Fact-Checking Episode 4 of 'American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson'

Does a "Brentwood Hello" exist?

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Complex Original

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The People v O.J. Simpson is back, and that means we are too, aggressively double (and triple) checking every insane piece of courtroom drama, every fraught press conference, every line of one-off trivia and every spontaneous Hawaiian vacation. This week’s episode finally brings us towards the actual “trial” of the “trial of the century,” with both teams scrambling to get the upper hand—against the opposition and against each other. Showcasing on the focus groups was a great way for Murphy and co. to give viewers a look into the incredibly divisive nature of O.J.’s case, with race and gender playing major roles in shaping the public’s opinions. 

But when it comes to shaping your opinions, we’ll be sorting through any gimmicks and/or bullshit and deliver you the Real Truth, especially when that truth involves gimmicks and/or bullshit. Passive-aggressive shoe shines? Death-penalty threats? Psychics and “Brentwood hellos?” Did all that absolutely one-hundred-percent happen? You’re absolutely one-hundred-percent about to find out. 

The Hearing

True or False: Cochran objected to providing the prosecution a hair sample, asking to limit it to just one hair.

False. The defense did take issue with the amount of hair the prosecution wanted to take, and did request it be just one hair, but said as much in a motion before the hearing began—not in a spontaneous objection. You can read everything as it went down in court here.

True or False: The amount of hair needed in a sample is roughly one hundred hairs.

True! Samples are usually 90 to 120 strands. Perhaps not legally invasive, but that certainly sounds unpleasant. 

True or False: A special hearing was called just for the collection of O.J.’s hair sample. 

True, initially, but the court didn’t have to go through with it. The prosecution wasn’t as thrown as they looked in the show, and had an expert ready to testify that day that the sample requested was perfectly reasonable. The court ended up settling on 40 to 100 strands

The Dream Team

True or False:Cochran gave a rogue press conference while getting his shoes shined.

We couldn’t find any footage of this, and with a case as documented as O.J.’s and a power-play this outlandish, it probably wouldn’t be too hard to drudge up. It’s also not mentioned at all in The Run of His Life. So we’re going with false. Still, it’s good television, and we’re loving this power struggle between Cochran and Shapiro.

True or False:Shapiro told O.J. and the team he wanted to cut a deal for manslaughter.

This is true...ish. According to Bailey, Shapiro did concoct a story that would get O.J. off on a manslaughter charge, but it was before Cochran joined the defense team. He also wanted Kardashian to plead guilty as an accessory for concealing evidence. 

True or False: O.J. made Cochran lead attorney while Shapiro was away on a Hawaiian vacation.

Basically true. Shapiro was on a Hawaiian vacation, and he did get blindsided by the demotion. But he didn’t march into a tense meeting with O.J. on the phone—Shapiro was actually met by a barrage of reporters after arriving at his office, forced to make press statements and overall incurring even more awkwardness and embarrassment than what we saw play out on screen. 

The Juice

True or False:O.J. lost against the Falcons in a 1978 game and appeared in his Hertz airport commercial during the same show. 

True. The 49ers and the Falcons played twice in ‘78 and lost both times (O.J. rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown in the first game, but only 15 yards in the second game—so Cochran's monologue must be in reference to that first contest). O.J. also appeared in his airport commercials that same year, so it’s likely that there was some TV time intersection between the two. 

True or False:O.J.’s pleaded “absolutely one hundred percent not guilty.”

Absolutely, one hundred percent true

The Trial

True or False:Judge Ito’s wife was a police officer who had a history with Mark Fuhrman. 

True. We won’t give away any spoilers (as if there’s anything to be spoiled in a 20+ year old case), but this will definitely come back in a big way later on. 

True or False:Gil Garcetti decided to take death penalty off the table but Marcia Clark fought him over it. 

False, again! Like we said in last week’s fact check, Clark has denied ever calling for the death penalty in the O.J. case. Doing as much would have made an extremely difficult jury selection even harder, as the Timespointed out back in 1994. 

The Jury

True or False: Don Vinson warned Marcia Clark against putting black women on the jury, and suggested she “smile” more, along with wearing dresses instead of business suits.

Vinson did warn Clark against selecting black women for the jury, going against her own beliefs. The consultant also suggested she change her style—a bit of low key sexism we hadn’t expected to so easily find records of, but is in fact true. Along with Toobin’s verification, Clark spoke to New York Magazine’s The Cut, saying he also suggested she “talk softer” and “wear pastels.”

True or False:A woman in that same focus group thought Marcia Clark seemed like a “bitch.” 

We were sad (but unsurprised) to read this was true. In The Run of His Life, the focus group drama plays out almost exactly like it does in the show, with Marcia watching helplessly as the women she thought were on her team verbally rip her to shreds: “The black participants almost uniformly described Robert Shapiro as ‘smart’ and ‘clever,’” Toobin writes, “while the reactions to Clark were scathing: ‘Shifty.’ ‘Strident.’ ‘Bitch.’ ‘Bitch.’ ‘Bitch.’” 

True or False: In a focus group for the defense, black women had sympathy for O.J. (calling him “handsome, masculine and charming”) and little for Nicole (calling her a “gold-digger”). 

There aren’t any records of these comments made by the focus group but it’s still possible they were said. The defense did meticulously gauge responses to potential strategies (before the jury selection and throughout the trial), and the narrative of Nicole Brown Simpson as a “gold-digger” is one that was definitely present—both in tabloids at the time and floating around the internet today. 

Everything Else

True or False: In his spare time, Ronald Goldman volunteered at a clinic for children with cerebral palsy. 

True. Goldman did volunteer work at the United Cerebral Palsy group home in Los Angeles, although not exclusively with children. According to a Daily News article soon after the trial, “Goldman spent countless hours teaching wheelchair users to play tennis, his first love.”

True or False:Faye Resnick was inspired to write Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted after a visit to her psychic. 

True, according to the source text. Toobin quotes Resnick quoting her psychic in The Run of His Life. “You will be writing a book,” Resnick says, “Nicole wants you to be faithful to your heart. She wants you to call it as you see it.” Resnick is on record associating with known psychics as recently as 2010. 

True or False: Resnick dropped The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted in the middle of jury selection. 

This is totally true. Jury selection for O.J.'s trial began on Sept. 26 and lasted until Nov. 3. Meanwhile, Faye's book dropped on Oct. 1. Cool, Faye! Totally appropriate, Faye! 

True or False:A surprise blowjob is also known as a “Brentwood Hello.” 

We decided to trust the authority of a certain Online Slang Dictionary for this one and were pleased to find it was true. Resnick’s novel definitely popularized the term, if it didn’t coin it entirely. 

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