This week on The People v O.J. Simpson saw a turning point for Judge Ito with regards to the Mark Fuhrman tapes — a collection of recordings between Fuhrman and a would-be Hollywood screenwriter that’s beyond racist.
The gleeful defense believes the recordings are the nail in the prosecution’s coffin while Ito strikes down most of them. The argument that the Simpson case is tainted by racial bias strengthens. The prosecution wants them suppressed entirely for fear of inciting emotion over intellect in deciding Simpson’s guilt. And for Ito, his personal life is invaded by the trial.
Ito’s allowing of a few inflammatory Fuhrman remarks shows he perjured himself. Cochran now is galvanized to put the LAPD on trial for its institutional racism. he says, “This is a smoking gun for the United States.”
Well, Shapiro is all about image and maintaining peace in LA and is even more estranged now from Cochran’s fervor.
The People v. O.J. Simpson delivers “Manna From Heaven” where the discovered Fuhrman tapes changed the game energetically. Despite the jury drama the week prior and the subsequent high drama they are now witnessing, the jurors have a real-life live TV reality show where the stakes are all over the place.
The Fuhrman tapes, the bloody gloves not fitting O.J.’s hand, none of these things assuage Schwimmer’s Robert Kardashian who is in full realization O.J. freaking murdered these people.
For Clark and Darden, they come to an accord with each other over the mistakes as Gil Garcetti is not painted in a flattering light, wringing his hands over the some-odd $6 million in taxpayer dollars that it would cost to retry the case.
TV Critics April Neale and Ernie Estrella discuss the episode.
Ernie Estrella: April, I can sense the trial ending and I feel weary again, but not because of it’s length, 10 weeks is not 10 months, but of all the ups and downs of this trial, all of the various points of view that I never considered when the trial was happening live, it’s been exhausting.
April, I have to admit, when this trial first took place, I was working in my second year of college and was just happy to have it filtered through the Howard Stern show. Granted, I couldn’t believe how the Simpson trial could eat so much of the Stern show, but through laughter, I was able to stomach it. What was lost though was all of the details and for that I’m really thankful to dive into this show for two and a half months.
How did you follow the trial originally and how much?
April Neale: I was glued to the TV. My own life was in turmoil at the time so it was a welcome schadenfreude moment for me, just escapism.
Now I see how much work and deflection, legal maneuverings and game playing was involved and I am so very glad I was not a juror on that trial. They would have called me “demon #2.”
Ha! I also listened to Stern then (and now). Overall my opinion of the legal profession and how defense lawyers operate is even lesser than it was before I watched this teleplay. The work turned in by Sarah Paulson is Emmy all the way.
EE: We skipped last week, but did you have anything to say about the jury episode? I thought it was a well-timed break from the trial, racial tensions and crooked cops. It had to be tough to find a competent jury and while I don’t think they succeeded, there were some real gems in there.
I was specifically shocked at how many jurors had to leave. In real life, they only had two alternates left. This wasn’t the trial of the century, it was a confederacy of dunces. I must admit, I could’ve used another episode on the jurors, but earlier in the series.
AN: Yes WonderCon is taxing! The bitter black woman who sees racist conspiracies at ever turn, the bossy alpha b*tch, the cranky old men, the eager beaver old caucasian man wanting to be out of “JV”, it was a slice of humanity wasn’t it?
That episode did not strengthen my resolve to do my civic duty and serve on a jury, that is for sure. I found the entire episode a great moment to see all angles of this trial and appreciated taking us inside what really happens during a sequestration.
EE: Ok, let’s dive into this penultimate episode. Lance Ito lost control of this trial and they show that in the opening scene between Johnnie and Darden getting personal. It was easy to get under Darden’s skin but to be fair, Cochran was playing dirty. Still, that we got so close to a mistrial because Ito’s wife turns up a subject of ridicule on the Fuhrman tapes AKA, The Manna From Heaven.
AN: Yes. Ito is balancing a lot here. Those Fuhrman tapes! Jesus H. And we only got a glimpse back then. Ito seems to be getting more thin skinned during the trial as he is parodied and made fun of in the media. His wife, well that was inconvenient!
EE: It seemed like both sides had gotten their best punches in and were unsure how to deal the finishing blow until… The Tapes. Those goddamn Fuhrman tapes were the final nails in the coffin for the prosecution.
When their best witness being charged for perjury, and just all of the nasty, disgusting douchebag things that came out of his mouth. Talk about the trial going ugly.
AN: Right. He was a hater for sure. I think all people have their moments when no one is looking and they make ugly remarks about someone unlike themselves, all people. But the level of hatred that Fuhrman had was just beyond. All I can say is, I had uncles, Italians, who were cops.
They were not very PC when it came to race. This was years of patrolling and policing neighborhoods where they saw a lot. Am I justifying Fuhrman? No. But I am saying people will wear your ass down when you are in charge of keeping order. All people.
EE: We had two tense elevator rides after the second judge declared that he had to review the Fuhrman tapes. You could compare and contrast these scenes for days. Cochran wanting more pressure on the situation so that the court had no choice but to release those tapes. In the other, Darden was angry that Clark didn’t heed his warnings of Fuhrman.
Which elevator ride raised your eyebrows the most?
AN: It was Darden and Marcia, as these tapes were so awful to listen to, and the bottom line is it was mortifying for any white person to be in a black person’s company and hear these awful things. It’s embarrassing. No decent person wants to be associated with that kind of vitriol.
