In the trial of the century, football legend O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. But a civil suit in 1997 found Simpson liable for Ron and Nicole's deaths, requiring him to pay $33.5 million in damages—including $21 million to the Goldmans and $12.5 million to Nicole's estate for their children, Sydney and Justin.
Since then, Simpson has never paid a cent. He appears to live a luxurious lifestyle, playing golf, signing autographs and defiantly mocking the Goldmans. "If I have to work to pay them, I won't work. It's that simple," Simpson once said. "So I'll just play golf every day."
Nine years after the civil suit, Simpson was back in the headlines promoting a book called If I Did It and a television special. Penned with the help of a ghostwriter, Simpson says the book is a fictional account of the murders if he did it.
The outraged families of Nicole and Ron took their case to the American public. "The fact that someone is willing to publish this garbage, that Fox is willing to put it on air, is just morally despicable to me," Ron's father, Fred Goldman, said on Larry King Live. "I would hope that no one buys the book."
As the outcry continued, publisher Rupert Murdoch canceled the book's publication and fired the executive in charge. But in August 2007, the book was resurrected when the Goldmans sued and were awarded the rights to the book. Now, they are publishing it, and 17 cents for every book sold will go to them.
When he first learned about If I Did It, Fred Goldman says there were two reasons why he said he hoped no one would buy it. "One, I didn't want to see [Simpson] profit one penny from butchering Ron, murdering Nicole. I perceived potentially as well that it could have been what has been called a 'manual for murder,'" he says. "Two things transpired since then—one, we learned that he had, in fact, been paid his money well before it ever became public, to the tune of personally getting $630,000 as part of his advance. … And additionally, after reading the book, [we] learned it was not a manual for murder. Absolutely not. We view it as a confession."
"But he doesn't really confess, based upon what I've heard about the book," Oprah says. "He hasn't really confessed and says this is all hypothetical."
Ron's sister, Kim, also explains that her family has not received any of the money awarded them in the civil trial. "[Simpson has] been thumbing the nose at us for years. He's been skirting the system," she says. "He lives in Florida, which is a debtor-friendly state. He's protected by the homestead laws there. We can't attach to his NFL pensions, any of his pensions. … The system that awarded us this $19 million judgment doesn't give us the resources to then go collect on it."
Fred and Kim say that publishing the book and taking 90 percent of the profits—which will amount to 17 cents per book—is a form of restitution. "We have a judgment, the only form of justice that we were able to attain through the civil court," Fred says. "And that piece of paper is meaningless unless we pursue that judgment. We took away the opportunity from him to earn additional money, and that money is the only form of justice."
Many of the details in Chapter 6 of Simpson's fictional book, "The Night in Question," closely match evidence presented by prosecuting attorneys in the trial. In the book, Simpson says that "something went horribly wrong" at the crime scene and that he can't remember how the murders actually happened. The book does say that he recalls seeing Nicole in the fetal position at the base of the stairs and Ron slumped against a fence in a large pool of blood outside her home. Crime scene photos presented at the trial showed the two bodies positioned exactly as Simpson described them in the book.
Despite these similarities and others, Simpson says his book is a hypothetical account. But Kim and Fred don't see it that way. "We read it and felt very strongly that this is his way of sort of setting the record straight," Kim says. "He speaks publicly about the fact that he hates people speaking on his own behalf, and he wanted an opportunity to tell it his way."
"Additionally, this isn't an innocent man writing a book like this," Fred says. "An innocent man doesn't write a book of how hypothetically he would decapitate the mother of his children."
In If I Did It, O.J. Simpson trashes Nicole, calling her names. "He blames her for everything wrong in his life—everything. And he's the wonderful human being who saves the world from everything," Fred says. "He's a textbook case of an abuser."
Fred says he doesn't feel like his family's share of the book sales will be "blood money," because this description of abuse could help victims of domestic violence. "I hope that one single woman in an abusive relationship reads this book and says, 'God, that could be me. I have to get out and save my own life,'" he says. "One single woman will be worth it."
Oprah says she also has felt a moral dilemma about If I Did It. "I had given my word to you two that I would do the show with Denise [Brown]. And then when Denise backed out, I felt that you had kept your word and so that I should keep my word," Oprah says to Fred and Kim. "But it's a moral dilemma for me because I would not have agreed to have done it had the two families not agreed to come on to discuss and debate it. … I am not pretending that this forum, this television show, doesn't sell books. That's what we do, you know? I promote people's books. I don't want to be in the position to promote this book because I, too, think it's despicable. And I feel that we live in a country where people have the right to do whatever they want. I'm not for censorship in any way. I'm all for it being published, but I personally wouldn't want to be in a position to encourage people to buy this book."
