'The People v. O.J. Simpson,' Episode 6: Our Fact-Checking Recap - Rolling Stone
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‘The People v. O.J. Simpson,’ Episode 6: Our Fact-Checking Recap

The show tackles the controversial issue of Marcia’s “jheri curl” — and that whole Clark/Darden romance thing

So far March has been great for O.J. news, and that’s not including the focus on FX’s record-breaking new show. According to reports, when O.J.’s house was being demolished in 1998, a construction worker discovered a knife buried on the property. The item was turned over to an off-duty policeman, who proceeded to hold onto it for roughly 18 years. It’s currently undergoing testing by the LAPD to determine if it’s the real thing — though lead prosecutor Marcia Clark pointed out it might be a hoax, and the owner of the demolition company said it was probably just a joke.

But this episode offers some potential police misconduct of its own, from one detective admitting on the stand that he had taken evidence home with him (even if just for a few hours) to Mark Furhman perjuring himself by stating under oath that he hadn’t used a particular racial epithet since 1986. But mostly, as the installment’s title “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” suggests, this episode is focused on the case’s female prosecutor and her struggle to live up to her new role as America’s most famous working mother.

Marcia Clark has “been redeemed,” New York Magazine declared, as the show has presented a “sharply feminist reexamination of her treatment in the courtroom and in the media.” And with Episode 6, women everywhere will recognize that what was sold as a mean, cold persona was just what it looks like to be overworked, under-slept, and maybe a little frustrated with your male counterparts. Clark’s problems have been building during the series’ first half, and are now coming to a head. Her custody battle is tabloid fodder, critiquing her appearance has become a national pastime, and, while he addressed the other lawyers formally, Judge Ito continues to call her simply, “Marcia.” Though the lawyer’s image on the show is remarkably different than her portrayal in the primary source material, Jeffery Toobin’s The Run of His Life, the writers stayed pretty close to the facts … most of the time. Check out these five details from this week’s chapter, fact-checked and rated on a one-to-five Glove scale for accuracy.

Marcia’s “babysitting problem”
On June 9, 1994, just 3 days before the Brown-Goldman murders, Clark filed for divorce from her second husband and father of her children, Gordon Clark. Seven years his senior, she was the big earner for the family; by time the trial was underway, she relying on outside help to care for their two young sons, ages three and five. Gordon, however, spun “hired help” into the equivalent of “unfit parent,” and he filed for primary custody. Her spouse took every opportunity to slag her in the media: Citing an occasion when Marcia requested that the proceedings not run too late one evening — so that she could care for her kids — Gordon told the press that he could have easily picked them up, and therefore she was using their children as an excuse to gain advantage in the case.

From the other direction, her attempts at being a hands-on parent during the trial were repeatedly mocked in court, by everyone from defense litigator Johnnie Cochran to Judge Lance Ito. On the show, the defense asks the court to consider a new witness around three o’clock in the afternoon, noting that the day will go late. Clark asks the judge to hold off on the drawn-out hearing on account of her children, Cochran belittles his opponent: “Are we really going to risk losing this witness because of a babysitting problem?” Then her boss guilt-trips her into staying anyway, and her ex goes on TV to call her a liar. In Toobin’s account, it was closer to six in the evening; she did have just enough time to pick up her kids; and she had informed the court several times of her child-care issues. Other than that, the episode seems to pretty accurately depict what it must have been like to be a working mom in the Nineties. (“How like a man to assume child care is something accomplished with a click of a cellular phone,” wrote one prescient columnist, in a rare defense of Clark.)

Luckily, they also kept a scathing speech Clark made a few days later: “I’m offended by Mr. Cochran’s remarks as a woman, and as a mother,” She replies to a barb from the attorney, paraphrasing Toobin’s account. “Mr. Cochran may not know what it’s like to work a 70-hour work-week, and also take care of a family, but I do. And many other people do, too.” It’s striking to see just how blatantly sexist her treatment seems today, down to a store clerk joking that “the defense is really in for it this week,” when Marcia buys a box of Tampax. Which, according to Toobin, you were allowed to say out loud to a stranger in 1995. (5/5 Gloves)

Did the world really stop when Marcia got those terrible, tight ringlets?
This is the point when the prosecutor shocks the world by taking a loose perm into the dark, disastrous helmet of curls that have come to represent Clark in everything from SNL to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s true that Marcia shortened up her perm in the fall of 1994, and it’s also true that a few months later she had a headline-making haircut by the creator of the Farrah Fawcett shag, Allen Edwards. But that cut was a straight bob — “almost [like] Sigourney Weaver,” wrote the Los Angeles Times, “only more professional” — and not, as one character puts it, a rough approximation of Rick James.

