Kris Jenner has become a household name as the KarJenner matriarch on Keeping Up with the Kardashians — guiding the careers of daughters Kim Kardashian West, Khloé Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Kendall Jenner.
But before she found fame as America’s favorite momager, the 61-year-old mother of six (and grandmother of six) found herself on the sidelines of one of America’s first reality shows: the trial of O.J. Simpson.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter‘s ‘Awards Chatter’ podcast, Kris opened up about her relationship with the football superstar and actor, who was acquitted of the killings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Nicole’s friend Ron Goldman but now sits in prison for an unrelated 2007 conviction for armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas.
Kris and Nicole were “best friends,” she said, having met through Kris’ first husband, Robert Kardashian — a lawyer who represented O.J. at various times throughout the athlete’s career and was part of the “Dream Team” of attorneys for his murder trial.
O.J. had been a part of Jenner’s life for as long as she had known Robert. She confirmed on the podcast he visited her in the hospital after she gave birth to Kourtney, and that her kids — including son Rob Kardashian — grew up referring to the Simpsons as “Auntie Nicole and Uncle O.J.”
Kris was even with Nicole in New York City when she purchased a pair of leather gloves for O.J. she believes were the infamous “bloody gloves” prosecutors presented at trial as those that had been used in the murders. The evidence became iconic when O.J. was asked to try on a pair of gloves in the courtroom and they appeared to be too small, prompting his lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, to utter the phrase, “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.”
At the time of the trial, Kris was divorced from Robert and already dating future spouse Caitlyn Jenner. Though they weren’t together, Kris and Robert were still co-parenting — and had wildly different views whether O.J. committed the crime.
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“Robert was loyal to O.J.,” Kris said of her late husband, who renewed his law license in order to join O.J.’s defense team.
But having heard first-hand from Nicole how she “feared for her life” due to O.J.’s jealousy and explosive temper — and having plans to meet Nicole the day after her body was found — Kris had a hard time believing O.J.’s innocence. “After that initial shock of, ‘What’s going on,’ I just felt like I knew, probably, what had happened,” she revealed.
So how did the two reconcile their difference of opinion?
“I had to respect Robert,” Kris said. “Robert was a very good man [with] very good judgment. He was always the voice of reason — always somebody that everybody went to for sound advice. He would always have the answer and you always felt like you were safe with him. And on this particular subject, I felt one way and he felt another.”
“After having so much respect for him for so many years, you just have to have that same amount of decency and respect for another human being,” she added. “I was very upset that he didn’t see it maybe the same way that I saw it. But we have four children together. So that makes a huge difference when you are going through something as tragic as this.”
In October 1995 — eleven months after the trial began and sixteen months after Nicole and Goldman’s deaths — O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges. Kris was in the courtroom, sitting upstairs with one of Nicole’s sisters at the urging of Marcia Clark. She was “very pregnant” with Kendall at the time, she said.
“I remember just disbelief,” Kris recalled of the moment the verdict was announced. “And then thinking, ‘How are we going to get out of this?’ We were just scared.”
Nicole and Goldman’s families filed a civil suit against O.J. and in 1997, a civil court awarded them a $33.5 million judgment for the victims’ wrongful deaths.
Looking back, Kris said she learned many lessons from the experience.
“You learn a lot about human behavior. You learn a lot about people you know. You learn a lot about the justice system. You learn about so many things,” she said. “It definitely was surreal. Watching it happen every day — we were so close to it and it was so sensational that you really have to have some thick skin and a good head on your shoulders to get through something like that.”
“For all of us involved, it was so fueled with emotion — energy good and bad,” she continued. “It was something at the end of every day, you just didn’t know what was going to come the next day. It was like living on the edge every single day.”