"Did he do it or not?" : in Los Angeles, the death of ex-American football star OJ Simpson reopens the debate on his acquittal in 1995

He was known worldwide for “the trial of the century”, when he defended himself against indictment for the double murder of his ex-wife and her partner in 1994. OJ Simpson, the former American football star, died of cancer at the age of 76, his family announced Thursday April 11.

His acquittal in 1995, after a resounding trial, illustrated the racial divisions in the United States. In 2016, the FX channel even devoted a successful mini-series to this affair, American crime story: the People vs OJ Simpsonwith actor Cuba Gooding Jr in the role of the former sportsman.

Friday on the beach in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, not many people wanted to talk about OJ Simpson in front of a microphone. The character, adored by America during his career as a player and actor, has been controversial for 30 years and the double murder of which he was accused. Basketball in hand, Marcus, African-American, prefers to remember the athlete.“I don’t really know about his private life but if we talk about the player, someone I admired in a sporting context, OJ was a legend. His disappearance makes me sad”he assures.

During the trial, his lawyers made the former American footballer a civil rights figure, while he had always stayed away from racial considerations. This strategy paid off just after the Rodney King affair, this black motorist beaten up in 1991 by police officers, never convicted despite a video. The acquittal had confirmed the racial divisions in the country, with images of joy of black Americans opposed to those of furious whites playing on all television channels.

Nearly 80% of African-Americans then considered him innocent, while nearly 75% of whites thought and still believe him guilty. “There’s a lot of speculation on both sides. Did he do it or not? I believe he committed this crime and escaped justice. But I’m not going to speak ill of a dead person”estimates Dennis, a white guy with muscles covered in tattoos and a full goatee.

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