In the show, Clark asks Edwards for “something different, softer.” “I did it for Farrah,” he replies. “Now I’m gonna do it for you.” Confusingly, he then proceeds to give her the least soft hairstyle possible. But why conflate these two events? At best, it downplays the importance of something as innocuous as hair during a double-homicide trial. At worst, the attempted jheri curl adds an unnecessary new racial element to an already complicated landscape. But either way, her hair goes straight soon enough. (2/5 Gloves)

How did defense attorney F. Lee Bailey approach his cross-examine of reportedly racist detective Mark Fuhrman?
“I’m going to impale him on it,” F. Lee Bailey tells his fellow defense counsel. His plan, he says, is to ask Mark Fuhrman if he had used the N-word in the past decade. In the pre-trial hearings, Judge Ito had ruled, against the prosecution’s wishes, to allow the word to be used during the trial. Now, Bailey was going to take full advantage of the situation. He knew that the detective had probably used the word, and he knew that there was no way he would want that said on stands. In what became “perhaps the most-quoted exchange in the entire trial,” as Toobin writes, Bailey asked, “Are you therefore saying that you have not used that word in the past ten years, Detective Fuhrman?”

The writers chose to preserve this exchange, but they let Bailey be much calmer than Toobin remembers. “Bailey rushed to the podium in a burst of manic energy,” he wrote. “He bounced on the balls of his feet as he asked questions … so pumped on adrenaline that he couldn’t focus on any subject for more than a few moments.” At least they keep an objection from Clark, when Bailey tries to accuse Fuhrman of hiding the glove in his sock and planting it on Simpson’s property. Only problem is, the glove he holds up is not extra large. “Size small,” Clark says. “Must be Mr. Bailey’s.”

“If Miss Clark thinks that hand and this glove would ever work together, her eyesight is as bad as her memory,” the defense attorney barks back. It seems that Trump is not the only one with finger issues. (3/5 Gloves)

Did Brentwood housekeeper Rosa Lopez, a witness for the defense, try to skip town to Central America?
Rosa Lopez, the housekeeper of O.J. Simpson’s neighbor, was featured prominently in Johnnie Cochran’s opening statements. In the subsequent weeks, she’d been hounded by the press — even driving as far as New Mexico after she’d been chased from her daughter’s home. Now, Lopez decided, she was going back home to El Salvador. Tomorrow. The problem was that she was the defense’s witness; the prosecution had no interest in calling her, since Lopez’s testimony was supposed to put the DA’s timeline into question. So she would have to wait the weeks or months until it was Cochran & co.’s turn to make their argument.

On the show, Clark cross-examines the woman, focusing in particular on the claim that she’d made a reservation for a flight back to her Central American homeland. There are plenty of disparities between this account and the one found in Toobin’s book: For one, though she “obviously understood all the English that was spoken around her,” Ito had called in a Spanish interpreter. Moreover, it was Clark’s second in command, Chris Darden, who took that witness, and not Marcia herself. But most importantly, as is suggested in the show, the jury wasn’t present. Because the witness was being presented out of order, Ito ruled that her testimony would be taped and, if necessary, presented at the appropriate time. Though F. Lee Bailey declared on Larry King that they would definitely play the testimony, they never did. But the jury would remain in sequestration for nine days while they waited for the increasingly dysfunctional court to battle it out — something that would come back to haunt them as the trial progressed. (2/5 Gloves)

Were Marcia Clark and Chris Darden romantically involved? 
In this episode, director Ryan Murphy harps on the intimate moments between Clark and Darden. They dance to the Isley Brothers’ “Who’s that Lady,” exchange flirty notes on legal pads in the courtroom, and he comforts her as she melts down on her the floor of her office. Rumors of a romance kept these Simpson players in the press after the trial was over; People magazine once published a “well placed source” who said that Darden intended to marry Clark when her divorce was finally finalized. (Marcia denied the report, shooing away the reporter and calling the story “ridiculous.”) But that doesn’t mean nothing happened, and a little tabloid denial hopefully won’t stop ACS from speculating wildly about what went on behind closed doors. (4/5 Gloves)

Previously: Episode 5

In This Article: Ryan Murphy


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