If tonight’s Oscar win tells us anything, it’s that O.J. Simpson is just as much a topic of conversation as he ever was. The infamous footballer turned actor has never really left the zeitgeist, thanks to his notorious acquittal in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. But these days, Simpson’s life story and his time behind bars for robbery reads more like a black comedy than the remainder of what was once the “trial of the century.”
In fact, it’s easy to forget just what a hot topic Simpson’s original trial was now that 20-some odd years have passed. But with a bunch of new documentary and dramatized re-tellings hitting the airwaves recently, there are quite a few mind-boggling details that have re-surfaced as of late.
Here’s a little refresher, as we head into Saturday’s finale of O.J.: Made in America on CTV.
1. The White Bronco
Everyone remembers the infamous televised Bronco chase down the freeway, in which law enforcement attempted to get O.J. Simpson to surrender after he became the main suspect in his ex-wife’s murder. What most people don’t realize is that there were actually two Broncos — O.J.’s, which had been seized for evidence, and the one belonging to his friend Al Cowlings. It was Cowlings who was driving his own vehicle the day of the chase, with Simpson in the back. Many people (wrongly) assumed O.J. had such special privilege thanks to his friendship with the LAPD that he got his car back, but that was never the case.
2. O.J.’s Suicide Note
At one point (the aforementioned Bronco day), Simpson had apparently called it all in and wanted to end his own life rather than go to prison. Why would an innocent man think that way? No one is sure, but what’s super strange is that on the suicide note he left behind for friends and family, he added one special personal touch: a smiley face. Not something you’d expect on the final farewell of a tormented man.
3. A Slam Dunk
When the prosecution first started collecting the overwhelming amount of evidence against the former pro-footballer, it was considered a “slam dunk.” No one knew that eventually the case would morph into a media circus unlike anything ever witnessed in the legal system. Or that things would go so-very-wrong, so-very-quickly for Marcia Clark and her team.
4. Marcia Clark got a raw deal
Thanks to the frenzy that this thing eventually became, everyone involved was suddenly treated like a minor celebrity. That included Marcia Clark, who was scrutinized at every turn for her outfits, hair, makeup and more. At various points she was told to “soften up” her image, but when she cut her hair it became national news (and not in a good way). Then there were the nude images of her that showed up in the tabloids. The real icing on the cake? She was also going through a divorce at the time, and her ex-husband wanted custody of their two kids. Now if that’s not a woman who handles it all under pressure, we don’t know what is.
5. William Hodgman may have dodged a bullet
Before prosecutor Chris Darden joined the case, Clark’s team was rounded out by a man named William Hodgman. Highlighting just how much stress the prosecutors were under, Hodgman had to leave the case after it started due to some severe health problems. Knowing just how bad things got, he probably made the right call.
6. Faye Resnick’s Book
Sure, now we know her as one of the Real Housewives, but back in the day Faye was just another socialite who hung out with Kris Kardashian and Nicole Brown. Her rise to fame began quickly after Brown’s death, however, when she wrote a tell-all book about her “friend.” The book became such an immediate sensation that jury selection on the case was actually suspended while the judge figured out how to reign it back in.
7. A Stressed-Out Jury
Speaking of the jury, they did not have a great time of it. Notoriously stressed-out and pushed to their limits, they fought back where possible, even getting together to mostly wear black in protest one day. Then there were those of them who were suddenly excused as the trial gained momentum: at one point there had been so many shifts that the “new” jury was barely recognizable,
8. The Kardashians
Before they became a household name, Rob Kardashian (that’s senior, not junior), was a lawyer who also happened to be O.J. Simpson’s best friend. Kardashian stood by his friend all through the trial, gaining instant fame, but the experience reportedly changed him. By the time the entire thing was over the friendship was severed, and they never repaired it before Rob’s death in 2003.
9. The Cochran Effect
Johnny Cochran was a force to be reckoned with when it came to black issues and representation in the media, so it was only natural that Simpson called him to join his dream team of lawyers. Turns out it was one of the smartest moves Juice could have made — Cochran instantly turned the entire trial into an issue of race (despite Simpson having never identified with that community), and changed the conversation into a heated national debate.
10. The N-Word
At one point things during the trial got ridiculously heated over something no one would have expected: the n-word. Prosecutor Chris Darden argued that no one should be allowed to use it in the courtroom, while Cochran — knowing it was a huge part of their case — argued for its admission. In the end Cochran won, and reportedly even used the slur towards Darden under his breath after making the argument for its use.
11. Ito, Ito, Ito
Another insta-celeb thanks to the trial, Judge Lance Ito was largely seen as a media whore. Why? For allowing cameras to capture each and every day of the trial, of course. In fact, we should probably all be crediting him for the advent of reality TV. Thanks to how out-of-hand the trial got, Simpson’s subsequent civil suit was barred from television, but that didn’t stop one network from hiring actors and reading each day’s transcripts in a dramatic, nightly retelling. Today, Ito’s decision to broadcast is seen by many in the industry as one of “worst moves in American judicial history.”
12. A Home Visit
Speaking of bad decisions, Ito also allowed the jury to visit Simpson’s home. In a brilliant move by the defence, Cochran got there first to stage the place and make Simpson appear more “black.” That meant taking down all the pictures of him and his famous white friends, and putting up pictures, posters and art that spoke to the black community instead. In fact, many of the items the jury ended up seeing were personal ones belonging to Cochran. Of course they didn’t know that at the time.
13. A Near-Mistrial
A large part of the defence’s strategy was discrediting the man who found the infamous glove — Mark Fuhrman. The racist police officer was a huge detriment to the prosecution’s case from the beginning thanks to his personal views, but he also almost caused a mistrial. How? After tapes of him saying some pretty racist things surfaced, a connection was also made between him and Judge Ito’s wife, whom Fuhrman had some unfortunate dealings with. As a result Ito almost had to recuse himself, but the prosecution — thinking they were going to win — swept the Fuhrman/Ito connection under the rug and the judge allowed a portion of the tapes to be played “for the public” instead.
14. The Race Card
If you needed any more proof that this trial became a matter of race over an issue of guilt, one image should stand out in all of our minds: that of a juror giving Simpson the salute of black solidarity shortly after the not-guilty verdict was read.
Unfortunately for Simpson, that solidarity did not extend beyond the courtroom, and he was largely ostracized by his friends once he was released. And the rest, as they say, is history.