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

"I started watching this as a real skeptic. I am not a big fan of historical fiction generally, and I worry people will watch these things and distort their history," says a case expert.
Courtesy of Prashant Gupta/FX
'The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story'

Former Los Angeles Times reporter Jim Newton was in the courtroom the day O.J. Simpson was acquitted, and he tips his hat to FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story for recreating the moment so well. 

"I was there, a couple of seats down from the Goldmans when the verdict came in, and it was as emotional a moment as I've ever seen in a courtroom," he explains to The Hollywood Reporter. "I will never forget how overwrought [the family was] and how starkly that contrasted with the victory over at the defense table. So it was a pretty riveting day." 

Tuesday night marked the final episode of the 10-part series, titled "The Verdict." 

Newton, now a professor in UCLA's communication studies department and editor of the university's Blueprint magazine, says the episode did well in capturing those experiences. 

"Some of the closings were taken verbatim, so I thought the authenticity of it was quite strong," he tells THR.

Although he did not notice any "tells" from jurors over which way the case would go, the "black power" salute by one of the jurors after the verdict was read did happened, Newton says.

"I have no knowledge as to whether someone from the sheriff's office tipped [Simpson] off [about the verdict] or had him sign a football," Newton adds about one of the more random moments in the episode. 

Outside the courthouse was "complete pandemonium," as depicted, Newton recalls. 

"It was like a carnival out there," he says. "It was very strange. There were hundreds of media alone."

It is also true that Simpson was somewhat ostracized after the trial. 

"There was definitely a sense from the aftermath of the case that Simpson was shunned," Newton says. "A lot of people thought he did it. Life was hard for him afterward, and I suspect he was fairly isolated, although I don't know that for sure. I think the show is right to leave that note out there."

Newton's only qualm with the final episode was the seemingly lack of a certain iconic moment.  

"My lasting image of Simpson in the immediate aftermath of the verdict is him with sort of the clenched fists ... in a victorious way, and I didn't see that in the show," Newton says. "And I was surprised not to see it because it's second only to the glove demonstration in terms of the visual imagery of the trial that has stuck with me." 

Newton actually interviewed Simpson with another reporter in his home a few months after he had been acquitted, and it got a little tense between the two, he tells THR

"We just rang the bell and he let us in," Newton says. "I had a tape recorder I was using ... and then in the middle of the interview, he changed his mind and became worried we were going to sell the tape to a radio station and our only intention was to use it to check quotes," Newton says. "He grabbed the tape recorder and I jumped up to grab it back."

Simpson returned the recorder, but asked it not be used for the remainder of their interview, Newton says. 

As for the entire FX series, Newton was pleasantly surprised by what he saw.  

"I started watching this as a real skeptic," Newton says. "I am not a big fan of historical fiction generally, and I worry people will watch these things and distort their history. So, I did not enter this prepared to like it, and I came away very impressed." 

There were aspects of certain moments cut out or compressed for time and dramatic license, Newton acknowledges, but the show "captures a real essential set of truths about the case, about its significance," Newton says. "And I think it is quite well done." 

Previous fact-checking installments for the series:

*Episode One

*Episode Two

*Episode Three

*Episode Four

*Episode Five

*Episode Six

*Episode Seven

*Episode Eight

*Episode Nine

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