'The People v. O.J. Simpson,' Episode 3: Our Fact-Checking Recap

From the Kardashians' thoughts on fame to hiring Johnnie Cochran, what did tonight's episode nail — or miss?

By
David Schwimmer; Robert Kardashian
David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian in 'The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.' Ray Mickshaw/FX

Let's stop for a second and give thanks to this first go-round of Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story franchise: It not only explains the O.J. saga to Millennials who might've been too busy watching the Power Rangers at the time, but also creates an origin story for the first family of reality TV. (Also, thanks again for John Travolta. Always for John Travolta.)  By now we've gotten to know David Schwimmer's Robert Kardashian pretty well — a lawyer-turned-businessman with streak in his hair that would impress Frankenstein's bride. And finally, in Episode Three, we get to spend some more quality time with his soon-to-be-famous children and hear the opinions of his already somewhat famous wife.

But in the month after the murders, as both sides gathered their teams and prepared arguments, a lot was happening. The writers on this episode had a real challenge here re: fitting in a lot of tedious legal backstory, so it's no wonder that they strayed here and there from the show's source material, Jeffery Toobin's 1996 book The Run of His Life. Check out these five details from Episode Three, fact-checked and rated on a one-to-five "Gloves" scale for accuracy.

Robert Kardashian is uninterested in fame or publicity
"We are Kardashians," Schwimmer's character tells his children over a Fathers' Day brunch. "And in this family, being a good person and a loyal friend is more important than being famous. Fame is fleeting. It's hollow. It means nothing at all without a virtuous heart." This is a nice thought, albeit an ironic one given the direction his family went after his death in 2003. But it seems like a far cry from the Kardashian who Toobin described in his book, one who was so upset over his ex's departure and new life with a former Olympian that he was willing to use this opportunity to get a little public exposure.

"Kardashian's divorce from Kristen pained him, especially because she left him for Bruce Jenner," he writes. "At the time of the murders they were starring in a frequently played infomercial for a thigh-exercising device. According to a close associate of Kardashian's, 'It bothered him that she was on TV all the time with the ThighMaster. This case was his way to step over them. This was better than infomercials.'" It was, in fact, a series of workout videos called "Super Fit With Bruce and Kris Jenner" and not informercials for that product — Suzanne Somers had the thigh devices covered — but Kardashian still managed to get a much larger audience with the case. (1/5 Gloves)

Kris Jenner believes O.J. killed Nicole, and it split the family
"How do you expect me to act, while you're standing by him?" demands Selma Blair as the former Mrs. Kardashian. "You're turning your back on Nicole. He butchered her, Robert. He murdered her!" There were, as the show presents, two clear sides. Kris felt guilty for not intervening more in what she knew to be a violent relationship, and Robert stood blindly by his friend, whether or not he understood that O.J. was guilty. "I definitely took my dad's side," Kim told Rolling Stone last year. "We just always thought my dad was the smartest person in the world." (5/5 Gloves)

Robert Shapiro has to convince O.J. to hire Johnny Cochran as litigator
Despite Shapiro's desire for the limelight, he knew that Simpson was going to need a lawyer with more experience in the courtroom; the legal eagle's specialty was settling cases, not jury trials, as is repeated several times in the book and the show. Shapiro approached O.J. with some options for potential additions to the team, and the Juice had chosen Wyoming-bred Gerry Spence, known for his TV appearances and cowboy hats.

It wasn't so much that O.J. objected to his "race card" defense, Toobin argues; it was that he didn't get why he needed Cochran — who he'd actually spoken to several times since the murders — to use it. Shapiro served his client, though, and went as far as inviting Spence out to California. But when he described what would be needed of him, Spence turned down the job, as he had "neither the experience nor the inclination to defend this double-murder case based on a nonexistent conspiracy of racist police officers." Even the he thought Cochran would be a better fit.  "It is one of the richer and more revealing ironies of the case," writes Toobin, "that only O.J. Simpson - 'I'm not black. I'm O.J.' — failed to understand the preeminent place of race in his own defense." (2/5 Gloves)

It was Detective Mark Fuhrman who provided the defense's big break for their argument
In the series, an investigator named Pat McKenna has an inkling about one cop on the case, and when he goes into the L.A. county courts records, he finds "file after file" on detective Mark Fuhrman. "Guy's worse than I remembered," he says, recounting how Fuhrman had sued the city, trying to blame the LAPD for turning him into a bigot. "Serving as a cop gave him violent fantasies. He describes beating up and attacking black people." Based on Toobin's book, it was discovered first by a different investigator, named Bill Pavelic. But that file was as thick as it was incriminating. The cop who found the glove near O.J.'s house was on court record being a violent racist. And then he tried to sue the city so he could be discharged and retain his pension — quit the force, blame the city for his racist beliefs and still get a weekly check. Screw the "cash for trash" tabloid interviews with witnesses — the biggest problem for the prosecutors now was one of their own. (5/5 Gloves)

Jeffrey Toobin showed up unannounced at Shapiro's office on a different assignment, and he accidentally broke the story
Seems unfair for the guy who literally wrote the book to be portrayed — at least initially —as a cub reporter who was simply handed a story by Shapiro. Toobin was indeed in L.A. working on a story about "cash for trash," which included a discussion of the budding Simpson case. But by the time he breached Shapiro's 19th-floor office, the story on tabloids was already complete. He was now back in Los Angeles trying to get an interview the lead lawyer on the Simpson case for a piece on the trial, as requested by his editor Tina Brown. Toobin knew Alan Dershowitz, one of the lawyers on the "dream team," who had tipped him off that there might be a bad cop on the case — and the journalist found the file for a lawsuit that contained pages of incriminating testimony on his own.

When Toobin arrived unannounced at Shapiro's office, he talked his way past the secretary and approached the lawyer at his door. "I had a very interesting morning looking at Mark Fuhrman's employment records," Toobin told him. The lawyer was so surprised that he invited him in the room. "Jesus, you're the only guy who's found those," he said. "Come in here and sit down." Shapiro then gave him some more details, as well as quotes attributed to "a member of the defense team." But it was true that Toobin's feature had helped break the defense's argument, and that Shapiro would (probably accurately) tell his friends that it won him the case. (3/5 Gloves)

Previously: Episode 2

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