the descriptions of DNA and blood splatter patterns, O.J. trying on the “bloody gloves” and the soft focused testimony by houseguest Kato Kaelin. Maybe they’d recall Judge Lance Ito and his hourglass collection, prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden, or former police detective Mark Fuhrman and the grilling he received about use of the “N” word.
In a state where criminal trials set record lengths – think of the Manson family, the McMartin Preschool molestation case, the Hillside Strangler trial – the O.J. Simpson criminal proceedings are right up there in the trial length record books. From my perspective as a news archivist the case amounted to stacks and stacks of videotapes –many hundreds of them – representing thousands of hours of coverage. So in terms of square footage or shelf space or sheer weight, it set a record. After viewing each of those tapes and noting what was on them it didn’t take long for me to OD on O.J. Considering that I joined the party late, I find it ironic that I’ve seen more Simpson coverage than most anyone I know. There is no doubt that the case was newsworthy. People were hooked on the coverage. The ratings proved it. The case made celebrities out of people we’d never heard of before, and it sold a lot of books. Yet a hundred years from now, will the Trial of the Century rank in importance with the Scopes trial, the Nuremberg Trials or Brown v. Board of Education? I’ll leave that to future historians because honestly I don’t know.
Click on the first video to see a montage of the earliest reporting on the case. The second clip shows some of the changes to key geographic landmarks in the case. For instance, Mezzaluna Restaurant, where Nicole Brown Simpson had her last meal, now is a specialty coffee shop. And her Bundy Drive address has been given a new number and cosmetic facelift. Of course the blood stains are long gone, but I’m certain that for those who lost loved ones that night, these superficial changes haven’t erased their pain. Twenty years is as recent as last night.
KTTV FOX 11 1999 S. Bundy Dr. Los Angeles CA 90025