Why OJ Simpson was acquitted of murder yet found liable for wrongful death?

Authored by Wendy Witt, Esq.

It's a good question. Many people have wondered why OJ Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, then subsequently proven to cause her death and held liable to the families for wrongful death.

There are theories that the prosecutors may have made mistakes or that evidence was tampered with and witnesses lied - or that the jury in the murder trial disregarded evidence because Simpson was a celebrity.

Any and all of these theories may or may not be true - and the opposing jury verdicts may be a result of differing burdens of proof. The burden of proof in the criminal case was much higher than the burden of proof in the personal injury wrongful death case, a civil case.

OJ Simpson Cases Illustrate Reasonable Doubt vs. Preponderance of the Evidence

The Simpson cases illustrate perfectly how the burden of proof in a criminal case differs from the burden of proof in a civil case. Both the criminal and civil juries heard the same evidence. The results were very different.

  • Criminal Case: NO Touch Down. Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman.

    The prosecutors were not able to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; they didn't get the ball to the goal line.

  • Civil Case: 51st Yard Line Achieved. After the criminal case, Nicole Brown Simpson's and Ronald Goldman's parents sued Simpson for wrongful death in civil court.

    In this case, the plaintiff's attorney was able to prove that Simpson committed both murders beyond a preponderance of the evidence. The jury thought it was more likely than not that Simpson killed both Brown Simpson and Goldman.

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