What Kyra Phillips Believes O.J.'s Murder Trial Tapes Teach Us Today

Photo: Courtesy of Turner.
Kyra Phillips was there when the infamous tapes featuring Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman helped sink the murder trial against NFL legend O.J. Simpson.
Fuhrman was the one who found the bloody glove on the athlete's property, which was a central piece of evidence in the case. During his testimony, he said he hadn't used the n-word in the last 10 years, but Simpson's defense team uncovered old recordings of Fuhrman making racist and misogynistic remarks and suggesting it was common for the LAPD to plant evidence during an interview with a screenwriter. In the end, the NFL star was acquitted and Fuhrman was tried for perjury. (He pleaded no contest and was placed on probation for three years.)
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Phillips, a veteran CNN reporter, has reported extensively on Simpson, including the 1995 verdict. Now, more than 20 years later, she is unveiling some previously unpublished tapes as part of the special After O.J.: The Fuhrman Tapes Revealed.
The journalist sat down with Laura Hart McKinny, the screenwriter-turned-college professor who interviewed Fuhrman between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. It was during those conversations that the former detective used the slurs, detailed the instances of police brutality against Black suspects, and describe how male officers intimidated their female colleagues in the LAPD.
"Those tapes changed history. They not only impacted a verdict, swayed the jury in the trial of the century, but they also created change within the LAPD," Phillips told Refinery29. "Because of those recordings ... the LAPD was forced to change policies and recognize that there was a problem and do something about it so women and minorities felt safe at the LAPD and wanted to become part of the LAPD."
But even though it's been 30 years since the tapes were first recorded and there are laws in place to protect female and minority workers, discrimination against women and people of color in the workplace is still a huge problem. This year alone, for example, we've seen tech companies such as Uber involved in sexual harassment scandals, and public officials fired for sending racist and sexist emails.
Phillips knows that her story presents the question: How far have we really come since the trial took place 20 years ago? She doesn't have an answer, but knows that exposing stories such as Fuhrman's comments can help push the conversation forward.
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"It's important to keep the conversation going because that's how we move forward. If we ignore it, if we don't address it, then we can't move forward," Phillips said. "So I think as journalists, when the stories are out there, we need to cover them and create conversation."
The reporter said that it'll be hard for everyone to hear what Fuhrman said at the time, but it's also necessary to start honest conversations about how we treat women and people of color in the workplace.
"You're gonna hear some really disturbing recordings. And I think it's something we all need to hear, and think about, and talk about," Phillips said. "It needs to bring us together as women. It [needs to] brings us together as journalists."
She added, "[We need to] remember how this feels, and how it makes other women feel, and how it makes other minorities feel. And we need to do everything in our power to lift each other up and not tolerate it, and not let it happen in our workplace."
The special After O.J.: The Fuhrman Tapes Revealed airs tonight at 11 p.m. ET on CNN.
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