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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Part 4 of ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America.]
The media circus is in town: Part 4 of ESPN’s captivating documentary O.J.: Made in America examines the sensational murder trial of O.J. Simpson and the national obsession surrounding it. Like Part 3, this installment covers very well-trod territory — FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson dramatized all of this just a few months ago — but several moments still managed to catch us off-guard. Let’s look at the five most surprising stories unearthed in Part 4.
1. Mark Fuhrman and O.J. Simpson had crossed paths before the murders.
Nine years before they’d be thrown together by fate, Mark Fuhrman actually responded to a domestic violence claim at O.J. and Nicole’s house back in 1985. Fuhrman says he arrived at the scene to see a smashed car windshield and Simpson brandishing a baseball bat: “He’s got this look on his face like he’s gonna do battle.” Fuhrman ordered Simpson twice to drop the bat, and even reached for his baton before O.J. came to his senses and relented. Fuhrman recalls being sickened that Nicole chose not to press charges that night; he could only walk away, telling her, “It’s your life.”
2. Nicole’s accusations of abuse didn’t do a thing to sway the jury.
The numerous 911 calls and telltale signs of domestic violence we saw in Part 2 were all laid out for the jury by prosecutor Marcia Clark, including Polaroids of Nicole’s bruised face and her sister Denise tearfully testifying to the rage she witnessed. But the accusations fell flat with the jury. One juror, Yolanda Crawford, doesn’t think they proved that abuse necessarily leads to murder, while another, Carrie Bess, says: “I lose respect for any woman who’d take an ass whooping when she don’t have to.” After that, prosecutor Bill Hodgman thought, “We are really gonna have a tough time.”
3. O.J. was an essential member of his own defense team.
Simpson didn’t just sit at the defense table and mope; he took an active role in shaping his team’s strategy. Defense attorney Carl Douglas recalls how O.J. often coached them on how to approach the jury and the ever-present cameras: “I was struck by how engaged he was … O.J. was brilliant, in terms of how things played.” And Simpson wasn’t afraid to deliver “more than a few tongue lashings,” either; Douglas tells of a time when he had some spittle on his mouth, and Simpson screamed at him, “‘Wipe that spittle off your mouth!’ … He took me to the woodshed.”
4. O.J. made a lot of money while behind bars.
The cost of retaining Simpson’s “Dream Team” of attorneys was astronomical: a reported $50,000 a day. O.J. even admitted at the time that if he weren’t rich, he “would have no chance.” But he still needed a steady stream of income as the trial dragged on, so he turned to the lucrative world of sports memorabilia. Agent Mike Gilbert remembers O.J. signing thousands of autographs in jail: “He’d go through 2,500 cards… it was non-stop.” A sports collector guesses that O.J. made $3 million in jailhouse autographs. Johnnie Cochran even signed some of the memorabilia along with O.J. — which made Gilbert’s stomach turn. Looking back on that now, he says, “This sucked … I can’t believe we did this.”
5. O.J. saw the infamous glove stunt coming a mile away.
The prosecution’s most memorable misstep came when they asked Simpson to try on the bloody glove found at the crime scene. Marcia Clark argued against the stunt, because the glove had shrunk and O.J. would also be wearing a latex glove underneath it. But Chris Darden insisted on it: “It was the biggest fight Chris and I ever had,” Clark remembers. When it came time for O.J. to try on the glove, Douglas remembers, he went “into Naked Gun mode.” Simpson visibly struggled to put the glove on — and he had an additional ace up his sleeve. Gilbert remembers suggesting to O.J. that he stop taking his arthritis medicine for a couple weeks, which would cause his hands to swell. As defense attorney F. Lee Bailey remembers, “it made the prosecution look silly.”
Part 5 airs Saturday on ESPN.
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