Kim says there's another important reason why the Goldman family felt they had to get the rights and publish If I Did It. If they didn't, O.J. Simpson could have possibly, at some point, reestablished ownership of the manuscript and then gone through with his plan to publish it.
"Had we not pursued what we did to stop him from profiting, he would have gotten that book and gone off and published it again," Kim says.
Although she feels no closure after her brother's murder, Kim says fighting to own the rights to Simpson's book is her family's way of fighting back. "He spent hours putting together this 'confession' about how he killed Ron and Nicole and he worked hard, thinking he was going to make millions off of it. And we snatched it right out from under him," she says. "After 11 years, this is our first victory."
Unlike the Goldman family, Denise Brown has been steadfast in her position against publication. She says she would rather that people neither buy nor read the book. "I think it's garbage," she says. "It was written by the man that murdered my sister and Ron. I mean, how good can it be? He wants to make a name for himself, possibly, back in the public eye.
"The less people that read this garbage, the better our society will be. I think people in our society and what we watch on TV and the things that people portray, there's so much negative out there. And I truly believe that this book is a negative."
Denise finally agreed to appear on Oprah—but refused to be seated with the Goldmans. "I truly believe that they did wrong, that they did me wrong this time. Everybody stood up and said no to the publication of this book," she says. "I stood my ground on that. I still don't think it should be published. I think it is a morally wrong thing to do."
Denise emphasizes that the money from the proceeds of the book will not go to her family. "The Brown family gets nothing from this. We don't want anything. It's blood money," she says. "This is horrible. It was written by the man that … I believe murdered my sister, that I believe murdered Ron."
As for Sydney and Justin [the children of Nicole Brown Simpson and O.J. Simpson], Denise says she a has a nice relationship with them, but things are "tough" in their lives. "How would you like to live your life not just losing a mother, but then having a father who is constantly in the public eye, ridiculed and called 'murderer'?" she says. Denise adds that the kids both know how she and their father feel about each other. "That is no secret. When I'm being interviewed, they don't listen. They don't watch the interviews because they know what I'm going to say. Does it hurt them? I'm sure it hurts them," she says.
If I Did It portrays Nicole as a drug addict and implies she deserved what happened to her—and Denise says she isn't surprised. "First of all, Oprah, these children were not given back to him voluntarily. We had a court battle to try to keep these children. A judge gave these children back to this man," Denise says. "Would it surprise you that he had to trash [Nicole] and brainwash these kids to make himself look like he's the man and he's the hero and he had to protect these children? Nothing surprises me."
"I want people to know that the life that he is portraying of her being a drug addict, of her being a party person—all the things that he had to portray to make her sound bad—was 13 years ago. They did it in the criminal trial. He's doing it again in this book," Denise says. "The words of somebody like that, how can you believe anything that this man writes when you truly believe that this man murdered a man and a woman?"
Thirteen years after Nicole's murder, Denise says her sister's spirit is always with her. "What would she say? I think she'd be horrified. I think she would say, 'You know what? Just let my children grow up in a peaceful, loving place,'" Denise says. "'They're living on their own. Let them live their lives in peace. Leave them alone.' My sister was a very … all she wanted was the white picket fence. She was the type of woman that would give you the shirt off her back."
Denise calls Nicole an amazing mother. "She had gotten a Ferrari. Her Ferrari was the kids' limo," Denise says. "I mean, there were french fries in the gear, there were Cokes. … That's the type of person … stuff, it didn't mean anything. Her children were her life."
Marcia Clark, one of the prosecutors in the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson, says she is not surprised how closely If I Did It
's account matches the facts of the case. "Every single bit of it was out there to be watched, to be read about," she says. "It was constantly being printed about in the newspapers. You couldn't miss it. So writing a book about the case was a simple matter of following the footsteps."
Christopher Darden, the other prosecutor, says he feels torn by this publication. "On the one hand, I understand the Brown family position. He really, really does trash Nicole in a very, very unflattering way," he says. "Personally, I'm offended at what he has written and what he said about Nicole in the book, in that book, and I completely understand and empathize with the Brown family. On the other hand, you know, we failed to get them the justice that they deserved, the restitution that they deserve. In California, victims of violent crime are entitled to restitution and no prosecutor and no judge is allowed to stand in the way of that. This is the only avenue that they have to get any form of restitution. I consider myself a victim advocate. I don't see how I can stand in the way or object to them publishing the book if they want to. But on the other hand, you know, it's not pleasant nighttime reading. Nothing good about it. It's a disgrace that he was able to make the money that he has made by writing this book and that he'll be able to continue to tarnish the reputations of these two people. I wish it had never gotten to this point." How to identify the signs of an abusive relationship
Printed from Oprah.com on
© 2014 OWN, LLC. All Rights Reserved.