The People v. O.J. Simpson Recap: It’s a Black Thing

The Dream Team picks a jury of O.J.’s peers and Chris Darden joins the prosecution.

Nathan Lane as F. Lee Bailey; Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran; John Travolta as Robert Shapiro; Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. Simpson; and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian in The People v. O.J. Simpson
Nathan Lane as F. Lee Bailey; Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran; John Travolta as Robert Shapiro; Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. Simpson; and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian in The People v. O.J. Simpson Ray Mickshaw/FX

The John Singleton-directed episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson begins with O.J. in jail, reminiscing about being at the club, which included Soul Train lines, excessive pelvis thrusting and lots of coke. Across town at O.J. lawyer Robert Shapiro’s office, the attorneys are eating lox and whitefish on O.J.’s dime. Shapiro starts the meeting by asking, “Who thinks O.J. did it?” Everyone looks appalled.

Johnnie Cochran takes over, explaining that O.J. is a hero in the community and black men are on his side. Black women may be an issue. They may resent a successful black man marrying outside the community.

Later, Cochran meets with O.J. in jail and tells O.J. he looks a mess and can’t go into the court looking like that. “Have you forgotten who you are?” Cochran asks.

The team is in court. Judge Lance Ito takes the bench looking nervous. He asks O.J. to enter a plea. “Absolutely, 100 percent not guilty,” O.J. says.

Shapiro is meeting with F. Lee Bailey and says the case is not winnable and Cochran is there to make the prosecutors nervous enough to cut a deal. Geez. I would not want this man as my lawyer. Bailey looks flabbergasted, but more importantly, who does he invoice for his billable hours? Shapiro says Bailey is working pro bono. Um. What?

Nicole Brown Simpson’s “friend” Faye Resnick is talking to a book editor and spilling piping-hot tea about her dead pal’s life. Resnick says that Brown Simpson was a terrific mom who liked to give a “Brentwood hello”—she would go into a guy’s bedroom and go down on him.

At the district attorney’s office, the Goldmans meet with Marcia Clark. Joseph Siravo as father Goldman gives an amazing performance. “Ron is a footnote to his own murder,” Dad cries.

Later, Clark is late for a D.A. meeting on the jury. She says if they can get black women on the jury, they’re golden. She says black women will empathize with Nicole. You’ve never heard of intersectionality, huh, Marcia?

An expert comes in to do a test group for the district attorney. The results: Black people think O.J. is innocent; white people don’t. And they think Clark’s “a bitch.” The defense did its own focus group. O.J. scored well among black women, who perceive him as handsome, masculine and charming.

Across town, Bailey and J.C. are having a drink in Cochran’s office. Baileys says, “Shapiro doesn’t have the right appetite for the case.” He tells Cochran it’s time for him to make a move on Shapiro.

Jury selection the next day looks like the line for the club. Cochran and Clark both excuse jurors, but in the elevator with the Dream Team, Cochran notes that he feels that too many black people are being excluded. Shapiro says he will talk to the press about it.

Cochran goes for a shoeshine in the courthouse, where everyone can see him. Reporters roll up and he holds court, displaying a nuance for discussing race that Shapiro lacks. When Cochran’s interview hits the paper, District Attorney Gil Garcetti is concerned about optics. He says that perhaps they should add in a little “flavor” to the team. Ever astute, co-prosecutor Bill Hodgman asks, “You mean a black person?” Clark suggests Chris Darden.

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