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O.J. Simpson reacts in 1995 as he is found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. With him are members of his defense team, F. Lee Bailey, left, and Johnnie Cochran Jr.
O.J. Simpson reacts in 1995 as he is found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. With him are members of his defense team, F. Lee Bailey, left, and Johnnie Cochran Jr. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

I still remember that early day of summer vacation in June 1994, watching on my parents' wood-panel television in the basement as that white Bronco was slowly chased down a California highway. I'd spent most of the day outside in the pool with my friends, just a few days removed from my last days of middle school.

My dad was staring intently at the television in his green recliner. "What's going on?" I asked.

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"O.J. Simpson. He's wanted for murder. He's running from the police. He has a gun."

Admittedly, I wasn't much of a football fan at the time, but I still knew who O.J. Simpson was. This was a big deal. I sat down and started watching with him.

Before 9/11, I feel like this was my generation's "Where were you when ..." moment. Perhaps it explains why we're still so obsessed with the lives of celebrities. (Incidentally, who knew this series of events would also lead to our obsession with the Kardashians?)

The O.J. Simpson case became an American fascination because it hit on so many sociological hot-buttons: crime, fame and race. The absurdity and drama of the televised court proceedings in the '90s made jury duty seem exciting.

Throughout 1995, I remember watching replays and highlights on Court TV and CNN. Many of those images had been in my head lately, as my wife and I — like many others, based on the ratings — have recently started watching "The People vs. O.J. Simpson" on FX. It's fascinating, like the best "ripped from the headlines" episode of Law & Order you've ever seen.

The series has brought the case back into the forefront of the public consciousness, and it's now exacerbated by this bizarre story that broke this week about a knife that was possibly the murder weapon —the white whale of the prosecution — having been discovered in the 1998 demolition of Simpson's Brentwood estate, but just now coming to the attention and in the possession of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The timing is curious, considering that it's been almost 20 years since the murder trial and this FX series is the first real attempt at a dramatization of those events. But if you believe the details reported on TMZ, which broke the story, and elsewhere, it seems more bizarre coincidence. The cop who came into possession of the knife had just retired earlier this year. He didn't intend to sell the knife, just to frame it, so he wasn't exactly looking for 15 minutes of fame or a big payday connected to a renewed interest in the case spurred by the TV show.

Perhaps the bigger question is when the LAPD actually became aware of the knife. Did the officer, who was off-duty when given the knife by the construction worker who discovered it, take it to his supervisors at the time and be told that there was no interest because the case was closed? Or did he secretly keep it in his possession until recently, when he asked a friend for the record number of the Nicole Brown Simpson/Ron Goldman murder case to have it engraved on a frame?

But the question everyone wants to know the answer to is whether the knife is the murder weapon. LAPD Capt. Andy Neiman told reporters the knife will be subjected to testing for hair, fingerprints, DNA and other forensic evidence.

My guess is we'll never get a definitive answer. Even if irrefutable evidence was found from the knife — and it won't be because of how long it's been sitting around, not to mention several reports that it's a different type of weapon than the one used in the killings — Simpson couldn't be tried again for them thanks to double jeopardy.

Did O.J. do it? Over two decades later, we still don't have an answer. It's easy to see why America is still so obsessed with the case.

Wayne Carter is the editor of the Carroll County Times. Reach him at wayne.carter@carrollcountytimes.com.

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