20 years later: Key moments from the O.J. Simpson trial

Posted at 10:57 AM, Jan 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-13 10:57:16-05

(CNN) — It was called the trial of the century and the first true reality show.

O.J. Simpson went on trial for the killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman 20 years ago, in what would become a wall-to-wall televised proceeding.

The heavy coverage started even before the trial began. Simpson’s infamous slow-speed chase days after the slayings played out on TV screens across the country, and the original grand jury was dismissed due to excessive media coverage.

Here are six unforgettable moments that helped shape the trial.

1. A juror is caught on camera, but Judge Ito says cameras can stay

On the first day of the Simpson trial, and as defense attorney Johnnie Cochran prepared to delivered his opening statement, a camera in the courtroom captured the face of a juror.

The juror was on camera for less than a second, but Judge Lance Ito had previously assured jurors that they would not be photographed or shown to the public. Ito delayed the trial, meaning the defense could not immediately follow the prosecution’s opening statement.

After a hearing, Ito allowed cameras to stay in the courtroom.

2. Denise Brown testifies

Nicole Brown Simpson’s older sister, Denise Brown, testified that her sister was an abused wife. In February 1995, she said Simpson grabbed Nicole’s crotch one night in a bar in full view of friends and strangers and proclaimed, in part, “This is mine.”

Brown also recounted an incident at the Simpson residence in which an allegedly enraged O.J. Simpson threw Nicole against a wall, destroyed some items from the house and threw both sisters out.

After Brown completed her emotional testimony, defense attorney Robert Shapiro countered with a completely different image of Simpson as a warm family man, pointing to video of Simpson showing affection with the Brown family just hours before the slayings.

3. Marcia Clark asks Ito to declare ‘Kato’ Kaelin a hostile witness

O.J. Simpson’s former houseguest Brian “Kato” Kaelin took the witness stand and displayed the flamboyant style that had made him a minor celebrity in the case. His version of events seemed to contradict Simpson’s story, and he testified that he could not account for Simpson’s whereabouts during the hours the prosecution said the killings took place. His sarcastic and evasive testimony seemed to frustrate Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark.

On March 21, Kaelin sparked laughter in the courtroom when Clark asked him if he was nervous. He uttered, “Feeling great.” He then said he was “a little” nervous, CourtTV reported at the time. When Clark implied that Kaelin moved into Simpson’s guest house to promote his own acting career, Kaelin told her, “I don’t think we were going for the same parts.” Fed up, Clark had him declared a hostile witness, allowing her to ask him leading questions usually saved for cross-examination.

4. Detective Fuhrman pleads the 5th — again and again and again

Former Los Angeles police Detective Mark Fuhrman invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions from defense attorney Gerald Uelmen regarding whether the testimony he gave at the preliminary hearing was completely truthful or whether he had ever falsified a police report.

Fuhrman had given testimony about the police investigation of the Simpson residence. He also found the infamous bloody glove. The defense tried to paint Fuhrman as a racist who planted the glove to frame Simpson, which played a major role in defining the trial as about race. Fuhrman testified he had not used the N-word in the last 10 years and branded anyone who said he had as a liar, but he later pleaded no contest to perjury charges.

He is now a forensic and crime scene expert for Fox News Channel.

5. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”

The rhyme became Cochran’s mantra as he tried to convince jurors that the case laid out by prosecutors was inconsistent and full of holes. Although Cochran uttered the famous phrase, it was actually Uelmen who came up with it.

Cochran also colorfully illustrated his theme by donning a black knit cap similar to the one prosecutors claimed Simpson wore as a disguise the night of the killings. Later he pulled on a pair of gloves similar to those the prosecution used to try to link Simpson to the crime scene. Earlier in the trial, Simpson had been asked to try on the gloves by prosecutor Christopher Darden, and they did not fit.

6. “Not guilty” Simpson is acquitted

Flanked by Cochran and longtime friend and attorney Robert Kardashian, Simpson stood and faced the jury as a court clerk read two “not guilty” verdicts on October 3, 1995.

Members of Simpson’s family cried tears of joy in the courtroom as the family of murder victim Ron Goldman wept just a few feet away. The moment was the third most “universally impactful” televised moment of the last 50 years — behind the September 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — according to a survey by Nielsen and Sony.

Testimony in the trial took about nine months, encompassing about 120 witnesses, 45,000 pages of evidence and 1,100 exhibits.