‘American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson’ Episode 5 Recap: ‘The Race Card’
With every episode of American Crime Story, the racial war that has been brewing since the inception of the series only grows more and more apparent and severe.
Cochran takes center stage this episode, opening with a flashback to when he was personally a victim of racial injustice at the hands of the LAPD back in 1982, handcuffed on the front of his car in front of his two young daughters, just because he was black — and the only reason the injustice stopped there was because the officer realized that Cochran was indeed the assistant DA.
Each side has begun to prep their cases for the beginning of the trial. Clark begins building her case on Simpson’s past, specifically referencing the 62 counts of domestic abuse he has garnered so far. In alternating shots, Cochran and the rest of Simpson’s team know this and aim to dissuade it. Clark uses all the blood evidence to keep stacking their case with mountains of physical evidence. It’s this kind of hard evidence that could put OJ away.
Cochran aims to discredit Officer Fuhrman and the way the evidence was handled, but what neither side prepares for doesn’t matter: As Cochran says, it isn’t evidence that wins cases, it is the story, so the winner in this case boils down to which side can spin a better tale.
A major point of contention seems to be what to do with the Officer Fuhrman, who has had previous instances of racial injustice by using racial slurs, so in prepping him for trial, Clark hands him off to the one black lawyer on their side: Darden. Darden has misconceptions about Fuhrman, seemingly buying into the fact that he may indeed be racist, but Clark doesn’t care. She wants to use him as a witness and it is merely Darden’s job to just do as he is told. Even the race narrative has bled its way into the walls of the DA’s office.
Both sides head into the pre-trial motions, and see exactly what is feared to happen: Shapiro aims to get all of the domestic abuse counts thrown out of court, citing that they are not part of a murder investigation, but rather a different case altogether. Clark’s team of course scoffs at this, saying that these exact instances are what characterize Simpson as the murderer he may very well be.
The pre-trial motions also pit black lawyer against black lawyer; Darden versus Cochran. Darden wants the language in the courtroom to refrain from using racial slurs in any capacity because he knows it will influence the jury, and Cochran comes back on the basis that it is his right to use it, and any black person's right to use these words. The war continues on up until the opening statements of the trial. The fire between Darden and Cochran rises, the racial war outside the walls of the court rises, even the battle between Cochran and Shapiro rises as Shapiro purposefully neglects to include some witnesses in order to mess with Cochran.
Yet each side soldiers on as Clark and her team and Cochran and his team all stand in front of Judge Ito. Since the names of the witnesses were never submitted, Clark and her team are blindsided with this new information. The blatant disregard for the judicial process, as well as the lack of respect for the people, upsets DA Bill Hodgson so much that he suffers a heart attack, effectively removing him from the case and allowing Darden to rise up.
The next step in the trial is to allow the jury members to actually go to the scene of the crime, Simpson’s Brentwood home, with Simpson, his team, and prosecution present as well. Cochran, knowing this, takes matters into his own hands and redecorates the home in order to suit his story and characterization. Gone are the photos of half-naked women and white golf buddies, and in comes photos of his mother and pro-black artwork. It’s all a means to pull the wool over the jury’s eyes and paint Simpson as the hero; the celebrity the general public likes to view him as. It infuriates Clark and her team because it works.
Instead of seeing evidence of Nicole as a loving mother, the jury members are influenced by Simpson’s Heisman trophy. It’s a game that Cochran wins, hands down.
The ending of the episode still circles back to the issue of Fuhrman and his inclusion in the case. Darden, while prepping him as a witness, realizes that Fuhrman might be racist — or at the very least his previous instances of racism will prove to be detrimental. Darden argues with Clark over this and eventually wins by allowing Clark to take over the preparation of Fuhrman, effectively making it a white person prepping a white person, and not a black person prepping a white person.
Fuhrman ends the episode as a mystery; an enigma of a witness who could help or hurt Clark and her efforts. The episode ends with Fuhrman standing over his World War II memorabilia, which includes a medal with a swastika. Each week the trial takes more and more room on the center stage, so next week should throw Clark, Cochran, and Simpson even deeper into the trial of the century.
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