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