The video seemed ordinary enough, until you saw who was talking in mid-June: O.J. Simpson, the last century’s most prominent might-have-been-murderer.
“Hey,” Simpson said. “This is yours truly.” It was indeed he, now 71 and looking far more than 25 years older than when he led police on a slow-speed chase along major Southern California freeways almost precisely a quarter century earlier.
His video appeared on a new Twitter account two days after the anniversary of the stabbing deaths of his estranged wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. In it, a smiling Simpson says he plans to speak on “just about everything. I got a little getting even to do. So, God bless, take care.”
After which just about anyone connected to Simpson and his 1995 “Trial of the 20th Century” began taking care.
It has never paid for those around him to ignore threats or potential threats from the onetime football hero, released from a Nevada prison in 2017 after doing nine years for armed robbery and kidnapping in a case unrelated to events of 1994 and 1995. Mrs. Simpson told a domestic violence hotline several times about earlier threats to her, the tapes of those calls never heard by the jury that acquitted Simpson because his wife could not be cross-examined about her frantic, panicky statements. They were played in open court outside the presence of the jury. Of course, there was a reason she could not be questioned: she was dead.
Simpson also reacted rashly against at least one driver after he moved to Florida following his acquittal on the murder charges, a man who honked loudly at him after being cut off in traffic by Simpson.
But, as in the video, Simpson often puts up a genial demeanor. During one courtroom break at his murder trial, the former Heisman Trophy winner cracked a joke while grinning broadly. A reporter observed that in the moment, he just didn’t look like a killer. “Even murderers can laugh,” rejoined Joseph Bosco, who went on to write a book on the trial.
(Full disclosure: Columnist Elias covered the Simpson murder trial for the now-defunct Scripps Howard News Service. He later co-authored the best-selling book “The Simpson Trial in Black and White.”)
Just about a year before he tried to steal back some of his football memorabilia in a Las Vegas hotel room in the incident that led to his Nevada conviction, Simpson co-wrote the never-distributed book “If I Did It.” In that tome, of which 400,000 copies were printed before the publisher pulled it back, Simpson allegedly detailed how he would have pulled off the Brown Simpson-Goldman killings. He has always since insisted this was strictly a hypothetical exercise, but some who saw the book said it seemed authentic.
And a civil court jury in Santa Monica found him liable in both murders during the year after his criminal trial ended, awarding most of his earnings and assets to Goldman’s family. This prompted Simpson to leave California, where he had lived for many years in a Brentwood neighborhood among neighbors including former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, current Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner and former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, whose son Eric is the current Los Angeles mayor.
He headed first for Florida and then to Nevada, two states where local laws make it far easier to shelter income and assets than in California.
The evidence in the civil trial and the civil court jury’s judgment, along with Simpson’s intermittent behavior before and since the gruesome knifings of Brown Simpson and Goldman, make it difficult for many who shared the criminal courtroom with him to ignore or downplay Simpson’s latest comments.
Which means no one should be very surprised if America has not yet seen the last of O.J. Simpson, criminal defendant.
Email Thomas Elias at email@example.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to www.californiafocus.net