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Where Are They Now? 10 Key Players in The O.J. Simpson Trial

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On January 24, 1995, opening statements began in the case of the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, a.k.a. The O.J. Simpson Murder Trial. For more than eight months, the jury—and more than 100 million interested members of the television-viewing public—watched as dozens of witnesses, experts, and legal pros were paraded in front of the cameras, and turned into instant celebrities.

While some key members of the trial—including Simpson's prone-to-theatrics "Dream Team" defense attorney Johnnie Cochran and fellow lawyer/Simpson family friend Robert Kardashian—have since passed away, others have spent the last 20 years rehashing the events of the trial of the century. Besides being fictionalized in FX's new hit series, The People vs O.J. Simpson, what are they doing now?

1. BRIAN “KATO” KAELIN

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The most famous face of the O.J. Simpson trial (besides the defendant himself) might very well be Kato Kaelin, the sometime-actor who was staying in Simpson’s guest house at the time of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman’s murders and the man who initially served as sort of an alibi for Simpson, as the two drove to a McDonald’s that evening together.

Kaelin’s jokey, laidback, surfer dude persona turned him into a tragic-comic punch line at the time. The trial allowed Kaelin to extend his 15 minutes of fame into some bona fide (albeit tiny) cameos on MADtv and Mr. Show, plus a string of reality and game show gigs on Celebrity Boot Camp, Gimme My Reality Show, and The Weakest Link. In 2014, Kaelin told Details that today “my opinion is I think he's guilty.” He also took that time to promote his loungewear line, Kato Potato (now known as Slacker Wear), noting, “I really think this will be successful. But it's not clothing for superheroes. Everyone with a couch is a couch potato sometimes. Each piece has a pocket with a zipper for the TV remote, so you'll never lose it. There's also a pocket for Cheetos, Fritos, or Doritos.”

2. AL COWLINGS

Al "AC" Cowlings was a familiar name in sports circles long before he hopped behind the wheel of a white Ford Bronco and led police—and reporters—on a low-speed car chase along a California freeway. Ultimately, it was with Cowlings’ help that Simpson was eventually arrested. Though Cowlings always maintained that he was helping Simpson turn himself in, not flee, he was arrested for aiding a fugitive but never charged due to lack of evidence.

In 1997, records show that Cowlings filed for bankruptcy. And that white Ford Bronco? It was purchased by Michael Pulwer shortly after the civil trial for $75,000, who keeps it stored in an undisclosed spot but does make it available on occasion for rent or exhibit. “It’s well taken care of,” Pulwer told the New York Daily News in 2014. “It’s not on the street … I think someday, somebody will want to have it in a museum of famous or infamous cars.” 

3. FRED GOLDMAN

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Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman’s father, still stands as an example to the families of murder victims everywhere. Throughout the trial he was an eloquent spokesperson for the victims who couldn’t speak for themselves, and spent more than a decade pursuing civil claims against Simpson. The additional court time revealed even more details about the case and ended with Simpson being ordered to pay $33.5 million to the victims’ families, although Simpson has only paid a small amount of that. What money Goldman and his family have gotten has been channeled back into the Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice, a nonprofit organization they founded to assist crime victims. 

4. DENISE BROWN

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Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister, Denise Brown, was a powerful voice for victims of abuse. Her testimony about the abuse that Nicole Brown Simpson suffered at the hands of O.J. made for some of the trial’s most memorable moments. Brown, too—along with her late father, Lou—set up a foundation in her sister’s name to educate and raise awareness about domestic abuse.

In 2014, Brown penned an essay for TIME in which she detailed the pain she still feels, more than 20 years after the loss. “To this day, so many people continue to give me praise about the work I’ve done since Nicole’s murder,” Brown wrote. “The truth of it all was that I couldn’t stand how the ‘Dream Team’ was portraying Nicole, and at the same time, I also couldn’t stomach the thought of my sister being a victim. I wanted and still want people to really see my sister as a strong, vibrant woman.” 

