'The People v. O.J. Simpson': How Accurate Was the Seventh Episode?

"I can't believe that it is true. First of all, they don't just leave evidence lying around," a case expert says.
'The People v OJ Simpson'  Ray Mickshaw/FX

The seventh installment of FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story aired Tuesday night, and there is a major issue within, and it's not the gloves, according to the reporter who most closely covered the 1995 trial.

In the opening scene of the episode, titled "Conspiracy Theories," there is a short conversation between Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, played by Bruce Greenwood, and Robert Shapiro, played by John Travolta, in which the characters talk about the possibility of more riots in L.A. 

Jim Newton, former lead cops reporter for the Los Angeles Times, tells The Hollywood Reporter it is highly unlikely that conversation ever took place because that fear did not make sense.

"[The scene] just did not ring true to me that there was a genuine fear of a conviction in this case heading to a second riot," Newton tells THR. "The circumstance that created the riots [the Rodney King beating] was so singular. In my opinion, people believed the videotape, and for so many people it was a moment of vindication because now, finally, everyone will understand what we've been trying to tell them. So the acquittal [of the LAPD officers] was shocking for those people because they believed the video absolutely spoke for itself."

Newton, now a professor in UCLA's communication studies department and editor of the university's Blueprint magazine, says the Simpson case was not comparable to the King case in that regard. 

"Even people who believed him to be not guilty knew there was a lot of evidence that pointed at him. And similarly on the other side, I think once the acquittals came in, most people who followed it closely, even if they felt he was guilty — it was understandable that there was confusion and doubt around the case," says Newton. "So it never seemed, to me anyway, that this case had the potential of ending in such public outcry that there would be violence. Moreover, it strikes me as absurd or ridiculous that Shapiro would have taken it upon himself to be the person to try and advert that riot. That's not his job. And so the idea that he would be simultaneously defending [Simpson], and kind of hedging his bets by being a good citizen who doesn't cause a riot, does not seem plausible to me." 

The glove controversy, a major portion of the episode, did play out as it was depicted onscreen — for the most part, Newton says. 

"I don't know know whether the baiting that went on was what actually persuaded [Christopher] Darden to [have Simpson try them on], and I don't know whether [Marcia] Clark had counseled so firmly about not going down that path. But if she did, she was right for exactly the reasons she expresses in the show," Newton tells THR. "I cant imagine the circumstances in which it makes sense to turn over control of a demonstration like that to the defendant. And beyond that, it actually, effectively gave [Simpson] an opportunity to testify. To allow the opportunity for the defendant to speak to the jury without subjecting him to cross-examination is just the kind of thing you don't do."

Darden is played by Sterling K. Brown and Clark is played by Sarah Paulson.

Still, there is an issue with the scene, Newton says: Shapiro sneakingly trying on a glove.  

"I cant believe that it is true," Newton insists. "First of all, they don't just leave evidence lying around. Can I tell you 100 percent it didn't happen? No, but listen, they made Simpson put on latex gloves because they didn't want to spoil the evidence. Why would they let Bob just walk up and put them on? I am going to assume [the scene] was done for the dramatic purpose of showing what an epiphany it was and to show why they could take the risk of letting [Simpson] try them on."

Newton can't say whether there was a call to the Goldman family by an apologetic Darden that night, but the glove bumble was a massive blow to the prosecution. 

"It was a terrible mistake," he says. "It was clear to anyone following the case that was a gigantic setback, particularly because it undermines something that was so helpful to them. They talk about the trail of blood. Well, the trail is scene to glove to Bronco to home to backyard to bedroom, basically. And if you accept that theory of the case, there's only one person who can account for that trail because even Kato Kaelin can't get into the bedroom. But if you take the gloves out of it, suddenly the trail is interrupted. Without the gloves, the trail just doesn't have the same coherence anymore."

Kaelin is played by Billy Magnussen.

Other aspects of the episode were accurate, Newton says. There was some discussion of a Colombian necktie.

"The defense met a strategy here to give you alternative theories of what might have happened. They had no obligation to prove any of those theories because they never do," Newton says. "That particular theory, a Colombian necktie, would fall into a 'killer at large who just wasn't getting apprehended because the department was so singularly focused on Simpson.'"

And there was a garment bag, Newton says. 

"There was also a golf bag that came under scrutiny because [Simpson had] taken it with him to Chicago ... so there was speculation that may have contained the knife," Newton says. "And [police] were very actively looking for [the knife], and looking into his bags would have been a thing to do. I don't recall the garment bag being as big an issue as the golf bag, but it was an issue for sure."

Johnnie Cochran, played by Courtney B. Vance, was also the focus of media attention for alleged issues outside the case, as the show illustrated, Newton says. 

"There were stories about Cochran's first marriage and allegations of abuse," he says. "I remember it was a revelation. It was reported, and it was an issue, but how much it bothered Cochran, I don't know."

As for a possible relationship between Clark and Darden, Newton says he can't be sure. But he still has some insight about their working relationship.

"Certainly after the glove demonstration you could sense they were under stress and there was a lot of pressure," he says. "I didn't pick up any vibe that it was as divisive between them, but I think [the episode] is accurate as portraying them as being very much under the gun."

Previous fact checking installments for the series:

*Episode One

*Episode Two

*Episode Three

*Episode Four

*Episode Five

*Episode Six

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