Tuesday night brought us the 90-minute finale of The People v. OJ Simpson, the newest FX offering from American Horror Story co-creator, Ryan Murphy. Throughout the series's 10 episodes, we as viewers have been treated as jurors and brought an inside look at one of the biggest murder cases in American history. Whether or not creative liberties were taken by show writers and producers, this series has been a roller coaster and found a way to bring a story that we all knew about back to life and make it interesting. It also has opened up a window of opportunity for conversation regarding race relations in America.
What Is The Series Based On?
This series was adapted from Jeffrey Toobin's book, The Run of His Life: The People v. OJ Simpson, and it focuses both on the lawyers and families involved with the murder case between the State of California and former NFL star, OJ Simpson. The case is essentially portrayed from start to finish starting with Simpson being arrested and charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.
Although the verdict didn't go the way state attorneys Marcia Clark and Chris Darden wanted it to, this depiction of the "trial of the century" has not only renewed interest in the OJ Simpson case, but it has shed a new light on American justice procedures and alleged human rights violations still going on today. Toobin's book as a whole paints a picture that Simpson was guilty from the get-go and further argues the point that the trial became more of a statement on race relations in America than about the crimes at hand.
First Of All, Is The Series Accurate?
Of course, when trying to say a television show is bringing a conversation back in America, you have to be sure that the portrayal of events was even accurate. The truth regarding this show is: you can say yes, but you can also say no. Several social media and news outlets throughout this series have released "fact check" articles that help viewers distinguish what aspects of the show were based on truth and which were acts of fiction created by writers. A majority of the events within the show did turn out to be true, or mostly true, so that's something.
Here are some examples from the finale episode:
1. Johnnie Cochran received death threats
True. Cochran did receive death threats and intimidation from the public. Some of these threats even extended to his family, specifically his children.
2. Robert Kardashian thought OJ Simpson was guilty
Questionable. Although it's been said that Robert "Bobby" Kardashian questioned his longtime friend's innocence as the trial went on, and felt immensely uncomfortable picking him up from jail, statements on record and television interviews from 1994-1995 would suggest that he had no doubt that his friend was not guilty. However, that doesn't mean that the depiction of him questioning his loyalty to his friend in the show is inaccurate. It is true that he and OJ Simpson did stop talking to each other after the trial was over, so I suppose you never know.
3. Marcia Clark was raped
True. Clark mentions in great detail in her memoir, Without a Doubt, that she was raped by a waiter while vacationing in Israel at the age of 17. The only difference between her actual accounts and the show is that the show says she was raped in Italy. Whether or not she revealed this to Chris Darden after losing the case remains unknown.
4. OJ Simpson threw an acquittal "party of the century" at his Rockingham home
True. OJ not only threw the party, but he did actually bring Star Magazine in to photograph the celebration. However, real photos from the party would suggest that it was a quiet get together and not the "rager" that Simpson imagined, or that was portrayed in the show.
What makes the OJ Simpson case so relevant today?
The case against OJ Simpson was a powerhouse, no doubt, and a lot of people might be wondering why it is being put back into the spotlight in 2016. The truth is that this case also had a high influence on race relations in the United States. The trial took place just a few years after four LAPD officers were found not guilty in the recorded beating of Rodney King; the case that caused the highly damaging Los Angeles riots of 1992.
As is implied in the show, a lot of people thought that OJ Simpson was acquitted simply because he was African-American and the city of Los Angeles didn't want another Rodney King situation. On the other side, many people saw it as a victory for minority groups. The thought was that justice was finally served to an African-American and that Johnnie Cochran had uncovered the corruption and hatred for minorities within the city's police force.
Regardless of which side of the argument you are on, you can't deny that the OJ case set a foundation for the handling of police brutality cases for years to come. However, cases like the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown and the 2015 death of Freddie Gray are the most recent examples of what some referred to as "Rodney King all over again."
The Michael Brown case resulted in a white police officer avoiding indictment after fatally shooting the 18-year old in Ferguson, MO. Freddie Gray was arrested by Baltimore PD and subsequently fell into a fatal coma after suffering a spinal cord injury while in police custody. The six officers involved were all subsequently booked and charged for the death of Gray, but are yet to face trial.
Both cases resulted in huge protests and riots in Ferguson, Baltimore, and several other cities around the United States. They also influenced the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement. Allegations of racism within our nation's police force and calls for justice, accountability, and fairness in the country's justice system have all stemmed from recent events. In other words, these are outcomes everyone allegedly wanted to avoid should OJ Simpson had been found guilty of murder.
The point is, with the state of our country and where race relations are, OJ Simpson has become relevant again. After all, OJ was acquitted despite there being stacks of evidence, including DNA, against him. Not to mention the countless allegations of domestic violence. However, looking at the most recent cases mentioned above, there was evidence against all of the police officers as well. The punches definitely come from both sides as they did during the OJ trial.
The big question is, does this all showcase a level of incompetence and lack of training among the police forces as was portrayed in The People v. OJ Simpson? Or is it simply racism as pop culture is leading the fight against? This series was not only well done as far as writing, acting, and intensity goes, but it gives us the opportunity to re-evaluate and discuss, regardless of which side we're on.