5. MARCIA CLARK

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Marcia Clark was an L.A. deputy district attorney when she was tasked with taking on Simpson’s highly-paid “Dream Team” of lawyers. It was the kind of case that could make or break an attorney’s career, but Clark was no newcomer; in 1991, she successfully prosecuted Robert John Bardo for the murder of My Sister Sam actress Rebecca Schaeffer. And while the outcome in the Simpson trial wasn’t in Clark’s favor, it did help her to discover a new passion in life—writing. In 1997, Clark co-authored Without a Doubt, a book about the Simpson trial, with Teresa Carpenter. She has since written four novels (with a new one coming out in May) and often appears on television as a legal expert in high-profile cases. “Writing novels and being in the courtroom—it's a storytelling job, no matter how you look at it,” Clark told Oprah in 2013. “It's the same thing.” 

6. CHRISTOPHER DARDEN

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Clark’s partner in prosecution during the trial was Christopher Darden, who famously asked Simpson to put on one of the bloody gloves found at the crime scene. This led to Johnnie Cochran’s famous declaration: “If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit.”

Shortly after the end of the trial, Darden left the district attorney’s office and was appointed as an associate professor of law at L.A.’s Southwestern University School of Law. In 1999 he founded his own firm, Darden & Associates. As recently as 2012, the Simpson trial outcome was clearly still weighing on Darden’s mind when he stated, during a panel conversation at Pace Law School, that he believed Johnnie Cochran tampered with the evidence. “I think Johnnie tore the lining,” Darden told the crowd. “There were some additional tears in the lining so that O.J.'s fingers couldn't go all the way up into the glove.” 

7. MARK FUHRMAN

Mark Fuhrman was the LAPD detective who investigated the Brown Simpson-Goldman murders. After stating that he found two bloody gloves that he believed were worn by the murderer, Fuhrman entered Simpson’s property without a search warrant, allowing the defense to claim that Fuhrman could have planted evidence. Further questioning of Fuhrman led to him being accused of racism, all of which resulted in a perjury conviction. But Fuhrman has found much success since the conclusion of the trial; in 1997 he wrote Murder in Brentwood, a bestselling book about the trial, which he followed up with several more popular true crime novels covering everything from the JFK assassination to the death of Terri Schiavo. In a 2010 interview with Oprah, Fuhrman said that if he could say one thing to Simpson today, it would be that, “I know you didn't mean to kill two people, and you didn't go there for that, and it wasn't a first degree murder.”  

8. LANCE ITO

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Though much of a judge’s work is done out of the spotlight, overseeing the Simpson trial made Judge Lance Ito one of its most familiar faces. He even inspired a Jay Leno sketch: The Dancing Itos. Because of the divisive nature of the case, Ito earned both cheers and jeers for his handling of the evidence, particularly as it related to Mark Fuhrman. Though he rarely spoke publicly about the case, Ito—who now administers the appointment of experts in death penalty cases—changed the game for high-profile cases like Simpson’s when he allowed cameras into the courtroom.

9. ROBERT SHAPIRO

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Like so many other key people in the O.J. Simpson trial, lawyer Robert Shapiro, who successfully defended Simpson, eventually wrote a book about the case—The Search for Justice: A Defense Attorney’s Brief on the O.J. Simpson Case. Also like so many other members of the legal teams on both sides, he shifted his focus shortly after the trial ended—in Shapiro's case, from criminal defense to civil litigation. He also co-founded the online legal site LegalZoom.com, as well as ShoeDazzle with Kim Kardashian, the daughter of his former colleague Robert Kardashian.

10. O.J. SIMPSON

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Finally, the most famous face of the trial: The defendant himself, a retired pro football player turned commentator and actor. Though Simpson was found not guilty of the murder of his estranged wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Goldman in 1995, two years later he was back in court facing a wrongful death charge in a civil suit brought about by the victims’ families, where he was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages.

Over the next decade, Simpson ran into a number of other legal troubles, ranging from suspicion of ecstasy possession and money laundering to speeding through a manatee protection zone. In 2007, Simpson led a group of men into a hotel room at the Palace Station hotel in Las Vegas in order to steal some sports paraphernalia that Simpson claimed belonged to him. On December 5, 2008, he was sentenced to 33 years in prison. In 2013, Simpson was granted parole for some of his crimes but will remain in prison until at least 2017.

