ESPN’s five-part documentary, “O.J.: Made in America” concluded with Part 5 on Saturday night. Here are some wow moments from the fifth installment (and our review of the entire series is here, as well as wow moments from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4):
The swiftness of the jury’s decision surprised everyone. After 267 days, 133 witnesses, 1,105 pieces of evidence and 45,000 pages of trial transcripts, the jury in the O.J. Simpson trial deliberated for one day. One. Journalist Jeffrey Toobin says the “rough rule of thumb” is that there is one day of deliberation for every week of a trial, and based on that, everyone was ready to have to wait a while. But Judge Lance Ito gave the jury panel its final instructions on Friday, and on Tuesday, the decision was read. “They did not deliberate,” district attorney Gil Garcetti says. “I was truly offended.” “We had to go home,” Juror No. 9, Carrie Bess says with a shrug. “That’s all I got to say. We had been gone a year. We had to go home.”
“That was payback for Rodney King.” Many in the African-American community felt the acquittal of Simpson was a measure of revenge – whether for the beating of black motorist Rodney King at the hands of several white LAPD officers, or any one of hundreds of injustices over decades. Bess is asked if she believes members of the jury voted to acquit O.J. because of Rodney King and answers yes. “How many?,” she’s asked. “Probably 90 percent,” Bess replies. “Did you feel that way?,” she’s asked. “Yes,” affirming that she believed it was payback. “Do you think that’s right?,” Bess is asked. Bess simply turns her palms up to the sky.
After the verdict, Simpson went back to life as if nothing had ever happened. He was back golfing, out and about, as cameras followed him just about everywhere he went, as did, for a while, protestors yelling at him, calling him names or carrying signs saying he was guilty.
Oh, the irony. For his entire adult life, Simpson ran from his identity as an African-American man, ingratiating himself into white society. But white people largely turned their backs on Simpson in the wake of the acquittal, but the black community opened its arms to him, so he went where the love was. Fame and adoration were Simpson’s drugs. When his neighbors in the exclusive area of Brentwood, where he had lived for years, turned on him, and when many of the white people who had once been all too happy to pal around with The Juice, shunned him, Simpson all of a sudden was in black churches, giving testimonies, accepting gifts of brightly-colored dashikis. He was a fraud through and through.
Simpson starts all but admitting that he did commit the murders. He calls journalist Celia Farber, who was working on a story about him for Esquire magazine, and starts the call, “Let’s say I committed this crime. If I killed her, it had to have been because I loved her very much, right?” One night at his Rockingham Avenue home, drinking beer, smoking pot and talking to his longtime agent, Mike Gilbert, Simpson tells Gilbert that on the night of the murder, if Nicole Brown Simpson hadn’t answered the door of her house with a knife in her hand, she’d still be alive. Gilbert says he knows “without a doubt” that Simpson committed the murders.
Did Nicole’s involvement with Marcus Allen send Simpson over the edge? This was alluded to in an earlier part of the movie, and Gilbert believes it too. After she and Simpson split, one of the men Nicole dated was Marcus Allen, a close friend of Simpson and someone he mentored from the time Allen was at USC (where Simpson also played). “He went there to kill her,” Gilbert says of the night of the murders. “He went there to kill her because of how she made him feel. Being rejected, that she didn’t need him, and then of course the ‘Marcus factor.’ He was seeing Marcus was him, 15 years younger.”
Simpson became a joke. He did a prank-style show, “Juiced,” an atrocious music video, he ran through even more women. He got custody of his children with Nicole, Justin and Sydney, taking them from Nicole’s parents, but having them did nothing to change his behavior.
Was Judge Jackie Glass’ sentence really a message? Glass sentenced Simpson to a total of 33 years in prison for the bungled Las Vegas event, which lawyer Carl Douglas believes should have gotten two years at most. But the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were awarded $33 million in the civil trial, and they got a fraction of that money. Former LAPD officer Ron Shipp, who had been a friend of Simpson and Nicole, sums things up nicely: “He kept pushing the envelope. And why wouldn’t he? I mean, if I got away with everything, time, after time, after time…hey! I’m a god.” And it was quite a fall for Simpson.