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Book Review: The People V. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin

Drew Payne


At the time it was called “The Trial of the Century,” though many people have forgotten it now, and others question that title.  There have been higher-profile trials since then, but Simpson’s trial did deliver shocks and forced questions about the American justice system.


On 12 June 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson, Simpson’s ex-wife, and her friend, Ron Goldman, were brutally stabbed to death on the doorstep of her home. A mountain of evidence pointed to Simpson as their killer but, over a year later, he was found not guilty of their murders. How did this happen?

Jeffrey Toobin is a writer and former lawyer, and at the time, wrote frequently about the Simpson trial. His book chronicles the events from Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman’s tragic murders through to Simpson being found guilty for them, at his second trial.

Toobin has a very critical view of what happened, and he is very analytical. He provides the backgrounds to all the main players in this story, using this to outline that person’s personality and several of their flaws. Toobin’s critical view isn’t biased, he sees faults and failings in both Simpson’s prosecution and defence lawyers. The majority of this book is taken up with Simpson’s murder trial, it was over a year long. Toobin analyses the defence and prosecution strategies, finding both lacking, and the judges behaviour. He also looks at the witnesses and the ups and downs of the trial. All through this, he doesn’t hide away from the mountain of evidence that showed Simpson’s guilt.

Toobin doesn’t write about the trial in isolation, he also writes about the wider environment in Los Angles, at the time, and what was happening within the jury.

When Simpson’s not guilty verdict is reached, in the criminal trial, there is no surprise. Toobin has laid out the evidence of how this occurred. But Toobin does not stop there. He also covers Simpson’s second trial, the civil trial were he was sued for wrongful death by Nicole Brown Simpson’s and Ron Goldman’s families, and how he lost that trial.

This is a fascinating and insightful read. Toobin has researched his subject, in great depth, but he has also analysed that research and is critical of his findings. All this gives the reader so much understanding of what was happening and why it happened. There is no shock, when the reader reaches the verdict in Simpson’s criminal trial, because Toobin has laid out what was happening and why it was happening.

Simpson’s trial might not have been “The Trial of the Century,” but the fallout from it was shocking. This book doesn’t just explain how that happened but why it did. It is also written in an easy, readable style. It is well worth the time it takes to read.

Find it here on Amazon

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