FX re-creates the trial that gripped America: The people V. OJ Simpson


Ishaan Khemani, Arun Arunachalam, and Farida Mostafa

20 years since the verdict was announced, America’s most covered and watched criminal trial, The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, has now become a television series.

The miniseries, which will last 10 episodes, is a racially and emotionally charged series that touches heavily upon the discriminatory issues presented by the case. O.J. Simpson, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., delivers an excellent performance as the troubled ex- superstar while the rest of the cast enhances the viewing experience. The cast, including well known names such as John Travolta and David Schwimmer, . At at a time where racial tensions were already high, the miniseries exemplifies the emotions swirling in the city of L.A., from the cheering bystanders on the highways to the racial slurs uttered at various points in the series. The O.J. trial, while known  for the accusations against  the ex- football player, was also an important factor of the problem of racism in the 90s, which the series clearly focuses on. They masterfully show how the trial was more than just about proving the innocence or guilt of O.J. Simpson, but how the issue of race forced its way into the trial enraptured the nation, not just by O.J’s crime, but by the police’s treatment as well.                                                                                                   

The first few episodes in the series set up the events that led up to O.J.’s arrest and the trial itself. The show cuts right to the chase, beginning with and L.A.P.D. chase to O.J.’s house where he was arrested under the suspicion of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her boyfriend Ronald Goldman. Proceeding the arrest, Simpson’s attorney, Robert Shapiro (John Travolta), builds a team, including Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), who becomes the lead attorney for the case. On the prosecutor’s end, Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) and Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) build what they think is a very strong case against O.J. Simpson. The two soon realize the case is much more complicated, as the Cochran team brings up alibis,issues of race and falsified evidence.

As with any television series that documents a real life event, it’s expected to bend the truth or exaggerate certain points to appeal to the audience. This series is not an exception. These inaccuracies include O.J. Simpson and Robert Kardashian portrayed as mentally weaker characters than they were in real life. Simpson, although he was mentally weak during the initial parts of the trial, he became very confident and more like the people pleaser that everyone knew. In this series however, he continues to appear unconfident and quite scared throughout the trial. Similarly, Kardashian, who spoke very confidently and passionately whenever questioned on his friend seems to doubt himself and his decisions in the show. The detective who gathered the evidence during the trial, Mark Fuhrman, was an alleged racist, but the show depicts him as a Nazi. Another evident flaw is the timeline that the trial follows with the reveal of the gloves that O.J. is to try on, which is the glove that Simpson used to allegedly murder his estranged wife Nicole. The original trial came down to a leather glove that was allegedly found at the crime scene. As the prosecution found that it was one of their strongest pieces of evidence, they built their case around it. The defense found that the glove would not fit Simpson and led the prosecution to  make Simpson try on the glove. When shown to the jury that the glove was clearly too tight, the trial was going in Simpson’s favor. Cochran used this example in his closing statements which resulted in the famous line, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”. This event happens much earlier in the show than in the real case. Getting such a time line correct would accurately show how the jury and the media saw all of the  evidence and in what order. This allows this television series’ viewers Judge Lance Ito decided to make the trial open to the public by televising it,

Other than the given examples, the series accurately portrays  the full trial, representing the approach of both the defendants and the prosecution, as well as the media’s involvement in the case with great accuracy.

In a time where police brutality is a common topic of interest, this miniseries could not have come at a better time. This series is more than just a documentary of a famous murder trial, but the event of the century, a spectacle that was covered endlessly, an event on such a colossal stage, that sports fans and sports haters were all tuned into.