Even after all these years, the question of whether or not O. J. Simpson (played on The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story by Cuba Gooding, Jr.) murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman remains up in the air. There are people who believe he definitely did it. There are those who believe there's absolutely no way a venerated football star could have committed such a heinous crime in cold blood. Simpson himself wrote a book called If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer, which is a very confusing and conditional title.
That's not really what FX's fascinating, 10-episode series asks us to ponder, though. What this show wanted us to take a long, hard look at is if we had been in the position of the jurors selected to serve on the jury in Simpson's trial, would we have found him guilty? Did the defense — the dream team, as Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), Rob Kardashian (David Schwimmer), and Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) — present the jury with enough reasonable doubt that they couldn't convict Simpson of committing this crime? It's here we hear the famous "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit" line from Cochran.
Or did the prosecutorial team, which represented the people of the state of California and consisted of Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) and Chris Darden (Sterling K. Brown), demonstrate through physical evidence and a well-constructed timeline that there was more than enough circumstantial proof that Simpson was undoubtedly present at both his ex-wife's condo as well as his own residence that night, and he'd gotten his own blood, that of Nicole Brown Simpson, and that of Ron Goldman in every location (including his white Bronco).
Well, as we all saw over the course of the series, Johnnie Cochran (who passed away in 2005) was certainly a brilliant legal strategist. He led the jurors left and right with various narratives and conspiracies. He convinced not only the jury, but members of the media and social justice organizations that systemic racial biases deeply rooted in the L.A.P.D. had woven tangled webs in the Simpson case. Cochran presented alternative theories: He posited that Mark Furhman (Steven Pasquale) — a proven racist who perjured himself on the witness stand — had planted the gloves Simpson allegedly wore during the murders at both crime scenes. Cochran insisted that since Simpson is black, the L.A.P.D. clearly had it out for him as a suspect from the very beginning. Cochran also offered yet another narrative: Perhaps Nicole Brown Simpson was killed to send a message to her friend Faye Resnick (Connie Britton), who owed money to a drug dealer.
Cochran brilliantly used all of these methods of misdirection to confuse the jury and plant conflicting information and narratives in their minds. While Marcia Clark and Chris Darden relied on facts and scientific information, such as the fact that the blood at each crime scene matched Simpson's within one one billionth of a percent, the jury had all of these other stories and conspiracy theories floating around in their heads.
After hearing the closing arguments, the jury gathers to deliberate. You'd think they would be in there for days. After all, they've already been sequestered for over a year during this trial. What's another few days to decide the fate of a man who may have possibly committed a double homicide?
They first decide to take a written vote, but really, it's purely ceremonial. When the tally emerges, it's obvious that they've voted along racial lines. It's also obvious that various jurors aren't going to change their votes or opinions. I myself sat there watching, wondering how I would react if I were in their shoes. Given the evidence presented by both sides, would it be possible to say beyond reasonable doubt that Simpson had, in fact, committed the murders.
"Why wasn't there more blood?" one of the jurors asks. She notes that there's more of a mess when she spills a milkshake in her car. There was a lot of blood at the crime scene, though. I'm not really a blood spatter expert, nor did I pick up that much information about what happens from stabbing a human body from watching Dexter. Weak constitution and all that. I guess these are things that have to be considered, though.
In the end, the jury deliberates for just four-and-a-half hours. Neither the prosecution nor defense team can believe how quickly the verdict arrives. When it's read, it seems like the entire world is watching. It's even on the Jumbotron in Times Square.
Simpson isn't nervous, though. When a prison guard brings him his clothing and a razor so he can shave for court that morning, the guard says that based on what his court sheriff friends staying with the sequestered jury have heard, Simpson has no need to worry. That's the kind of preferential treatment he gets, it seems. I wonder if this really happened, or if it's something that was dramatized for the show. It's pretty ridiculous and unscrupulous of the prison guard, who also asks Simpson to sign a football for his son.
I don't really need to tell you what the verdict is, I presume. O. J. Simpson is found not guilty on both counts of homicide. When the Goldmans hear this verdict, they break down in tears. The people outside the courthouse who've been supporting Simpson with signs saying "Free The Juice" cheer. On the news, broadcasters announce that there won't be any rioting in the vein of what happened after the Rodney King verdict tonight.
Cochran seems incredibly relieved. Rob Kardashian goes into the bathroom to throw up, because he seems to have reversed his position as to whether or not his friend did it. In an epilogue during the final credits, we learn that Kardashian did, in fact, change his mind about Simpson's guilt, and the two didn't speak again.
Marcia Clark, Chris Darden, and Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) are devastated with the result. They cry in Garcetti's office. He tells Clark that she did the best job she could have, considering what she was up against, but she cries for the victims of domestic violence who she fears won't come forward because of the outcome of this trial. Chris Darden cries because he wasn't able to seek justice for Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. When the Goldman family gets into the car after leaving the courthouse, they're stupefied as to what to do next. They would later be awarded $25 million in punitive damages in a civil suit that found O. J. Simpson guilty of Ron and Nicole's murders, but they would only receive half a million of that settlement. Obviously, nothing can ever bring back their son.
There's a great moment in the hallway between Chris Darden and Johnnie Cochran. Cochran tells Darden that maybe after this is all over, Darden will be welcomed back into the community. Darden says that he never left the community, and it's Cochran who's confused about the situation at hand. See, Cochran may have pointed out the systemic racial bias of the L.A.P.D., but it was inconsequential to this case. Cochran just defended a rich man from Brentwood. Police brutality will continue throughout the country. The Simpson verdict won't change a thing. Looking at the events of the past few years, Chris Darden's words were more prescient than he could have ever known.
When Cochran returns to his own office; however, he's hailed as a conquering hero. Bill Clinton is on TV vowing to look into police brutality and systemic racial bias. Johnnie Cochran has forgotten all about what Chris Darden said. It's a day for celebration at The Cochran Firm.
Then, of course, there's O. J. Simpson. He's now a free man, but to what end? He returns home to Brentwood, ready to party. He gives Star Magazine exclusive rights to the photos of said party. Halfway through the party, though, he realizes it might not have been such a great idea to appear to be engaging in this type of revelry when his ex-wife's killer is ostensibly still at large. Simpson pauses the party (at the urging of his publicist) to make a statement, saying that he's going to seek full custody of his children with Nicole Brown Simpson, and that he's going to launch a full-time effort to finding her and Ron Goldman's killer.
Suddenly, the celebration seems hollow. There are a lot of scenes of contemplation, with O. J. crying, looking in the mirror, or staring at his football statue in the backyard. He knows he's been forever branded by this trial, and that no one will ever look at him the same way again. The series ends with him standing there, "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" playing us off, before that final epilogue of pictures explaining what happened to the key players in the trial since it ended.
Why isn't there sunshine for O. J. Simpson, though? Is it because he actually did kill his ex-wife and her friend? Is it because he didn't, but her murder still changed his life forever? No matter what, he was never convicted of her death in a criminal trial, and that's something that changed the American justice system and L.A.P.D. forever. It also captivated the nation for over a year.