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The Bizarre Death of Bridget Cleary, the Irish "Fairy Wife"
The town of Tipperary, Ireland
The town of Tipperary, Ireland
Amergin, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The policemen had been combing the green yards and fields of Ballyvadlea, Ireland, for a week when they finally found Bridget Cleary. The 26-year-old's body had been wedged beneath several inches of clay and a jumble of thorn bushes, but her corpse showed wounds caused by something much worse than branches: Her spine and lower limbs were so badly burned that parts of her skeleton were exposed. She was naked, except for a stocking and one gold earring, and her head was encased in a sack.

The judge would later describe the events leading up to Bridget's death as demonstrating "a degree of darkness in the mind, not just of one person, but of several—a moral darkness, even religious darkness." It was the end of the 19th century, not exactly the Middle Ages, but those involved in the end of Bridget's life had become convinced that she wasn't really herself—and that a supernatural creature had taken her place.

GONE WITH THE FAIRIES

Bridget was the wife of a cooper named Michael Cleary, and the pair were regarded around town as a relatively happy couple. They shared their cottage, in a remote townland near Tipperary, with Bridget's father, Patrick Boland, and had no children. Michael was nine years Bridget's senior and earned a decent salary; she brought in some extra income by working as a seamstress and egg-seller. By all accounts, they were more prosperous than their neighbors, likely thanks to her resourcefulness. As a literate, independent, and fashionably dressed working woman, she was part of an emerging class in a rural society that had long been based in agriculture and the oral tradition.

It was also a society steeped in legends of the supernatural. Fairy belief, in particular, was pervasive in Irish rural societies at the time, and had long coexisted with Christian doctrine. Children grew up hearing legends of the Little People from their earliest days, and learned how to appease them by leaving untasted food on the table, for example, or saying "bless them" whenever the fairies were mentioned. The fairies were blamed for everything that went wrong—lost items, spoiled milk, bad crops. As one County Sligo man interviewed at the start of the 20th century told an anthropologist, "Nothing is more certain than that there are fairies."

Bridget herself was known to be fascinated by the beings, and to take trips to the most fairy-ridden spots around town. She may have visited such a spot on Monday, March 4, 1895, when she went to deliver eggs to her father's cousin, Jack Dunne, near Kylenagranagh Hill. The area was home to a ringfort, an early medieval circular fortified settlement believed, in Irish folklore, to be a "fairy fort," and thus to be avoided at all costs. Yet Bridget often visited the fort, and she likely spent time there that Monday after delivering the eggs.

It was a cold morning, the mountains still covered in the snow that had fallen the previous day, and after the two- or three-mile walk Bridget couldn't seem to warm up once she got back home. She spent the following day in bed, shivering and complaining of "a raging pain in her head."

That Saturday, her father walked four miles in the heavy rain to ask the doctor to call on her. But the doctor wasn't able to visit until the following Wednesday, and by then her husband had also gone to summon him twice. They should have been reassured by the doctor's diagnoses—"nervous excitement and slight bronchitis"—but it wasn't this ailment that worried Michael. He was convinced that the bed-ridden woman in their cottage was "too fine," in his own words, to be his wife, and that she was "two inches taller" than the woman he had known. At some point, Michael had developed the belief that Bridget had been replaced by a fairy changeling as she passed near the fairy fort on Kylenagranagh Hill.

"ARE YOU BRIDGET BOLAND?"

It is likely that this idea was planted in Michael's head by his confidante, Jack Dunne. According to Irish historian Angela Bourke, who has researched the case extensively, the 55-year-old Dunne was a charismatic man rumored to have the power of divination. He was known in the area as a seanchaí, a sort of storyteller well-versed in fairy mythology.

On Wednesday afternoon, after the doctor's visit, a priest visited. He wasn't overly concerned about the illness, but decided to administer the last rites in case it worsened. The ceremony emphasized the fact that Michael could lose his wife, which distressed him even more. He talked to Dunne, who urged him to act immediately, or the "real" Bridget would be lost forever. "It is not your wife is there [sic]," the older man reminded him. "This is the eighth day, and you had a right to have gone to Ganey"—the local "fairy doctor"—"on the fifth day."

The cooper duly visited Ganey following morning. He came back with a mixture of herbs that needed to be boiled in "new milk," the nutrient-rich first milk produced by a cow after calving.

