The approach of the 25th anniversary of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman brought renewed attention in O.J. Simpson and the “Trial of the Century” that produced his acquittal and frayed the country along racial lines.
Two weeks before the June 12 anniversary, special correspondent Linda Deutsch was summoned from retirement to try to coax an interview from the fallen football star. She doubted he would talk since he hadn’t submitted to an interview since being released from a Nevada prison in 2017 after serving nine years for robbery and kidnapping.
But if anybody could get Simpson to talk, it’s Deutsch. She was the only reporter he called after his acquittal in 1995 – he thanked her for fair coverage of the trial – and she spoke with him off and on over the years, though he never responded to Deutsch’s requests while he was imprisoned.
Last year, while visiting Las Vegas where Simpson now lives, Deutsch saw him and asked for a post-prison interview. He turned her down. But Deutsch tried again, this time by phone. The conversation began with him complaining that members of the media were hounding him and his family and that he didn't want to talk. Deutsch reminded him that if he spoke to her, it would be all he would have to say because AP’s story would reach all media.
Simpson relented, and while he wouldn’t discuss the crime or anything else in the past, he provided a glimpse into a life now very much outside the public eye.
He said he and his children are living in “a no-negative zone” and only focusing on positive things. He loves living in Las Vegas, plays golf almost every day, has two new knees and gets endless requests for selfies when he goes out. All-in-all, he said, “life is fine,” a quote that stung any who believed he got away with murder.
Among those upset was Kim Goldman, Ron’s sister, who was interviewed by Los Angeles reporter John Rogers. “Yeah, I hear he’s living the life of Riley out there in Las Vegas, being treated like a king,” Goldman said sarcastically.
After a protracted back-and-forth, and help from Los Angeles photo editor Reed Saxon, Deutsch also obtained two exclusive photos of Simpson at his home. They showed him looking happy and more youthful than when the public last saw him in prison garb. They were part of a gallery assembled by Saxon. Deutsch also sat for an on-camera interview that was the underpinning for a video piece by Los Angeles video journalist Krysta Fauria.
Deutsch’s story was the centerpiece of a package that included Rogers’ story about Kim Goldman’s life since her brother’s murder, a where-are-they-now glance on the key players in the Simpson case – also by Rogers – and a story by Philadelphia law enforcement reporter Maryclaire Dale about the impact of the Simpson case in raising awareness of domestic violence.
Deutsch’s interview story was the day’s top-read AP story online with strong engagement. She was also sought for interviews by many media outlets, including KABC in Los Angeles and NBC’s “Today” show, which did its own piece that included AP’s exclusive photos of Simpson.
For a timely, exclusive interview with a man who remains the focus of intense public interest, Linda Deutsch receives AP’s Best of the States award.