While I have always heard about the sensational trial of the century that centered on the once-great football player O.J. Simpson, I did not know any particular details about why he wasn’t convicted or why it was so astounding to the entire country. FX’s docu-drama “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson” highlights the emotions of the people that surrounded the trial on both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s sides and the events that lead up to his acquittal. In addition, the sensationalization of every aspect of the trial by the media illustrates how appealing to mass media can shift the results of a case, regardless of the enormous amount of evidence against a defendant.
In case you are not aware of the details, O.J. Simpson was put on trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her boyfriend Ron Goldman. Yet, the actual murders took a back seat to the media coverage surrounding the famous former football player and the argument that the police were just setting up another black man for murder. The mass hysteria surrounding the case created what is deemed the trial “of the century,” with one of the first usages of DNA evidence to induce a conviction and a mounting fear that conviction would lead to riots, like those due to the police brutality towards Rodney King years before. While O.J. was eventually acquitted, the details that lead up to this judicial decision are astounding.
Rather than centering on the actual murder like a typical episode of “Law and Order,” “American Crime Story” focuses on the central characters and their ongoing responses to the investigation. Instead of overriding the series with details on both sides of the aisle, the show takes you on a journey through the people’s lives and their stories. You see the first appearance of the Kardashians in the limelight, and they get more airtime in the show than the murder victims’ families.
Yet, the character I found most interesting was not O.J. or any of the Kardashians, but rather Marcia Clark, the lead attorney for the city of Los Angeles. Played by Sarah Paulson, Marcia faces the disdain of the media, her ex-husband and other workers in the district attorney’s office for taking on the case. However, she never gives up and fights for justice despite all of the barriers against her, and that’s something I really admire. When she asks the judge to break for the rest of the day so that she can pick up her kids and not call another babysitter, your heart breaks for her. You can feel how much she cares about the case, but also how much she wants to be a good mother and individual. Paulson won a well-deserved Emmy award for her role and brought the real Marcia Clark to the awards show to honor her for all that she did.
It really amazes me how the actors were able to truly understand what each person was feeling during the events following the murder. In an interview, the actors said that they did not ask each person how they were feeling during the trial, yet the actor and character seem to blend together and you feel as though you’re watching the events unfold in real-time. The series feels like a reality show where the cameras never turn off. You can visibly see the confusion and sadness on Robert Kardashian’s face as he, a lawyer close to the Simpson family, comes to understand that his best friend killed his wife. As each aspect of the case unfolds, you learn more and more about these individuals and truly care about their success and happiness. When one person finds a new tape that can possibly prove his innocence, you find yourself getting excited for the character, even though you may not agree with that side or you already know the results of the trial. While I couldn’t stand O.J., there were still times where I thought maybe he really didn’t do it, and he seemed like a genuine person. Then he would have an outburst, and I would immediately switch back to presuming his guilt.
While it is quite obvious to most people that O.J. was guilty, the series makes the case especially interesting by highlighting how minute details are blown out of proportion, such as Marcia Clark getting a haircut or O.J. trying on a pair of gloves. By gaining the appeal of the media, lead attorney for the defendant Johnnie Cochran believed that he could win the trial. It astounds me that the jury was able to overlook the dramatic amount of DNA evidence, which argued that it was virtually impossible for anyone else to have committed the crime. The case had so many layers that at times it was difficult to figure out what the trial was even predominantly about. Domestic abuse, racism and murder were at the forefront of this trial that aired on every major television network in the country. Under all of these layers of evidence against O.J., I can still understand why the jury did not convict him. It was a tumultuous time in history, and the conviction of another black man, a man that exudes fame and glory, by a corrupt police system would have rocked the nation.
The 10-episode series truly takes you along for a ride through the judicial system and all it entails. If you ever truly wanted to learn about how a murder case is presented by both sides and have already seen “Legally Blonde” 10 times like me, this is the perfect show to binge-watch. Innocent until proven guilty is highlighted by the arduous task of the district attorney’s office in utilizing the insurmountable evidence to change the public’s, and especially the jury’s, view of this legend. While we may never understand the full account of what really happened, “American Crime Story” does an excellent job of understanding the feelings surrounding the murder, the subsequent trial and the sentiments of a divided nation.