Between June 1994 and October 1995, the nation became universally transfixed on, and opinionatedly divided by, the sensational accusations of murder and subsequent jury trial surrounding football star turned actor O.J. Simpson. The deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, and the media circus they provoked, marked a cynical coming-of-age for American culture that reverberates more than two decades later. That explains the anticipation for next Tuesday’s FX premiere of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which purports to further vivify a true-crime saga that was documented unrelentingly as it unfolded — and, naturally, beguile us with a cast cannily top-billed by names like John Travolta (as Simpson’s defense attorney, Robert Shapiro) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (as the football star turned actor turned disgraced accused killer).
During the intervening years since Simpson’s original acquittal, the story never really ended. Brown Simpson and Goldman’s loved ones continued to publicly grieve and fight for justice. O.J., meanwhile, resumed life in infamy until running into legal trouble he couldn’t escape. In 2008, following a robbery at gunpoint in Las Vegas, Simpson was convicted of more than a dozen felonious charges and currently resides in a Nevada prison.
In an effort to help separate fact from fiction heading into People v. O.J., and offer some insight into how the man Playboy once called the “best-liked football player ever” hastened his demise and altered so many lives, below is a timeline of Simpson’s run-ins with the law from more than 50 years ago through today.
Early 1960s (Exact Year Unknown)
While leader of a San Francisco youth gang dubbed the Persian Warriors, a 16-year-old Simpson gets busted for fighting (though some friends have said it was petty thievery) and spends several days in juvenile detention. In a 1970 autobiography, he claims to have mischievously told the cops his name was Burt Lancaster.
January 1, 1989
According to LAPD documents, Simpson was arrested on spousal-battery charges after police arrived at his and wife Nicole Brown Simpson’s Brentwood home in response to a 911 call (the ninth such time they’d been dispatched to the house to resolve a domestic dispute, per the documents). The reports noted that she suffered from extensive bruising and scratching and required hospital treatment, and quoted Nicole as pleading with officers, “He’s going to kill me. He’s going to kill me. You never do anything about him. You talk to him and then leave.” Simpson pled no contest and was punished with community service, probation, and fines. Later that year, he was hired by NBC to co-host its weekly NFL Live pregame show.
October 25, 1993
Now divorced from O.J. and living in a Brentwood rental home, Nicole called 911 in a panic, relaying that her ex-husband was outside in a “white Bronco” shouting obscenities and had knocked down the back door. The call lasted for 15 minutes, with O.J. at times audibly screaming obscenities while Nicole told the police dispatch, “He’s O.J. Simpson. I think you know his record. Just send somebody over,” and “He always comes back.” When officers arrived, O.J. was still there and, according to an official incident report, “admitted breaking the door and took full responsibility for its replacement.”
June 17, 1994
Five days after Nicole and friend Ronald Goldman were found slain outside her Brentwood home, LAPD formally asked O.J.’s attorney, Robert Shapiro, to have him surrender on first-degree murder charges in both Nicole and Goldman’s deaths. Simpson and friend/former football teammate Al “A.C.” Cowlings instead fled in a white Bronco (not O.J.’s, but a second Bronco owned by Cowlings), leading police on a 50-mile slow-speed highway chase that was captured live by TV-news helicopters. At one point, Shapiro held a press conference to read what was construed to be Simpson’s suicide note. By roughly 9:30 p.m. that night, Simpson had surrendered at his home and was brought into police custody. A gun was later found in the Bronco.
January 24, 1995*
Opening arguments begin in O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, presided over by Judge Lance Ito. The lead prosecutor was former L.A. Deputy D.A. Marcia Clark (assisted by attorney Christopher Darden), while Simpson hired an all-star defense team featuring Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran, F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, and Robert Kardashian, father of Kim, Kourtney, Khloé, and Rob.
October 3, 1995
After more than eight months of testimony and submitted evidence, the highly sensationalized proceedings conclude, with the jury deeming Simpson not guilty in both Nicole and Goldman’s murders.
October 23, 1996
Opening statements commence in the civil trial against Simpson brought by the families of Nicole and Goldman.
