There is certainly no indication that the world is ready to let go of O.J. Simpson even after the NFL Hall of Famer was sentenced to 33 years in prison for his role in a 2007 Las Vegas robbery that centered on sports memorabilia which resulted in multiple felony counts like criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon.
At 68 years old, O.J. Simpson will more than likely die in prison. Yet, the recent success of Ryan Murphy’s FX true-crime series, The People v O.J. Simpson, and the newfound evidence that there was at least one knife buried on Simpson’s former estate in Brentwood, suggests that even his own death won’t diminish public interest or signify “justice served” for the millions who believe he got away with the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
The history of O.J. Simpson’s acquittal is still fresh in the minds for many. It was reality TV before Dance Moms, bible-thumping duck hunters, and the Honey Boo Boo train wreck which pre-dated the infamous Bronco romp through afternoon Los Angeles traffic.
According to a survey by Nielsen and Sony, the trial was viewed as the third most “universally impactful” televised event of the last 50 years – behind only September 11 and Hurricane Katrina.
The image of Simpson attempting to try on what many believed to be the glove he wore while allegedly butchering his wife gave a stark visual to a case that hinged heavily on DNA which at the time was a discipline that many struggled to understand. The latter might best explain why a jury of 10 women and two men didn’t believe that the State had proved its case beyond a shadow of doubt despite overwhelming physical evidence which included 45,000 pages of testimony and 1,100 exhibits which notably included hair, fiber, blood, glove and shoe imprints which suggested that Simpson was the killer.
Simply put, because “the glove didn’t fit” – as famously illustrated by defense attorney Johnnie Cochran – the jury seemingly poked holes in the other pieces of physical evidence as well.
There are certain pieces of evidence that are not debatable as it relates to the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Specifically, the killer left behind a size 12 shoe print stamped in the victims’ blood from a Bruno Magli “Lorenzo model.”
According to civil suit prosecutor, Daniel Petrocelli, only nine percent of the population wore that particular size, and only 299 pairs of Bruno Magli’s had been sold at the times of the murder in the United States. It just so happened, O.J. Simpson wore a size 12.
The Italian shoe manufacturer – aptly titled after the founder who created the company with his siblings Marino and Maria – began crafting women’s shoes in Bologna, Italy in 1936.
By 1967, the company opened its first retail store in the same city that birthed its designs. In a 20-year-period, Bruno Magli morphed from a lone wolf physical operation into 40 different global outlets across the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.
In 2015, the heritage brand was acquired by Marquee Brands LLC who stated, “Rarely do brands with the stature of Bruno Magli become available with an untapped opportunity to market, expand and grow into a lifestyle brand.”
32 months after the jury announced Simpson “not guilty,” a jury of his peers in civil court reached a decidedly different conclusion as to his role in Brown and Goldman’s slayings. Unlike the criminal case, this was the first time jurors had an opportunity to hear Simpson speak after he was deposed for days on end by attorney Daniel Petrocelli who himself seemed like an odd choice to lead the charge against Simpson.
“I was an unlikely choice to lead Fred Goldman’s civil lawsuit against O.J. Simpson,” Petrocelli said in a self-penned editorial that marked the 20th anniversary of the slayings. “I had never tried a murder case, a wrongful-death case or even a personal injury case, let alone anything as publicly visible as the Simpson case.”
Law experts who look back on the civil case have applauded Petrocelli for his tenaciousness and his ability to ask Simpson questions that didn’t allow him to simply recite a pre-rehearsed narrative of what happened on the night of June 12, 1994.
While other lawyers may have simply looked to rattle Simpson’s cage by being combative, Petrocelli once again returned to the physical evidence as a means for proving Simpson’s guilt. Specifically, the vaunted size 12 Bruno Magli shoe print and how the prosecution was never able to prove that Simpson actually owned a pair.
During the deposition, Petrocelli questioned Simpson if he ever purchased a pair. “No,” Simpson responded. “I know that Bruno Magli makes shoes that look like the shoes they had in court that’s involved with this case, I would have never worn those ugly ass shoes.”
When further pressed on why he thought they were ugly, Simpson responded, “Aesthetically, I felt they were ugly and I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to me they were ugly shoes.”
Like any good lawyer, Petrocelli had laid out a trap and waited for Simpson to walk into it. The former football star was absolutely adamant that he didn’t own a pair. But Petrocelli produced a photograph in which Simpson is clearly seen in Bruno Magli shoes while attending a September 26, 1993 Buffalo Bills football game nine months before the murders.
“It appears to be me, yes,” a stunned Simpson answered when shown the image which was taken by freelance photographer, E.J. Flammer, who has hired to shoot photos for the Bills’ newsletter.
“Looking at the close up of the shoes, can you believe that those were shoes that you owned at the time?” Petrocelli asked.
“No,” Simpson says, adding that the shoes he was wearing must have been something he borrowed or was given my a personal assistant.
According to The Los Angeles Times, “FBI Special Agent William Bodziak matched 18 features on the shoes Simpson is wearing in the photo with the distinctive characteristics of the Bruno Magli Lorenzo style. Bodziak identified the angled heel, the waffle-pattern sole, the deep stitching groove and other features that he said were proof positive Simpson was wearing Bruno Maglis when the photo was taken at a Buffalo Bills football game about nine months before the murders.”
“Based on all these characteristics combined,” Bodziak said, “I was able to determine that the shoe depicted on the right foot of Mr. Simpson in that photo is a Bruno Magli, Lorenzo style right shoe.” The left shoe, while less clear in the photo, was also a Bruno Magli.
Simpson’s own legal team refuted Bodziak’s claim by saying that the single image had been doctored and was “probably fraud” to portray their client in a negative light and give the prosecution what many believe to be “the smoking gun.”
During the Christmas recess of the civil case, Daniel Petrocelli received an additional 31 images which shoed O.J. Simpson in Bruno Magli shoes.
“So we called him back to the stand and we said, ‘Now Mr. Simpson, you said that this first photograph was doctored,” Petrocelli remembers. “‘Are you saying the next one is doctored, and the next one?’ And we proceeded to show him picture after picture, until the jurors couldn’t even look at him anymore. And they started looking down at their shoes. And it was as obvious as it could possibly be that a witness was lying.”
“The O.J. Simpson trial brought Bruno Magli, an Italian brand known primarily to the 1 percent, into the spotlight to become a household name,” says Cory M. Baker, COO of Marquee Brands. “While certainly the association was far from positive and not one we would have wished for, the resulting interest in the brand at the time and for the decades to follow skyrocketed general public interest and intrigue.”
That exposure translated to sales. CNN reported that in 1996, following the trial, Bruno Magli sales rose 30 percent.
As part of his final remarks to the jury, Daniel Petrocelli stated, “If the photos are real, you are looking at the man who killed Ronald and Nicole. Innocent men don’t lie. Guilty men lie. He’s done in by his lies. Those shoes will not allow Simpson to run from the truth anymore.”
On February 4, 1997, the jury found Simpson “responsible” for the homicides of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, and ordered him to pay $33.5 million USD in damages to the families. Americans were still so enamored with the case that President Bill Clinton’s State of the Union address which was airing at the same time the verdict was being announced forced several program directors to consider cutting in on the President’s most important statement of the year. Ultimately, coverage remained on the POTUS – but program directors were willing to cut in at any moment had O.J. Simpson decided to run.
For more investigative content, head to our Digging Deeper archive.
- featured/main image: A&E