That night, Michael forced the bitter concoction down Bridget’s throat while Dunne and three male cousins pinned her down in bed. Relatives outside the house heard someone—likely Michael—shouting, "Take it, you witch, or I'll kill you!" The men threw urine at her and shook her, yelling, "Away with you; come home Bridget Boland, in the name of God!" Other relatives and neighbors came and went, witnessing her ordeal and hearing her screams, but were too scared to intervene. Michael asked his wife to answer her name three times: "Are you Bridget Boland, wife of Michael Cleary, in the name of God?" The men then brought her to the fireplace and held her over the grate—ordeals by fire were known to drive out the fairies—while they repeated the questioning.

By midnight Thursday night, the ritual seemed to be completed. Bridget was "wild and deranged," according to her cousin Johanna, but her husband seemed satisfied, and her relatives thought there had been some sort of catharsis. The following morning, at Michael's request, the priest said mass in Bridget's bedroom in order to banish the "evil spirits" that were left in the house.

"IT IS NOT BRIDGET I AM BURNING."

An image of fairies from fairies from "The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley"
Fairies from "The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley"
British Library, Europeana // Public Domain

On Friday, March 15, for the first time in 11 days, Bridget got out of bed and dressed in her usual, fashionable clothes "to give her courage when she would go among the people," as Johanna later told the magistrates. Several family members had joined them in their cottage for tea later in the day when an argument erupted. Bridget had asked for some milk, which had rekindled Michael’s suspicions; fairies are known in folklore to yearn for fresh milk.

Bridget was probably exhausted, and she didn't want to be questioned any more. "Your mother used to go with the fairies and that is why you think I am going with them," she told her husband. Michael was furious. He demanded that she eat three pieces of bread and jam—perhaps to reinforce his control over her—asking her to say her name again. She answered twice and ate two of the three pieces, but when she hesitated for a moment with the third, her husband flung her on the ground and threatened her: "If you won't take it, down you will go."

Michael jabbed his knee into her chest, forcing the bread and jam down Bridget's throat. He began tearing off her clothes, leaving only her chemise, then grabbed a hot stick from the fire and held it close to her mouth. He struck her head against the floor, then set her chemise alight. Within a few minutes, he had also poured paraffin lamp oil over her, encouraging the flames.

As her body was burning, Michael said in front of shocked relatives: "She's not my wife. She's an old deceiver sent in place of my wife." Relatives yelled at Michael to put out the flames, but Bridget "blazed up all in a minute," according to their later testimony. They huddled in fear in a nearby bedroom, the flames soon barricading their way.

Once the flames had died down, Michael wrapped her body in a sheet and shoved it in an old bag. Then he left the house, locking Bridget's relatives inside with the corpse. They waited for about an hour, praying. When Michael returned, he was wielding a knife and threatened to kill Bridget's cousin Patrick Kennedy if he didn't help him bury Bridget's body. "Come on out here now," he shouted. "I have the hole nearly made." The two men carried the body to a boggy area about a quarter-mile uphill from the cottage, and buried it in a shallow hole. Back in the cottage, Michael made the rest of the family swear they wouldn't tell the authorities.

ON A WHITE HORSE

The following morning, an agitated Michael arrived at Drangan church with Dunne. Dunne wanted Michael to speak to a priest, but when the priest saw him kneeling in front of the altar—weeping, tearing his hair, and asking to go to confession—he thought he wasn't fit to receive the sacrament. He spoke to Dunne instead, who hadn't been at the cottage at the time of Bridget's death, but told the priest that Michael had claimed to have burned his wife the previous night. "I've been asking them all morning to take her up and give her a Christian burial," Dunne added. Bewildered, thinking them both insane, the church minister reported their conversation to a police sergeant.

For the next few days, the police searched for Bridget and questioned her friends and relatives. Even though Michael spoke about emigrating or committing suicide to escape the law, he still hoped his "real wife" would come back: For three consecutive nights starting the day after visiting the priest, he waited at the ringfort on Kylenagranagh Hill, where he believed she would appear, galloping on a white horse. He said he would only have to cut the ropes that bound her to the animal so she would be his forever.

On Wednesday, March 20, the Royal Irish Constables issued arrest warrants for eight people from Bridget's circle, as well as Denis Ganey, the "fairy doctor." Two days later, police found Bridget's body. The prisoners were brought before the magistrates on March 25, ushered in by the angry screams of a crowd who had learned of the case through extensive press coverage. On July 5, 1895, after a two-day trial, Michael was found guilty of manslaughter and imprisoned, along with Jack Dunne, Patrick Boland, and four of Bridget’s cousins, including Patrick Kennedy. The judge ruled out a verdict of murder, explaining they all had acted out of genuine belief.

