It was terrible to watch and impossible not to.
That was the nature of the entire week, as America stopped its traffic to watch each clue scrape away another layer of the mystery. Where the facts were missing, the suspicions sufficed to keep the audience fed.
When there was nothing new to report, the reporters interviewed each other, covering the coverage and defending themselves against accusations that they had already put Simpson on trial for murdering his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman before he had even been charged.
Hearsay was not just admissible; it was broadcast live.
Of course he did it – he had beaten her before, he was high on coke, he had gone into a jealous rage; of course he didn’t do it – he loved her too much, he was incapable of such savagery, he had an airtight alibi.
Maybe he could have done it, but surely he would have been smarter, hired someone else and not left a trail behind.
All week long the clues and rumors leaked out, often from cops who were angry that the prosecutors were treating their celebrity suspect so delicately.
First there were the bloody gloves – one at the murder scene, one at O.J.’s mansion. Then there were the bloody clothes in his washing machine, and the ski mask, and the stains on his driveway and in his car.
The weapon was an antique samurai sword, then a sharp-edged military entrenching tool, the newspapers revealed, before the district attorney announced that no weapon had been found.
He killed himself, the Wall Street trading floors buzzed on Wednesday morning, before he appeared that afternoon at his ex-wife’s wake.
Pundits trotted out Shakespeare for references; talk-radio hosts searched for Larger Meanings, about the destruction of black male role models, the special treatment of celebrities by police, the danger women face from the men who profess to love them.
But by the end of the week, with the last astounding twists to the case, it seemed that there were no larger meanings – just a howling, monstrous tragedy.
Americans honor the principle of the presumption of innocence, especially when they want it to be true. And through the days of promiscuous speculation, in the sports bars and on the radio shows and in the endless conversations over dinner, O.J. Simpson’s many admirers refused to suspend their disbelief.
The most publicly shocking crime in years was received like a private death in the family.
Before it was all over, millions of fans were already passing through the stages of their grief – mourning not only two victims they had never known, but the hero they thought they had.
Time Magazine (June 27 1994)