Tonight marks the beginning of the four-part documentary, "O.J.: Made in America" on ABC (the remaining episodes will be shown on ESPN). The OJ Simpson murder trial is a seminal moment for many Buffalonians; I remember being pulled out of class in third grade to watch the verdict live on TV, and I'm sure many people have similar stories.
Less remembered, however, is the civil trial that followed. While Simpson was found not guilty of murder in the criminal case, he was held criminally liable in the civil case. The $33.5 million awarded to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are the likely catalyst for the 2007 armed robbery that landed Simpson in a Nevada prison until at least next year.
While the link between the Buffalo Bills and Simpson's pre-trial fame is obvious, the link between the team and his conviction is one that many weren't aware of until an outstanding piece in USA Today that told the story of EJ Flammer.
Flammer, now 43, took up photography in college and, thanks to his father's position as president of a Bills booster club, regularly took photos at team events. One of those events was a game against Miami in September of 1993, the season in which the team commemorated the 20th anniversary of Simpson's 2,003-yard season. At the event, Simpson was wearing the same size-12 Bruno Magli shoes that he had purportedly been wearing when he committed the murders he was acquitted of. The prosecution did come across a separate photo from that game that clearly shows Simpson wearing the shoes, but the "dream team" of defense attorneys apparently were able to convince the jury that the photo was doctored.
During the civil trial, the lawyer representing Nicole Brown Simpson's estate began digging for more photos, and eventually came across Flammer and his set of negatives, something that the jurors who decided in favor of the victims deemed "compelling evidence."
If they had surfaced during the trial, it's possible that Simpson would have been found guilty of the murder, but it seems justice took a detour before making it back on track. The ensuing years have provided plenty of evidence that Simpson was truly guilty of the murders, most notably in book form, but Flammer's pictures at a Bills game were likely the key pieces of evidence that ensured the victims' families would see any real justice done.