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The People vs O.J. Simpson – A Thematic Review

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I recently watched the short series, American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson. It was an extremely interesting show and the overarching theme stood out and perfectly portrayed the complexity of truth and human perspective.

There is one particular line spoken by Marcia to Christopher in the last episode of the show that captures the heart of the conflict. Christopher tells Marcia that he wants to resign as a public prosecutor because he feels that the politics, image and career comes before the fight for good and he isn’t motivated to work in such a dishonest environment.

Marcia supports him and tells him, ‘Maybe you have to have something inside you already when you get here. Something that you have to make right. Something that you have to avenge.’

In other words Darden needs to have a personal motivating factor to fight through all the mud slinging and dirty battles. In my opinion Darden had one of the most neutral view points of the crime. Both the lead prosecutor Marcia Clarke and the lead defendant Johnnie Cochran had a biased view of the case which was influenced by identity and resulted in them making premature conclusions.

Marcia Clarke saw the murder case through the eyes of a woman. The victim of the murder was abused by OJ Simpson through the course of their marriage until their divorce. She was violently assaulted during their marriage and there were chilling anecdotes of her abuse. This sealed the conclusion in Marcia Clarke’s mind that OJ Simpson murdered his estranged wife and her lover in a fit of rage. Marcia Clarke’s was herself a survivor of sexual assault in her late teens and this greatly motivated her to stand up and fight for victims of abuse.

Johnnie Cochran viewed the case through the eyes of a black man. He saw OJ Simpson as a victim of the LAPD’s racist police force which was trying to frame a black man because of his skin colour. Johnnie Cochran was a victim of selective treatment at the hands of the LAPD even when he was the assistant DA. These suspicions of his were not unfounded. In the course of the trial they found various procedures that were not followed as per protocol and evidence that could be tainted. The detective around whose testimony the case revolved around turned out to be a white supremacist Neo Nazi.

Despite these holes in the Police case there was still substantial proof pointing to OJ Simpson being the murderer such as the blood trail and timeline. Yet it was an eye opening example of each side being infatuated by their narrative, especially the public prosecution.  When they received the case, they viewed it as an open and shut case with irrefutable proof of OJ Simpson’s guilt. At each juncture they were surprised by the curveballs thrown by the defence and failed to narrate a compelling sequence of events. The defence repeatedly wowed the jury. They punched holes in some of the evidence and circumvented the rest of the evidence with explosive theories and emotional manipulation.

Just like these two characters whose personal history motivated them to shade the truth in a certain colour, there were two other characters in this show that were able to see both sides more clearly and weren’t so powerfully drawn to one side of the story. All the other characters had varying personal motivations that dictated their loyalties.

Firstly there was Christopher Darden, who was a black man serving as the co-prosecutor in the case. As a black man he could understand the motivation of seeing this crime as a case being framed on the basis of race. As a public prosecutor he could also see the enormity of physical evidence built against OJ Simpson. He was able to predict and see through some of the defence’s actions because he was able to understand their viewpoint.

The other character is Robert Kardashian. As a close friend of OJ Simpson he was at first absolutely certain about his innocence. As the case proceeded, he saw the entire array of physical evidence against his friend. He was also reminded by his girlfriend of OJ Simpson’s violent behaviour. He had some serious doubt of OJ Simpson’s innocence by the end of the trial.

This show was a beautiful example of how we project our preconceptions on the truth. It showcases how we are unable to see the full picture because we favour certain perspectives over others. Till date we do not know the complete story that resulted in the death of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman and we only know the events that surround their death brought to light by people looking for evidence of their own motivations. ‘Is what we see really the truth or only a projection of our prejudice?’ is a question that should haunt everyone.

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