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Here’s how big a news event the O.J. Simpson verdict was in 1995

Johnnie Cochran Jr. holds onto O.J. Simpson as the not guilty verdict is read on Oct. 3, 1995. At left is F. Lee Bailey and Robert Kardashian. (Myung J. Chun/Daily News via AP)

If you’re too young to remember, you may be wondering: Was the O.J. verdict really such an epic event in America? Or were the producers of “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson” engaging in a bit of dramatic mythologizing?

Yes, the O.J. verdict was a mammoth moment for American media — and American society. The Washington Post issued a special edition, believe it or not, to sell on the streets within hours of the not-guilty ruling, and the story dominated the next day’s front page. (Scroll down to see the front page from Oct. 4, 1995.)

The Washington Post had sent a number of reporters out to cover the nearly year-long trial, which frequently made the front page. And then, when closing arguments were complete, jurors retreated to deliberate Monday, October 2, 1995, only to return after not even four hours: They had a verdict.

“The swiftness of the decision puzzled attorneys from both sides and left Simpson blinking in bewilderment and biting his lip nervously as he stared at the jurors filing stone-faced into the courtroom to formally confirm to Judge Lance A. Ito that they had reached a verdict,” The Post’s L.A. correspondent at the time, William Claiborne, wrote. “The jurors did not return his gaze, averting their eyes from the defense table.”

But what was it? The world would have to live in suspense overnight. The verdict had come down so unexpectedly fast that neither prosecutor Marcia Clark nor defense attorney Johnnie Cochran were at the court house. Judge Lance Ito ruled that the decision would be opened the following morning at 10 a.m.

[‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’ proves our ‘no spoilers’ culture is utterly ridiculous]

Journalists were ready for the big moment, then — and so was the American public. Millions of people across the country gathered around TV sets for the live broadcast. (A relatively new hire at The Post, I was sent to the University of Maryland student union as one of a dozen or more reporters sent out around the region to observe the public reaction — and my reporting was included in this story by R.H. Melton: Reflections in a polarized mirror; workaday Washington held its breath for Simpson verdict)

Here’s what Wednesday’s front page looked like:

Here, you can read the original stories that appeared on the front page that day.

From Cheers to Tears: Verdict Splits America

By William Claiborne
Washington Post Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES, OCT. 3 — In an emphatic conclusion to a case that transfixed the nation, a jury of 10 women and two men today acquitted O.J. Simpson of murder.

As Americans gathered around television sets across the country, Court Clerk Deirdre Robertson read the verdicts to a hushed and expectant courtroom at 10:07 a.m. Pacific time. When Robertson uttered the phrase “Not guilty,” loud gasps echoed through the packed room. . . . [read more]

A Free Man Steps Into an Uncertain, Complex New Life

By Tamara Jones
Washington Post Staff Writer

When O.J. Simpson was officially released from the county jail at 11:02 a.m. today, he stepped into a future as hot and hazy as the sunshine that greeted him.

The Hall of Famer-turned-murder-defendant still faces challenges both legal and personal as he forges a new life in a spotlight far more intense than any he ever knew as a star athlete or movie actor. . . [read more]

Joy for One Family, Resignation for Another, Anger for the Third

By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer

The families always knew it would come down to this: to winners and losers, to grief or relief. And so O.J. Simpson’s family thanked God for answering their prayers. The Browns stoically said they accepted the jury’s verdict. The Goldmans? They spoke of damnation and nightmares.

If the Simpson trial was often seen by lawyers and pundits as a battle of evidence and witnesses and strategies, the families were always waiting for this moment, for release, for justice — to avenge the death of their loved ones or to free one wrongly accused. . . [read more]

Washington Comes to a Stop

By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer

As the most-watched murder trial in U.S. history reached its climax yesterday, the nation’s capital stood frozen, riveted to TV sets as a host of painful issues — class, race, homicide, police conduct — were reduced to two short words in the O.J. Simpson case:

Not guilty.

Just that quickly, it was over. And after a while — after unleashing their joy or swallowing their nausea — Washington area residents, through the day and long into the night, mulled and argued the implications.

“The issue is, for once in a lifetime, a black man was able to afford adequate representation,” said Tene McCoy, 23, a Howard University law student. “We can now do what white people have been doing all the time.”

Mike Berning, a 60-year-old consultant in the District, declared: “What all of this does show is you can hire justice in this country. Justice can be manipulated. It’s all about money.” . . . [read more]


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