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Confronting O.J. Simpson

Kim Goldman, sister of murder victim Ron Goldman, opens up about her new podcast series and gives her last word on the trial verdict, interviewing American prosecutor Marcia Clark and why she’s still open sitting down with the man acquitted of murdering her brother…

When NFL legend O.J. Simpson was charged over the gruesome slaying of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in the late evening of June 12, 1994, he became the most famous defendant to ever be tried for homicide.
Nicole had been stabbed seven times and nearly decapitated, while Ron showed signs of defensive wounds, indicating he had likely entered the scene as Nicole was being attacked. Despite a mountain of physical and DNA evidence, Simpson was acquitted on October 3, 1995, an equally defining moment in both the justice system and popular culture. It remains one of the most remembered criminal cases of the 20th century, and has spawned countless books from almost all involved, an Oscar-winning documentary and a multi-Emmy-Award-winning miniseries by Ryan Murphy.
Now, 25 years on from the trial of the century, Kim Goldman is taking back the narrative with the new podcast series Confronting O.J. Simpson. In it, she interviews many of the key players from the criminal trial, including lead prosecutors Marcia Clark and Chris Darden, as well as prosecution witnesses and two of the jurors. “The podcast allowed me to take control over a story that had become out of control” she tells MAXIM.
“The narrative has changed a lot over the years, with a whole new generation learning about it — the killer being on parole, the civil case, the acquittal and the fictionalised versions of the stories. I wanted to be in charge of some of the messaging from the people actually in the room, not ‘experts’ that sit around and talk about it that have no connection. I felt liberated to be in charge of the story that I wanted to tell, not the story that others think should be told.”
For the few unfamiliar with the case, Confronting O.J. Simpson helpfully rehashes vital information about the crimes and the trial proceedings, including Simpson’s legal ‘dream team’, comprised of some of the most high-profile criminal attorneys in America. Among them, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, F. Lee Bailey and flamboyant civil rights activist Johnnie Cochran, who passed away in 2005.
In a stunning interview with Kim in episode 2, Clark surmises that the trial was doomed due to the “race card”. As for her own opinion on the infamous verdict in the 11-month criminal trial, Goldman does not mince words. “I think race played a huge part, as did who he was as a defendant. Having so much attention 100 percent impacted the outcome — there is not one thing we can pin the verdict on. I have always been clear about that. But not having a controlled courtroom, allowing for all of the chaos to be played out before that jury, we never had a chance.”
The chaos Goldman is referring to is the unparalleled media spectacle surrounding the murders. The trial coincided with the advent of 24-hour cable news stations, tabloid shows, and a newly launched cable channel called CourtTV, which broadcast the entire court proceedings live on television. For millions of Americans watching at home, Kim and her father Fred served as a daily reminder of the innocent family members behind the sensational testimonies. Normal people caught in a media vortex while simultaneously trying to grieve the loss of their Ron. It’s a surreal experience, and one which Kim visits in detail in the podcast. This unique selling point — the sheer intimacy of Kim’s recollections of the trial as the victim’s sister — elevates the series above standard true-crime podcast fare.
Her interview style is exceptionally personal, and while some of the interviewees Kim hasn’t communicated with in decades, others, such as Chris Darden and Kato Kaelin, emanate the warmth of old friends. As the episodes lay bare, whether it be the prosecutors, jurors or witnesses many of Kim’s interviewees have been unable to shake their connection to the trial, with disastrous effects on their personal lives in the years since. “It was important to me to connect with people on a deeper level. Despite us all being part of this case together in some way or another, we each walked very different paths and I was interested in learning about that. How they fared in the aftermath on every level professionally, emotionally and physically broke my heart. To hear how much they struggled resonated with me.”
Another of the podcast’s most searing episodes delves into the infamously short jury deliberation, in which a juror admits to Kim that they had long given up on deliberating, and padded out their short, three-hour ‘deliberation’ by requesting to review a single piece of evidence. It was a raw moment for Goldman. “I felt vindicated because I always felt like they gave up and didn’t listen to the case all the way through. They were ready to go, bags packed, they were over it. In my opinion they didn’t do their job if that was their position.”
As the 10-part series progresses, it’s clear that there are very few participants from the trial that declined to participate. Perhaps only ESPN’s OJ: Made in America, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary feature in 2017, could match Kim’s podcast in terms of trial players interviewed. Of course, the most central player of all, O.J. himself, has unsurprisingly declined Kim’s interview request, though she remains open to a sit-down with him. “Allowing myself to go there is part of my healing” she explains. “I will always be curious. I will always carry appropriate levels of hate towards him. I will always feel some kind of longing to confront him – I just don’t know exactly what that looks like, or what I will get out of it, but it is part of the grieving process and sometimes it doesn’t make sense.”
Despite his pleas of innocence, O.J. has often expressed vitriol towards the Goldman family, who successfully sued Simpson in 1997 in civil court for wrongful death.
While Simpson did not serve prison time for the murders, he would later be incarcerated for nine years on theft and kidnapping charges relating to a robbery attempt in Las Vegas in 2007. Since being released on parole in 2017, Simpson has kept a relatively low profile, though he does maintain an active Twitter account which is fast approaching a million followers. For Kim, who’s dedicated her life to victim’s advocacy, O.J.’s seemingly idyllic post-prison life is understandably infuriating. “We spend so much time talking about the accused. We want to understand them, the why of their crime… and I get it, but why stop short? We should be talking about the collateral damage and how people overcome and move through their lives after having it be torn apart. It’s so inspiring. I think we can stand to experience a little more hope in our world these days.”
Tragically, Ron Goldman’s death has always been somewhat overshadowed by that of Nicole’s, the woman he died trying to protect. Most importantly, the podcast has provided Kim and Fred Goldman an outlet to honour Ron’s memory. “My brother is missed everyday — his laugh, his energy, his loyalty, his humour, his compassion. Who he was in the last few minutes of his life – not running, being of service, trying to help his friend and risking his life to do it – speaks volumes. He is a hero and that is what I want his legacy to be.” ■

BY REILLY SULLIVAN

Confronting O.J Simpson is available to listen for free through the Apple Podcast app and Spotify

For the full article grab the January 2020 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.

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