Things have been cooking at a nice simmer on The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, mostly low-to-medium heat with the occasional bubble-up, but last night’s episode cranked the flame up and brought it to a boil thanks to the discovery and release of the Mark Fuhrman tapes. Wanna see people yell at each other? Wanna see people throw things? Wanna see people hold furious press conferences? This was the episode for you!
1) Listening to the Fuhrman tapes again, even the ones re-created for the show, even 20 years later, was sickening. It’s one of those things that really sticks with you — a cop, talking openly, almost casually, about falsifying evidence and beating suspects, and throwing around just about every offensive slur you can think of in the process. And it’s not like it was a secret wiretap, either. He did it knowing he was being recorded, as research for a screenplay of all things.
Fuhrman would later be convicted of perjury, but the bigger issue here was the damage he did to the prosecution’s case, both with the slurs the jury could see in the two sentences of the tapes Judge Ito released, and in the way he pleaded the Fifth when asked about the case at hand.
2) Perhaps you remember earlier in the season when Judge Ito was assigned this case and asked his wife to sign a conflict-of-interest waiver, and she looked very long at the name Mark Fuhrman before signing. Welllll, that little bit of foreshadowing paid off big time, as the Fuhrman tapes revealed that she not only knew him, she had disciplined him as his superior, and he was none to happy about it. Although Fuhrman didn’t seem too happy about much of anything on those tapes. Swell guy.
The drama about Ito staying on the case and all of this leading to a possible mistrial was very real, by the way, although it had a slightly different ending in real life. From a 1995 New York Times article:
Ms. Clark’s somber concession, read from a text rather than spoken with her usual extemporaneous enthusiasm, spared all parties to the trial from potentially crippling delays as another judge came up to speed. It may have also spared everyone a greater debacle: a mistrial, followed by all-but-certain defense arguments that Mr. Simpson could not legally be tried again.
“Upon weighing the apparent conflict and the defense desire to make these tapes the cornerstone of their case against the ability of this court to maintain its impartiality in the face of great temptation to do otherwise,” Ms. Clark said, “we have determined that our faith in this court’s wisdom and integrity has not been and will not be misplaced.”
I imagine on the list of the prosecution’s regrets, not pushing harder for a mistrial ranks pretty high in hindsight. Although, like, can you even imagine? This trial was wall-to-wall bonkers as it was, and that’s without a months-long break before a do-over where both sides would try to find a jury that hadn’t already developed firm opinions about the case that had captivated the country for the past eight-plus months. It would have been chaos.
3) All of which, understandably, led to tensions running high in this episode. Oo wee, were tensions running high. We had Darden going off on Cochran twice in court, Cochran calling a press conference to openly accuse the sitting judge of being a corrupt stooge for the even more corrupt establishment, and two separate elevator freakouts, one by Shapiro about Johnnie risking a riot and one by Darden about Marcia ignoring his warnings about Fuhrman.
Lots of people with their blood running hot and occasionally throwing things, but if I had to pick a Freaking Out MVP for the week, I gotta go Darden, if only because of the thing Sterling K. Brown does with his eyes when he plays angry. It looks like the rage is building up in his head so much that it’s forcing his eyes out of their sockets. And given the past couple episodes Darden has had, who could blame him for feeling that way?