“Marcia, what if we won?” It’s a question Darden asks in the finale of American Crime Story that lingers on, briefly, in a tender scene just before they learns their fate. It’s also one American Crime Story has been asking all season. The suspense of an inspired-by-real-events courtroom drama doesn’t come from the verdict. And it especially doesn’t in a case like O.J.’s. What true crime does, and does well, is build empathy—out of Marcia’s struggles, Johnnie’s frustrations, Fred Goldman’s grief and O.J.’s turmoil are infinitely better suited to screen-time dramatization than archived transcription. This isn’t to say the facts don’t matter (we’re about to check em!) but that to take the season as a whole, The People v. O.J. has been successful in one way, and maybe in the most important way. Everyone on the show felt human—on either side. So no, we never wondered if Marcia and Chris would come out on top, but it’s important to remember they once did.
For this final, reflective, what-might-have-been fact check, we’re honing in on those moments that made “The Verdict.” Where did all those bodyguards come from? Did Darden really break down crying? Does O.J. get a puppy?? That and more below.
True or False: The verdict was streamed live in Times Square.
True. Here’s a video.
True or False: Darden broke down in tears during his after-verdict press conference.
Also true! Here’s another video.
True or False: Bill Clinton responded to the verdict on TV, saying we all need to listen to one another.
Also also true. YouTube is an amazing resource. (Hit up the 0:40 mark to see the clip used on the show).
True or False: Cochran enlisted Nation of Islam bodyguards to protect him after receiving death threats.
Yes yes. Cochran arrived at the courthouse the morning of the verdict with “six beefy bodyguards,” according to the LA Times. And “at least one” of the men had also protected Farrakhan, which was probably why Shapiro brought him up during the show.
The Closing Arguments
True or False: Clark called Fuhrman a racist and “the worst the LAPD has to offer” in her closing arguments.
Yes, Clark used these exact words, along with: “do we wish there were no such person on the planet? Yes.” Harsh? Yes. Completely warranted? Yes. Read more excerpts here.
True or False: Darden claimed the case wasn’t about the “N word,” but about the “M word.”
Transcriptions are so helpful—yes, Darden said this. It’s a catchy line, but not Cochran catchy. Here’s his closing in full.
True or False: Cochran claimed Fuhrman “represents the entire LAPD.”
Verbatim? No. Cochran’s closing was stretched out over two days, and in neither transcript is he recorded as giving this exact line. Still, it was the sentiment the defense pushed and one many of O.J.’s supporters believed and had experienced firsthand. We can consider this a kind of tl;dr. Not false, but not true, at least not in so few words.
True or False: The jury took a straw vote that left them split ten to two.
These numbers are correct. And it was Anise Aschenbach, “The Devil,” who cast the initial dissenting vote. The second “guilty” chose to remain anonymous. As for the reason they let him off? “Lack of evidence,” which American Crime Story also pointed to. A ‘96 USA Today article covers the jury’s deliberation in more detail here.
True or False: It took the jury just four hours to come up with a verdict.
True! Actually, it took less than four hours, and they did take a lunch break. Re: the unbelievable speed? “We were there for nine months,” one juror told the Times at the time. “We didn't need another nine months to decide.”
True or False: One juror gave O.J. a "black power" sign after the verdict was read.
Surprisingly, somehow, true. As the New York Times wrote the day after the verdict: "One of two men on the panel, a black marketing executive who Robert L. Shapiro, one of Mr. Simpson's lawyers, said had once been a member of the 1960's-era Black Panther Party, gave what looked like a black power salute, a fist raised in the air."
True or False: O.J. was found “Not Guilty.”
False! Ha ha, pretty funny. No but seriously, that’s true. Nothing really to link to here—all of you knew this from the outset, probably.
True or False: Judge Ito asked “are you shitting me” when he learned the jury already arrived at a verdict.
This was included in Toobin’s The Run of His Life, and he claims to have actually heard it firsthand. So, we’re not going to say he’s lying, or that this is false, even though it still seems hard to believe. While this struck us as a particularly modern turn of phrase, apparently scholars have traced the usage of “shit” as far back as the 14th century. Looks like this could actually be true. Shit!
True or False: Clark was raped as a teenager, which made her want “vengeance for victims.”
Part of this is true. Clark was raped by a waiter when she was seventeen, and it did inspire her to pursue a career in law. But this actually happened in Israel (in Eilat), not Italy. Seems weird that the show would change up the location, but we’re not about to speculate as to why they did.
True or False: O.J. wrote “OJ Was Here” on his cell wall.
This does seem like a perfectly O.J. move—childish in a way that’s equally creepy and cute. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that it was actually written there. So, false, but we’ll pretend it’s true.
True or False: O.J.’s prison guard asked him to sign a football.
Another odd detail of O.J.’s behind the bars lifestyle we can’t totally verify. A prison guard from O.J.’s latest cell does consider him a BFF, though! And he’s writing a book about it! Not completely implausible that one from the mid '90s would harbor that same exploitative affection.
True or False: Kardashian threw up after hearing the verdict.
He hasn’t said anywhere that this happened, but Kardashian does look pretty nauseous in this footage. So, maybe!
True or False: O.J.’s son got him a dog!
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything about a post-trial puppy. But we did stumble on this conspiracy claiming Jason Simpson was the real killer, and using a photo of him with a dog (and a knit cap) as evidence!
True or False: The Riviera wouldn’t give O.J. a post-trial celebration table.
...True! O.J. actually was booted from the country club after the trial ended. As the joke went back then: “After the verdict, Simpson heads for the posh Riviera Country Club to play golf. But the owner tells him he is no longer welcome there. Simpson demands to know why. ‘I was found not guilty! Give me two good reasons why I should be banned from the club!’ The owner responds: ‘Hair and fibers.’”