RECAP: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story — Cochran & Darden Prepare For War [Episode 5]

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On this week’s episode of “The People vs. O.J.” we join Johnnie Cochran for a flashback as he’s getting pulled over by a Los Angeles motorcycle cop for driving a Mercedes while being black. Cochran says it’s the third time this week it’s happened to him. The title of this episode is aptly name: The Race Card, which I’m sure the irony of this week’s #OscarsSoWhite is not lost on any of the viewers. Unfortunately for Johnny, he is handcuffed in front of his two young daughters. Once the cop researches who he’s just cuffed, the assistant district attorney, he is released with barely an apology.

Flash forward to 1995 and we are shown clips of each side prepping for trial. Marcia Clark has never seen a murder case with so much overwhelming evidence. The defense finds it funny that D.A.’s bombshell witness is a dog. Johnnie Cochran explains, “Evidence doesn’t win the day. Jurors go with the narrative that makes sense. We’re here to tell a story. Our job is to tell that story better than the other side tells theirs.”

As Marcia is assigning who handles what, she hands off Mark Fuhrman, the racist detective who found the glove, to Chris Darden, but is unable to look him in the eye. Neither can anyone else in the room as the obvious race card being dealt. He reluctantly agrees. Johnnie Cochran doesn’t help matters when after church, for which he is praised and prayed for, tells reporters that Darden “is being used as a tool by the D.A.’s office because he is black.”

Later, when Darden confronts Cochran on being respectful, we hear the infamous line, “Brother, I’m not trying to be respectful. I’m trying to win.”

The People vs. O.J. Simpson_Chris Darden

Meanwhile, a Vanity Fair reporter by the name of Dominick Dunne is being told by Judge Lance Ito he will have a permanent front row seat for the trial, next to the Goldman’s. Some history on Dunne, his daughter, a budding actress who was in the movie Poltergiest, was murdered by her boyfriend. Ito hopes Dunne will be gentle with the Goldman’s, but really just wants to show off his autographed picture from Arsenio Hall. Loved the gossip scene when Dunne proudly shares the tawdry details with his white dinner guests, until the black waiter steps in.

As they defense arrives in three black limo’s for opening statements, Bob Shapiro is taken aback. F. Lee Bailey, whom he hates for dimishing his reputation in the press, tells him to “Pretend he’s at the Oscars.”

Marcia Clark gives her opening statement to the jurors, which is much shorter on this show than in real life. Things get off to a rocky start when second chair, Bill Hodgman, suffers a heart attack when the defense tries to pull a fast one by introducing witnesses not submitted to the prosecution. For the record, this did not happen this way. Hodgman suffered his heart attack in a meeting in the D.A.’s office. Call it, creative license. Again. But this gives Darden a promotion to second chair.

Onto the jury field trips to both Nicole’s and O.J.’s homes. Why Ito allowed this, we’ll never know. First stop, Nicole’s house is shown, but has been cleared of all furniture and personal effects. Technically, at the time, her townhouse was on the market, so it was empty. Over at O.J.’s house, it had been redecorated with African art courtesy of Cochran museum, the pictures of white people have been removed and the naked picture of O.J.’s white girlfriend was replaced by a photo of his mother.

During the trip, Darden sits down on a cement bench outside. O.J. yells at Darden to “get off his bench” and is calmed down by Cochran. Did this really happen? I’m not sure. This occurred right in front of the jurors, and though they were impressed with all of O.J.’s trophies, surely they were bothered by O.J. by his sudden outburst.

The People vs. O.J. Simpson_Chris Darden

Another prep session is held with Darden and Fuhrman during which he doesn’t admit to ever using the “N” word. Both sides have case files of Fuhrman’s struggles and complaints with fellow black officers and black citizens. Darden tells Clark it’s a mistake to put him on the stand. Marcia Clark overrides his decision – Mark will go on the stand – and she’ll handle it. Cut to the closing scene of Fuhrman polishing his Nazi memorabilia.


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