Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since a jury acquitted Heisman Trophy-winning-football player-turned-TV-and-movie star O.J. Simpson of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson and a friend, Ron Goldman, at their Brentwood home.
The trial riveted a nation, with cable news and court shows going wall-to-wall, making Judge Lance Ito, Marsha Clark, Robert Kardashian, and Johnnie Cochran household names.
Not to mention Kato Kaelin.
Linda Deutsch covered the trial for the Associated Press, and wrote “Verdict: The Chronicle of the O. J. Simpson Trial.” She joined us to talk about her memories of those moments, particularly the verdict.
The jury’s decision to not convict O.J. sent ripples across the country, with some people believing a great injustice had been done, while others saying O.J. was set up and deserved to have been set free.
The people behind a new play chronicling the verdict say, regardless of the facts of the trial and whether it was right or wrong, it forced the issue of racial and social-class divides to the surface, and instantly taught people more about friends and neighbors they thought they already knew — based solely on their reactions to the trial.
It’s that social dynamic that drives the play called “Watching O.J.”.
For Angelenos, it’s a reminder of the almost-surreal events that were all-too-real — the bloody slayings of Simpson and Goldman, the sudden fall of a college and professional football hero, a suicidal Simpson threatening to shoot himself at Kardashian’s house, the chase in the white Bronco, the almost-circus-like trial that kept much of America glued to TVs, and ultimately the verdict.
Keith Szarabajka is directing the play, and attorney Brian Dunn, who worked with the late Johnnie Cochran — O.J.’s famous defense lawyer — joined him to talk about it with us.
“Watching O.J.” opens Saturday at the Ensemble Studio Theatre/L.A. in the Atwater Village Theatre complex.
(Story filed with help from City News Service.)