April 12, 2004 12:00 PM

We, the jury, find O.J. Simpson…no matter where he is. We find him at the supermarket, where we point and stare. On the highway, where we honk. And there, that’s us, whispering behind the 18th green. Some of us render the verdict that Simpson is a victim. “People won’t let him live down the whole incident,” argues Pam Zambrano, assistant pro-shop manager at Miami’s Melreese golf course, where Simpson plays. “He’s very nice.” Others judge him in a far harsher light. “I’d never golf with him. I won’t even speak to him,” says Bill Roberson, a member of the Calusa Country Club, where O.J. also tees it up. “We all think he’s a murderer who got away with it.”

On June 12 it will be 10 years since Simpson’s wife, Nicole, and her friend Ron Goldman were killed outside Nicole’s Brentwood home, and the only court still in session—the court of public opinion—continues to pass judgment on Simpson each and every day. Acquitted at the trial of the century but found liable for the murders in a subsequent 1997 civil proceeding, Simpson exists in a kind of limbo—free to forge his future but unable to escape speculation about his past. It is an awkward, often painful predicament, yet one that Simpson and those around him grudgingly accept. “I’m an easy target,” he told PEOPLE last year. “Hey, I can live with it—that’s life.”

As for the $33.5 million in damages he was ordered to pay the families of Ron and Nicole, he simply hasn’t. He’s managed to shield his assets (see box) and provide his children Sydney, 18, and Justin, 15, with a comfortable, even affluent, lifestyle. This February an autograph session in suburban St. Louis was canceled after a Missouri court ordered Simpson to give any profits to the victims’ families. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to give them a dime,” Simpson said at the time. Ron Goldman’s father, Fred, still the most bitter of Simpson’s critics (see box), says, “We’ve never received one penny.”

In 2000 Simpson fled his native California and moved to the Miami area, but here too his presence creates a perpetual media sideshow. “The weirdness of his celebrity is perfect for Miami,” says novelist Carl Hiaasen, a veteran chronicler of his state’s kooks and scoundrels. Sure enough, Simpson has had a hard time blending in: In 2001 he was charged with battery and auto burglary in a road-rage incident (he was acquitted). There have also been at least four calls to police regarding domestic disputes between O.J. and sometime girlfriend Christie Prody. Now DirecTV is suing him for $20,000 for pirating satellite service (Simpson claims he’s a paying customer).

The role in which Simpson acquits himself best, it appears, is as a father. His children—who are in his custody but spend several weeks a year with Nicole’s parents in California—are by many accounts happy and well-adjusted. Sydney is a senior at prestigious Gulliver Preparatory and was looking at colleges in Georgia and Colorado. “She has blossomed into a really beautiful kid,” says Nicole’s sister Denise, 46, who runs the Nicole Brown Charitable Foundation, which helps abused women. Gulliver sophomore Justin excels in several sports and, like his sister, often has friends sleep over and spends hours instant-messaging pals. “I wonder if they’ll fall apart or be strong,” says Denise. “But I think they’ll go the strong route and shrug things off.”

The Brown family, too, has had to shrug things off to keep an uneasy peace. Simpson never speaks with Nicole’s three sisters and instead discusses family matters with Nicole’s mother, Juditha, 73. “My mom is very diplomatic; she makes it work,” says Nicole’s sister Tanya, 34, who lectures against domestic violence. The Browns don’t talk about Simpson with the children, but they do share warm memories of Nicole—as much for themselves as for the kids. “I try to hear Nicole’s voice and sometimes I can’t,” Tanya says. “I think it’s a defense mechanism that’s given to us. You learn to live your life without that person in it.”

And in this way they go on—Simpson, his kids, his late wife’s family—grasping for some sort of normalcy. It is likely what they will face for the rest of their lives, or at least for as long as it takes Simpson to do what he has vowed-find Nicole’s killer. “I still have a couple of guys looking into things,” he told PEOPLE last year. “I have always thought my day would come.” Till then, his peers will have their say. This jury is never out.

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