February 4, 1997
A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury concludes that Simpson is liable for Goldman’s death and awards his family $8.5 million in compensatory damages. The jury also deemed that Simpson had battered Nicole on the night of her murder.
February 10, 1997
The same jury orders Simpson to pay an additional $25 million in punitive damages to both Nicole and Goldman’s families for his responsibility in their wrongful deaths, bringing his court-mandated penance to $33.5 million.
June 30, 1998
Simpson’s defense team asks the Court of Appeal in Los Angeles to nullify the civil trial’s verdict and subsequent penalties, which they argue stemmed from the jury’s “passion and prejudice.”
November 2, 1998
Simpson has proven unable to pay the $33.5 million ordered in his civil trial. Nicole and Goldman’s families agree instead to split proceeds from an auction of Simpson’s memorabilia and personal belongings, including his Heisman trophy.
1999 (Month Unknown)
The State of California issues a tax lien against Simpson for owed personal-income taxes.
February 16, 1999
Auction house Butterfield & Butterfield sells nearly $400,000 worth of Simpson’s artifacts, with all proceeds going to Nicole and Goldman’s families. His Heisman trophy accounted for more than half of that total. Personalized golf bags fetched $2,250.
Simpson’s girlfriend, Christie Prody, calls the police, alleging that Simpson had broken into her home. No charges are filed. It would be one of four such times police were dispatched to handle domestic incidents between the couple.
December 5, 2000
Simpson is arrested on battery and auto-burglary charges after an alleged confrontation with another motorist, Jeffrey Pattinson.
October 24, 2001
Simpson is acquitted of all charges brought by Pattinson.
December 4 2001
The FBI, DEA, and other local law enforcement search Simpson’s home for evidence that he might be involved with an ecstasy-smuggling ring, as well as money laundering and a coordinated effort to steal satellite-TV signals. They find nothing, and Simpson is neither arrested nor indicted, though some of his satellite equipment is confiscated. Several months later, FBI documents — culled from a lengthy wiretap investigation that led up to the December search of Simpson’s home — featured testimony from reputed drug smugglers regarding O.J.’s allegedly insatiable cocaine habit and acquaintanceship with prominent dealers.
July 4, 2002
Simpson is cited for speeding on his powerboat through a manatee zone. An arrest warrant is issued that November following a missed court hearing. The issue was resolved on November 22, when Simpson paid a $130 fine.
July 26, 2005
Simpson loses a civil trial brought by DirecTV over signal-theft charges that stemmed from the 2001 search of his Miami home. He’s remanded to pay $25,000 to the satellite-cable company.
September 13, 2007
Simpson is arrested and charged with several cumulative counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, burglary with a deadly weapon, and conspiracy to commit a crime. According to the police report, two sports-memorabilia dealers claim that Simpson and five other men (some of them armed) barged into their Las Vegas hotel room and stole various items, which Simpson claimed had originally been stolen from him.
October 3, 2008
Simpson is ultimately found guilty of a dozen weapons, robbery, and kidnapping charges.
December 5, 2008
Simpson is sentenced to 33 years in prison, with eligibility for parole after nine. Simpson simply remarked to the judge, “I didn’t want to steal anything from anyone.” Ronald Goldman’s father, Fred, told the media, “It was satisfying seeing him in shackles like he belongs.”
May 26, 2009
Simpson’s attorneys file an appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court to void his convictions. They claim he was unaware that anyone from his entourage was armed.
October 22, 2010
Simpson loses the appeal to overturn convictions stemming from the Las Vegas incident.
October 19, 2012
A Nevada District Court judge agrees to consider allowing Simpson a new trial based on evidence that Simpson was misrepresented during his initial 2008 trial by then-attorney Yale Galanter. The formal appeal states that Galanter was “motivated by his own interests” to “materially limit Simpson’s legal representation,” and that Simpson was never made aware of a possible plea deal.
July 31, 2013
Simpson is granted parole for good behavior on five of his 12 convictions. He’ll be eligible for release from Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center, pending a formal parole hearing, on October 2, 2017. He’ll be 70 years old.
November 26, 2013
Simpson’s appeal for a new trial is denied. The presiding judge determined that “All grounds in the petition lack merit.”
* An earlier version of this piece misstated the date of the trial’s opening statements.