Key Fuhrman Tapes Witness Anxiously Awaits Episode of 'The People v. O.J. Simpson'

"I didn't set out to interview a racist," Laura Hart McKinny, now a college professor, recalls.
Getty Images
Laura Hart McKinny and Mark Fuhrman

Laura Hart McKinny is filled with an anxiety she has not felt in more than 20 years.  

Thrust into the spotlight during the O.J. Simpson criminal trial for audiotapes she made of then LAPD officer Mark Fuhrman, McKinny told The Hollywood Reporter in a rare interview that she has been watching FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story weekly, awaiting her portion of the tale. 

"I am nervous about it, actually, because the whole situation was nerve-racking for me," McKinny tells THR. "It was such a traumatic and scary time that [Tuesday] night's episode generates that same feeling I had at the time."

Well, the moment has arrived. In Tuesday's episode, "Manna from Heaven," McKinny plays a key role, just as she did in the actual "trial of the century." 

McKinny, now a professor at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, has not previewed the episode. She will watch and process it with the rest of the audience. 

The real audiotapes, 12 in all, were made over a three-month span in the mid-1980s while McKinny was interviewing male and female LAPD officers for a screenplay she was developing. That project has since become a book, Men Against Women.

One of the officers she spoke to was Fuhrman, who, during the taped interviews, used the N-word numerous times and talked about assaulting African-American suspects. 

Those tapes would become a key piece of evidence for Johnnie Cochran and his team, as they used portions of the tapes to argue Fuhrman lied on the witness stand about his racist tendencies and could have planted evidence in the case. 

That revelation was a huge blow to the prosecution, which touted Fuhrman as a star witness since he found one of the bloody gloves and performed so well on the stand during the preliminary hearing for the case. The FX series did not include a portion of Fuhrman during the prelim. 

Fuhrman ultimately perjured himself when he swore under oath, before the tapes were introduced, that he had not used the N-word in the past 10 years. Fuhrman pleaded no contest to felony perjury and was placed on a three-year probation. The felony was later expunged.

No one affiliated with The People v. O.J. Simpson reached out to McKinny, but she has been contacted by producers who are interested in doing documentaries on the trial, she says.  

"I was completely unprepared for what I was about to experience," McKinny says while reminiscing about the tapes being sought by the lawyers dubbed the "dream team."

"I didn't set out to interview a racist," McKinny says.

The Fuhrman tapes, she claims, were never returned to her despite requests to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, McKinny tells THR. Simpson was acquitted Oct. 3, 1995.

"My attorney requested the return of the subpoenaed tapes from the district attorney's office as recently as February of this year," she says. "I hope I will eventually get them back."

A request for comment from the district attorney's office was not immediately returned.

McKinny, who by the time the Simpson trial was underway had moved to North Carolina and started a family, recalls the fight to keep the tapes out of the case being "extremely emotional and complicated."

"I really felt that if I could fight the tapes here [in North Carolina], I wouldn't need to drag them into this extremely explosive and important case," she tells THR

McKinny explains her decision to fight the subpoena stemmed from her word to every single interviewee for her project that whatever they shared was confidential and would only be used in the creation of factious characters. 

"And I was very appreciative of all the interviewees' honesty because I couldn't have been able to amass the authentic work and voices if people were feeling that they could not be truthful and confidential," she says. "So I was thankful I could find men and women interviewees in my research who could be honest, even if i didn't share their point of view."

Despite finding herself in front of the cameras then, and possibly once again now due to the show, McKinny never felt sorry for herself, she says.

"I have never felt that I have been a victim in this case," she says. "I sat in the courtroom with victims who tragically lost loved ones and it was paralyzing to be in that space for me." 

Calling Fuhrman an "excellent consultant" for her interview portion, McKinny says the two later met in L.A. during the trial — before the tapes were subpoenaed — to speak with a producer about optioning her story, she says. 

As for her feeling on the FX series overall, the mother of three and also grandmother of three says she has really enjoyed The People v. O.J. Simpson and it has given some insight into what she witnessed, such as the tumultuous relationship between prosecutor Marcia Clark and Cochran.

And while she acknowledges the FX series is not a documentary and some dramatic license has been taken, she says, "from what I can see, they have done a wonderful job in helping us understand such a complicated issue at such an emotional time in our history."

Previous 'Hollywood Reporter' fact-checking installments for the series:

*Episode One

*Episode Two

*Episode Three

*Episode Four

*Episode Five

*Episode Six

*Episode Seven

*Episode Eight

comments powered by Disqus