After 25 years living under the shadow of one of the nation’s most notorious murder cases, O.J. Simpson says his life has entered a phase he calls the “no negative zone.”
In a telephone interview, the 71-year-old Simpson told The Associated Press he is healthy and happy living in Las Vegas. And neither he nor his children want to look back by talking about June 12, 1994, when his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death and Simpson was transformed from Hall of Fame football hero to murder suspect.
“We don’t need to go back and relive the worst day of our lives,” he said. “The subject of the moment is the subject I will never revisit again. My family and I have moved on to what we call the ‘no negative zone.’ We focus on the positives.”
But the pain has not faded for Goldman’s family.
“Closure,” said Goldman’s sister Kim, “isn’t a word that resonates with me. I don’t think it’s applicable when it comes to tragedy and trauma and loss of life.”
“I don’t suffocate in my grief,” she said. “But every milestone that my kid hits, every milestone that I hit, you know, those are just reminders of what I’m not able to share with my brother and what he is missing out on.”
Ron Goldman, then 25, was returning a pair of sunglasses that Nicole Brown Simpson’s mother had left at a restaurant where he worked when he and Simpson’s ex-wife were stabbed and slashed dozens of times.
O.J. Simpson’s televised “Trial of the Century” lasted nearly a year and became a national obsession, fraught with issues of racism, police misconduct, celebrity and domestic violence.
Represented by a legal “Dream Team” that included Johnnie Cochran Jr. and F. Lee Bailey, he was acquitted by a jury in 1995 in a verdict that seemed to split the country along racial lines, with many white Americans believing he got away with murder and many black people considering him innocent.
He has continued to declare his innocence. The murder case is officially listed as unsolved.
The victims’ families subsequently filed a civil suit against him, and in 1997 he was ordered to pay $33.5 million for the wrongful deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman. Some of his property was seized and auctioned, but most of the judgment has not been paid.
For a man who once lived for the spotlight, Simpson has generally kept a low profile since his release from prison in October 2017 after serving nine years for a robbery and kidnapping conviction in Las Vegas. He insisted his conviction and sentence for trying to steal back his own memorabilia were unfair but said: “I believe in the legal system and I honored it. I served my time.”
After his release from prison in Nevada, many expected him to return to Florida, where he had lived for several years. But friends in Las Vegas persuaded him to stay there.
“The town has been good to me,” Simpson said. “Everybody I meet seems to be apologizing for what happened to me here.”
His time in the city hasn’t been without controversy. A month after his release, an outing to a steakhouse and lounge off the Las Vegas Strip ended in a dispute. Simpson was ordered off the property and barred from returning.
No such problems have occurred since, and Simpson is among the most sought-after figures in town for selfies with those who encounter him at restaurants or athletic events he attends occasionally.
He plays golf almost every day. The knees that helped him run to football glory at the University of Southern California and with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills have been replaced, and he recently had laser surgery on his eyes.
Simpson said he remains close to his children and other relatives. His parole officer has given him permission to take short trips, including to Florida, where his two younger children, Justin and Sydney, have built careers in real estate.
His older daughter, Arnelle, lives with him much of the time but also commutes to Los Angeles.
“I’ve been to Florida two or three times to see the kids and my old buddies in Miami. I even managed to play a game of golf with them,” he said. “But I live in a town I’ve learned to love. Life is fine.”
He also visited relatives in Louisiana, he said, and spoke to a group of black judges and prosecutors in New Orleans.
The glamor of his early life is just a memory.
After his football career, Simpson became a commercial pitchman, actor, and football commentator. Once a multimillionaire, he says most of his fortune was spent defending himself from the murder charges.
Simpson declined to discuss his finances other than to say he lives on pensions.
To coincide with Wednesday’s anniversary, Kim Goldman will launch a 10-week podcast, “Confronting: O.J. Simpson,” in which she will interview her brother’s friends, the detective who investigated the killings, attorneys for the defense and prosecution, and two of the 12 jurors who acquitted Simpson. She will continue to make the case that Simpson was guilty.