O.J. Simpson may be suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) according to Cuba Gooding, Jr. and forensics pathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu. CTE is a brain disease caused by multiple blows to the head. Simpson was a legendary player in football, a sport that accounts for a large portion of CTE cases.
Simpson’s behavior as indicated by 911 calls made in relation to domestic violence incidents involving Nicole Brown Simpson are indicative of the condition, according to Gooding who recently spoke to People. Actual 911 tapes will be played in a future episode of American Crime Story: The People vs O. J. Simpson. Gooding plays Simpson on the show and had this to say about the tapes.
“One of the aspects of having CTE is that the physical manifestation of that aggression that your brain motivates in a person is something that’s uncontrollable and memorable… I think that it’s just so very telling in his behavior.”
The likelihood of O. J. having CTE is strong, according to the man who first identified the condition, forensics pathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu. He is the physician portrayed by Will Smith in the movie Concussion. Omalu believes so strongly that Simpson has the brain condition that he told People that he would bet his medical license on it.
Bennett had this to say about O.J. and CTE in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“I went through the O.J. saga, his story, and his irrationality, his impulsivity, his disinhibition, by disinhibition meaning you’re beginning to lose your learned behavior, his sexual improprieties, his violent tendencies, domestic violence history — in fact, almost bordering on irrationality, irrational behaviors. Even after he was acquitted in the murder trial, he still went on – you know, he’s in jail today because of some stupidity. After 2002, I’ve always suspected that O.J. Simpson is a victim of this disease. He’s a victim too.”
Simpson attorneys tried in 2012 to get him a new trial for his 2008 robbery conviction. They considered using the degenerative brain disease as a defense if he was granted a re-trial. Simpson’s former business manager, Norman Pardo, describes Simpson as “often not coherent,” adding that he will sometimes “sit in the corner, mumbling, talking and arguing with himself.”
O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson married in 1985. Nicole frequently spoke to friends about O.J.’s physical abuse. In 1989, he allegedly threatened to kill her in an argument they had on New Year’s Eve. Charges were pressed and O.J. pled no contest to spousal battery. The couple divorced in 1992.
American Crime Story: The People vs O. J. Simpson depicts the trial of Simpson for the brutal murders of Ron Goldman and Nicole. He was found not guilty of those charges. In 1997, however, Simpson was found liable for Nicole and Ron’s wrongful death and was ordered to pay the families $33.5 million in damages. His legal troubles continued in 2000 when he was charged in a road rage incident in which it was alleged that he attacked a driver. He was cleared of those charges. He is currently serving a 33-year sentence for his conviction, along with Clarence Stewart, related to 12 counts of armed robbery and kidnapping. Simpson will be eligible for parole in 2017.
Only after O.J.’s death will we know for sure if he has CTE, as it can be diagnosed only through an autopsy. Symptoms of the disease include mood swings, domestic violence, and unjustified violent tendencies. These are all apparent in Simpson’s behavior. When this is considered along with the number of times Simpson received blows to his head in the course of a football career that began in high school in the mid-60s and didn’t come to an end until his retirement in 1979, and the chances that he Simpson is suffering from “the concussion disease” increase.
[Photo courtesy of Ethan Miller/Getty Images]