Pro football

Award-winning Munster film maker tackles O.J. Simpson trial

2014-05-24T17:45:00Z 2014-06-01T15:35:08Z Award-winning Munster film maker tackles O.J. Simpson trialAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
May 24, 2014 5:45 pm  • 

Nicole Rittenmeyer is quite a storyteller.

As in Emmy Award winner.

The 1987 Munster grad has produced riveting documentaries on social issues in her 15 years as a film maker.

Rittenmeyer's latest work is "OJ: Trial Of The Century" which makes its world premiere June 12 on the Investigation Discovery (ID) Network.

Surprisingly, she is not a huge sports fan, though she still follows the Bears while living in Brooklyn, where her company, Every Hill Films, is located.

As topics go, Rittenmeyer picked a dandy in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson. The former NFL star and actor was tried on two counts of murder after the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a waiter, Ronald Lyle Goldman, in June of 1994.

The case has been described as the most publicized criminal trial in American history. Simpson was acquitted after a trial that lasted 18 months.

The controversial verdict infiltrated homes and workplaces and divided communities for years.

Simpson seemed to have it all as the 1968 Heisman Trophy winner at Southern Cal. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and became the first pro player in 1973 to rush for more than 2,000 yards. He remains the only player to do so in a 14-game season.

Nicknamed "The Juice," Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

"The film basically covers from the minute the murders were discovered until the guilty verdict 18 months later," said Rittenmeyer, the executive producer.

"Most of the viewership of ID is typically women. That's their demographic. But I think this will pull in a lot more men."

The Indiana University communications major has won countless awards. Her powerful "102 Minutes That Changed America" dealt with the 9/11 attacks and won three Emmys in 2008.

How big was the O.J. Trial? As talk show icon Larry King once quipped: "If we had God booked and OJ was available, we'd move God."

"He had that hero status and he was remarkable," Rittenmeyer said of O.J. "But by the time the crimes were actually committed, he had moved on to bit parts in movies and he was recognizable as a face and a brand that was built on sports but it had evolved beyond that at that point."

Does she believe O.J. was innocent?

"He's guilty as hell. There's no question in my mind," Rittenmeyer said. "But 20 years later, I'm thinking there's got to be more to it than the jury was ignorant or the defense team was fabulous.

"So I wanted to make a show where well-educated folks can walk away from it and go: "Oh, I don't agree with it. He seems guilty. But I sort of understand how this happened and it wasn't just gross incompetence on the part of the prosecution and a lack of education on the part of the jury.

"It was the perfect storm."

There is another question now that arose after the documentary was finished: Was O.J. Simpson suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy?

"It's highly possible, as a running back, that he was suffering from the same sort of brain damage as those guys who are in the news now," Rittenmeyer said.

"The way (CTE) manifests itself later is impetuous, impulsive behavior; violence where they hadn't been violent before; they're incredibly arrogant and narcissistic where they hadn't been before.

"It never occurred to me there could have been a connection with O.J."

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