All people are different levels of enlightenment, and Clark was often times tone deaf to the racial nonsense black people deal with daily. Darden tried to get it across but still…
EE: At this point, the trial has gone so far off the original path and careened square into the defense team’s narrative. Everyone is distracted away from the two murders that happened and finding justice for the victims and like sacrificial lambs, the race issue with the treatments of minorities by the LAPD can’t help but leave you cold.
It was important that those scars were exposed, especially when you think about what has gone on in the last two-three years with trigger-happy cops, but it’s a shame the case against O.J. Simpson’s was the cost. As a society, we sadly haven’t learned from what was said on those tapes and the series puts them back in the spotlight with fresh ears of the current climate as the backdrop.
How do you feel about this case having experienced it again?
AN: Honestly? I think human nature changes very little. I learned a big word when I was in 3rd grade: Ethnocentricism.
It was when New England public schools were trying to educate us all about racism and civil rights. But people live in fear, even those who think they are above it all. People react more than analyze. It is easy to point at someone and say that they are the cause of whatever the issue is. Black and white people have an uneasy truce. The saving grace is education and empathy.
Having said that, the O.J. Simpson series on FX reiterates that we all need to be more aware and sensitive to differences and not fear or demonize groups. But that’s a hard pill to swallow during these times of ISIS, Trump and Europe drawing a moat around the natives and the immigrants from the middle east.
EE: Listening is something of a rarity these days, and learning. For the first time since that getaway in Oakland, we see Darden and Clark calm down enough to apologize for not listening to each other, Darden being too bullheaded to think twice about O.J. trying on the gloves, then Marcia for not taking his advice on keeping Fuhrman away from the stand.
The easiest way to my heart is to see someone admit when they’re wrong. I imagine that it was easier for them to face each other than eventually needing to face the Browns and Goldmans.
AN: They liked each other and respected each other, and real friends can admit when they are wrong. Clark and Darden’s relationship is quite interesting and I find them the most compelling characters, even more than Cochran or Travolta’s mollifying Shapiro.
Can you imagine having to speak to the parents of the victims? What a hard thing, especially when you are losing the case right in front of them.
EE: After Ito threw out nearly all of the 13 hours of tape incriminating Fuhrman of a lot of ugly things in his past, Cochran goes off. One line I thought that was of significance was when Robert Shapiro tries to calm him down and say, “We’ve been hired to defend a client, not burn down a city,” which Cochran looked hell bent on doing. Was he getting his client off free? Yes, but his personal agenda was rose above the client.
Ethically, I think he was fueled to get justice, just not for his client.
AN: I think Cochran knows how police talk to each other, how racist whites speak. He was mad because he didn’t get his way. No one wanted to relive the LA Riots but here’s the thing, the riots really didn’t f**k up anything but black neighborhoods for the most part, and racists love to point out how blacks turn on each other and destroy their own infrastructures. Cochran knew that too.
I really do not feel that Justice or the idea of it for all black people was the top of his agenda, he wanted to win. Period. It was a career-defining moment that was currency to a defense lawyer like him.
EE: A salient point, April. At the end, Marcia Clark glances back at the Goldmans after Fuhrman exercises his Fifth Amendment rights to Johnnie’s question, “Has he planted evidence on the O.J. Simpson case.”
She knows that she let the victims down, after all of that evidence they had with the sloppiness in handling said evidence, plus one really bad cop got in the way. She gets one big victory in her own life, the full custody of her children. I think it’s a symbol that life will continue on for Marcia Clark after OJ, that it will march forward for everyone as the ground gets incinerated by the eventual ruling.
What did you make of that final segment?
AN: Interesting point. In a new THR interview, Clark talks about if she would have used the “race card” if she were working for the defense.
She says “I’ve thought about it but not come to a decision…It’s too hard to answer. I don’t know.” Then she rethinks and dismisses any such idea. “I could simply have [disqualified] all the evidence for being improperly collected, contaminated, messed up, mishandled. And that would have been enough.”
Well, reality saw that Clark was outgunned by other lawyers and bad run had that silver lining for her personally, with the custody issues.
The real Marcia Clark is all over the place now talking about the trial and hindsight, and she cedes where the mistakes were made and underestimating the aggregate skills of the Dream Team. She and Darden came up unlucky.
EE: The finale, “The Verdict” is upon us where we’ll witness O.J. go free, the public go bananas, and I wonder if they’re going to take time to show us the civil trial.
I mean that could be one whole episode by itself but I feel that is a major part of the end of this story. Do you think they’ll cover it? Or save it for another season? This saga never ended. I’ll be looking for what new details we’ll learn though because the suspense of not knowing what will happen next is not there.
My concern goes straight to the attorneys on both sides and how the verdict affected them post-O.J., but we shall see if that’s the ground Ryan Murphy and company cover.
AN: I hope they do. When you say “bananas” yes- many black people were ecstatic and many white people were incredulous.
But agree or disagree, the verdict was a cathartic moment for people tired of hearing about race and racial inequities and O.J.! It is a subject that wears a lot of people out. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t something that should be ignored.
At the end of the day, money buys a ticket to freedom overwhelmingly, police departments need to hire more minorities, and rageful people need to be put in check.
But karma… Kardashian died of throat cancer, he knew the truth and didn’t speak it. Cochran died a horrendous death from cancer and Shapiro lost his son to drug overdose and believe me in the end, all these men profited by defending a man who many believe is an arch criminal.
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