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1995: OJ Simpson verdict: 'Not guilty'

AUDIO : BBC 'World Tonight' reports on the OJ Simpson verdict

OJ Simpson has been found not guilty of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman.

The jury took less than four hours to reach a unanimous decision in the trial that has gripped America for an entire year.

Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death outside her Brentwood townhouse on June 12 1994.

Former American football star Simpson was arrested soon after the killings but insisted from the start he was "absolutely, 100% not guilty".

Judge Lance Ito ordered OJ Simpson be released "forthwith" ending 473 days in custody.

In a statement, Jason Simpson expressed his father's relief that "this part of the incredible nightmare that occurred is over".

Orenthal James Simpson's fate has become essential television viewing for the American public ever since 95 million Americans watched police give chase to his white Ford Bronco on the day of his arrest.

Prosecuting lawyers produced evidence such as a pair of gloves - one found at the crime scene, the other at OJ's apartment - and emphasised OJ Simpson's violent relationship with his ex-wife.

The defence criticised the integrity of the Los Angeles Police Department, and the authenticity of their evidence.

Summing up, defence lawyer Johnnie Cochran alluded to an institutional racism which the jury had the power to redress.

"Maybe you are the right people at the right time in the right place to say: 'No more'," he said.

There had been fears a guilty verdict would spark repeat performances of the violent LA riots of 1992 after the acquittal of four police officers, filmed beating a black motorist.

But as the verdicts were returned, the crowd cheered so enthusiastically mounted police officers struggled to control their horses.

"I deeply believe that this country lost today. Justice was not served"

Fred Goldman, father of murder victim Ronald Goldman

The prosecution admitted they were profoundly disappointed with the verdict.

Chief prosecutor Gill Garcetti said: "Don't look at this case as being how most cases are handled. Juries do the right thing - nearly all the time."

Members of the victims' families were distraught: Fred Goldman, father of Ronald Goldman, said the day of his son's murder was the worst day of his life, and today was the second.

"I deeply believe that this country lost today. Justice was not served," he said.

Johnnie Cochran dismissed claims that his counsel had 'played the race card'.

"We choose to call it the credibility card," he said.

In Context
The criminal trial was one of the lengthiest in US legal history. The official court transcript was more than 50,000 pages long.

Polls suggested most black Americans regarded OJ as a victim of racism in contrast to more than 50% of whites who considered him guilty.

The Goldman and Brown families filed a civil court case against OJ Simpson and in 1997 were awarded over $30 million in compensatory damages.

The civil jury took six days to reach a verdict and declare OJ Simpson responsible.

Simpson successfully challenged paying the award. He retained custody of his children and moved to Florida.

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