US & Canada

OJ Simpson - the spectacular fall of 'The Juice'

Simpson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption After retiring from football, Simpson began an acting career

The story of Orenthal James - "OJ" - Simpson is about a fallen hero. Once a high-profile US football star, he went on to spectacularly make headlines for all the wrong reasons.

After convincing a jury of his innocence in a double murder case, he was later convicted in Las Vegas of armed robbery and conspiracy to kidnap.

On Thursday, a parole board will decide if the 70-year-old star - known to fans as "The Juice" - will again walk free.

The former Hall of Fame running back was given a maximum 33-year prison sentence in 2008 for trying to steal items that he said he thought belonged to him.

But he could now be released as early as October.

The incident came 13 years after he was cleared of the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

That famous trial started in 1995 and contained the blockbuster ingredients of money, murder, fame and sex.

The trial gripped the US, and much of the rest of the world, for an entire year, and dramas and documentaries inspired by the case continues to enthral audiences.

It was a comprehensive fall from grace for the one-time all-American football hero and Hollywood star.

Turning point

Before 1994, Simpson was regarded with affection by the public, well known as a professional athlete, actor and million-dollar spokesman for several US companies.

Things appeared to always work out for "the Juice". He had gone from the San Francisco ghetto, where he grew up, to a home in the wealthy boulevards of west Los Angeles via a glittering American football career.

It all changed when he became the main suspect in his ex-wife's murder. Millions of Americans watched as the police chased his white Bronco car for 90 minutes live on TV. He finally gave himself up outside his LA home.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fans continued to adore him long after his career as a running back ended

Throughout his career OJ had worked hard to rise above race and become an all-American hero.

In 1969, in an interview with the New York Times, he stated that his biggest accomplishment was that "people looked at me like a man, not a black man".

But years later, in the Las Angeles courtroom, the issue of his colour could not be ignored.

His lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, was accused of playing the "race card" to a largely black jury after suggesting that police had planted evidence in an attempt to frame Simpson because he was a black superstar.

And the verdict divided US opinion along racial lines. There was widespread outrage among white Americans after Simpson walked free, but the majority of black Americans supported it.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption OJ's police car chase was broadcast across the US
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 'If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit', his lawyer argued

The trial led many to ask the question: Who was the real OJ Simpson?

There was no denying that he had been very much loved by the public who viewed him as gentle, generous, hard-working and charismatic. He and Nicole Brown, whom he married in 1985, played the perfect, handsome couple.

But the court case threw up a darker side, with the prosecution's emphasis on Simpson's violent relationship with his ex-wife.

There was the now-infamous incident of New Year's Day 1989 when police were summoned to their home to find Nicole outside, her eye blackened and her lip bloodied. She fell into an officer's arms, sobbing and screaming: "He's going to kill me."

Nicole decided not to press charges, but the city lawyer went ahead and prosecuted OJ for spousal battery. He was fined and given two years' probation.

The couple remained together for another three volatile years before they divorced.

All-American hero

Simpson was born in 1947. He was a bow-legged child who had rickets, but was able to escape the San Francisco slums by the fact that he was an extremely good runner. He eventually went on to become one of the top running backs in American football history.

He attended the University of Southern California, where he was named the country's top college football player in 1968. He then moved to Buffalo, New York, where he spent most of his career.

In 1979, he was forced to retire due to injuries. By then, however, he was making his mark as a Hollywood actor.

Image copyright PA

Between 1973 and 1994, he appeared in more than 20 films including The Towering Inferno and the Naked Gun films. He also won some lucrative television advertising deals.

After the 1995 trial, things were never the same for Simpson. He was later found liable for the deaths in a civil trial brought by the Brown and Goldman family and ordered to pay them $33.5m in damages.

This money has not been paid, and OJ has remained out of work because any money earned would have to be handed over to the Brown and Goldman family. He does, however, receive a pension from his sporting career.

He pursued a relatively quiet life, playing golf and focusing on his four children - two from his first marriage to a childhood sweetheart in the 1960s and two from his marriage to Nicole.

In 2006 he was back in the spotlight, after a $3.5m (£1.8m) deal he reached with Rupert Murdoch's broadcasting and publishing companies sparked public outrage.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Simpson's 2008 prison mugshot

The deal included the publication of Simpson's ghost-written, "hypothetical" account of the murders, If I Did It, as well as an interview for Fox TV.

The rights were later sold to the Goldman family, who significantly shrank the size of the word "If" on the cover, and added the subtitle "Confessions of the Killer".

Then in September 2007 came the incident for which he was jailed - an armed raid on the Las Vegas hotel room of two sports memorabilia dealers in a bid to retrieve property he said was his.

"I didn't mean to hurt anybody and I didn't mean to steal from anybody," he told the court. But the judge was unmoved, ordering him to spend at least 15 years in prison.

More on this story