Laura Hart McKinney, an aspiring screenwriter living in North Carolina, is watching A Current Affair’s recap of the O.J. Simpson trial when her phone rings. It’s an O.J. investigator, wondering if she will give him copies of an interview she did with Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman. McKinney doesn’t want to help O.J. and hangs up.
Back in Los Angeles, Christopher Darden is examining a witness who says he overheard two men arguing near Nicole Brown Simpson’s house the night of the murders. Darden asks if one of the voices sounded like that of a black man. Johnnie Cochran objects, saying you can’t identify a voice by race. Yeah, you can. It’s just not 100 percent reliable. For instance, Courtney B. Vance playing Johnnie Cochran sounds blackity black, and so does Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden.
Cochran and Darden argue in open court until Judge Lance Ito threatens to hold them both in contempt. After, Marcia Clark chastises Darden for letting Cochran distract him and overshadow the testimony.
In Cochran’s office, the O.J. investigator fills in the team about the Fuhrman tapes. In summary: Fuhrman is dropping more n-bombs than a gangsta rapper. Cochran is thrilled. He says, “God brought us these tapes … this is manna from heaven.” So God is looking out for O.J.?
Ito issues a subpoena for the tapes. Cochran and F. Lee Bailey head to North Carolina to convince a judge to enforce Ito’s ruling. Bailey warns Cochran, “Things change really slow in the South.” Neither Cochran nor I understand what Bailey means until Cochran shows up in court.
Cochran is doing his best “Cochran in the courtroom” act before a completely unimpressed white North Carolina judge. Cochran asks to approach the bench; the judge says he can’t. Someone in the courtroom laughs in the background. I laughed at home. The judge denies Cochran’s request for the tapes.
Bailey isn’t worried. He says they will file an emergency appeal, and this time he will do the talking. I recall an episode where Bailey said he and Cochran were cut from the same cloth. He didn’t lie. Bailey slays in court. The request for the tapes is granted.
Back in L.A., Clark gets her first listen of the Fuhrman tapes. She had 99 problems; now she has 100. Fuhrman is ranting about Judge Ito’s wife—an LAPD captain—calling her “as far from a woman as I’ve seen,” among other nasty things. And worse, Ito’s wife signed a document saying that she didn’t know Fuhrman when her husband was assigned to the case. It’s likely that she lied, since she once reprimanded Fuhrman for writing “KKK” on a poster of Martin Luther King Jr. (Wait. What?!) Mrs. Ito’s omission could be cause for a mistrial.
Darden is interested in a mistrial. The defense would get a do-over without Fuhrman. Screw the year they’ve spent on the trial and the $6 million in taxpayers’ money. He doesn’t mention his screwup with the glove. Clark says it’s too risky. Of course she has regrets, but they have to “plow forward.”
In open court, Ito says another judge has to decide whether he should remain on the case. Cochran argues before the new judge that they should give the tapes to Ito with the part about wifey redacted. The new judge says he has to listen to everything so he can make a comprehensive decision. It’s reasonable, but Cochran’s pissed because the trial has been put on hold indefinitely. Cochran (plus friends) holds a press conference about the Fuhrman tapes, demanding full disclosure and a state investigation.
The new judge determines that Ito will continue to preside over the trial. Now Ito has to rule how much of the tapes will be allowed in court. Clark says the defense is just trying to inflame the jury and that the tapes are irrelevant. To Ito she says, “I am begging you from my soul” not to let the jurors hear the tapes.
After much contemplation, Ito says that the tapes have become a matter of “national concern” and will be played in open court in their entirety. But Ito’s only allowing the jury to hear two sentences that prove Fuhrman perjured himself on the stand. The other 13 hours of tapes are out.
Cochran goes nuts. The tapes are “proof of systematic civil right violations … what black people have always known and white people have never understood,” Cochran explains. Bailey points out that Ito’s knocked out the bit Fuhrman said about manufacturing evidence, which is how the defense would have neatly tied together the planted-glove theory.
Fuhrman heads back into the courtroom and everyone is staring at him. He’s present, but he’s not answering any questions. Not really. His response to everything is, “I wish to assert my Fifth Amendment privilege,” with various inflections. Womp.
After court at the district attorney’s office, Clark’s assistant presents her with the court ruling. Clark worries, “What did Ito do now?” No, silly, your other court case. The other judge granted Clark primary custody of the children. Good for her—and the kids.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She is also a blogger at SeeSomeWorld.com, where she covers pop culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.