Michael was released in 1910, after which he boarded ship for Montreal. Dunne served a three-year prison sentence before returning to the area, where he kept working as a laborer. "God knows I would never do it but for Jack Dunne," Michael had reportedly said not long after burning Bridget. "It was he who told me my wife was a fairy."

ILLNESS—OR INFIDELITY?

During her illness, Bridget was visited by her aunt, Mary Kennedy, and told her, "He [Michael]'s making a fairy of me now. He thought to burn me about three months ago." Her words suggest this wasn't the first crisis of its kind.

Although we can only speculate about the couple's disagreements, there were rumors in Ballyvadlea that Bridget had a lover. Contemporary newspapers reported Michael saying his wife "used to be meeting an egg-man on the low road" [sic], but the rumors pointed to young caretaker William Simpson, who had visited the Clearys' cottage with his wife the night before Bridget’s death. In his court testimony, Simpson explained he had arrived as the four men were restraining Bridget, and he had asked them to leave her alone.

Although Michael and the other people involved in the killing were never formally psychiatrically assessed, a 2006 article from the Irish Journal of Medical Science suggested that Michael may have been suffering from a psychotic state known as Capgras syndrome, which involves the belief that a person has been replaced by an impostor. The authors suggest Michael "may have developed a brief psychotic episode" as he struggled to deal with his wife's illness, sleep deprivation, and the recent death of his father—news of which had reached him in the middle of his attempted "cure" on Thursday night. In Capgras syndrome, the socio-cultural context of the sufferer determines the nature of the impostor, which can be another person or even a supernatural being, such as an alien or a fairy changeling.

In her discussion of the supernatural beliefs related to the case, Bourke notes that the message of fairy legends is that "the unexpected may be guarded against by careful observance of society's rules." Bridget Cleary was ambitious, independent, and childless; a modern woman. She didn't conform to the patriarchal norm, which may have made her appear, to some in her life, as closer to the fairy realm than to their own.

Even today in Tipperary, her story hasn't been entirely forgotten. The local children have a nursery rhyme that runs: "Are you a witch or are you a fairy, / Or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?"

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Queen Anne of Brittany's Heart Stolen From French Museum
Guillaume Souvant, AFP/Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, AFP/Getty Images

Bringing new meaning to the idea of stealing someone's heart, thieves in France made off with a 16th-century gold relic containing the once-beating organ of Anne of Brittany, the only woman to ever have been twice crowned the queen of France.

Over the weekend, burglars smashed a window of the Thomas-Dobrée museum in Nantes and lifted the six-inch case from its display, The Telegraph reports.

Anne was crowned queen when she was just 12 years old after marrying Charles VIII of France in 1491. After his death in 1498, she married Louis XII and once again ascended the throne, where she stayed until her death at age 36. Although her body was buried at the Basilica of Saint Denis, she requested that her heart be kept alongside her parents’ tomb in Brittany.

“The thieves attacked our common heritage and stole an item of inestimable value," Philippe Grosvalet, president of the Loire-Atlantique department, which owns the museum, told The Telegraph. "Much more than a symbol, the case containing the heart of Anne of Brittany belongs to our history.”

The gold relic was saved from being melted down after the French Revolution, and it has been kept safe at the Thomas-Dobrée museum for more than 130 years. The case contains an inscription in old French, which translates to: “In this small vessel of pure, fine gold rests the greatest heart of any woman in the world.”

This practice of burying the heart apart from the rest of the body was not entirely uncommon among European aristocrats in the Middle Ages. The hearts of both Richard I and Anne Boleyn were kept in lead boxes, and the hearts of 22 former popes are stored in marble urns at Rome's Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi church.

It's also far from the only instance of relic theft. In a slightly more bizarre case, fragments of the brain of John Bosco, a 19th century Roman Catholic priest, were contained in a reliquary at his basilica in Castelnuovo, central Italy, until they were snatched by a thief in 2017. The reliquary was ultimately recovered by police from the suspect’s kitchen cupboard.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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