"The trial wasn't the whole story" That's the tagline from the upcoming FX mini-series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. The series, which is produced by American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy, promises to reveal the truth behind the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial and all the theatrics that surrounded it. This includes giving an insider's look at what was really going on inside that white Bronco during the televised slow-speed chase, which only offered us a bird's eye view. These are the details we would have never been privy to, no matter how many hours of Court TV we watched. And that forces us all to wonder, what are the sources behind the American Crime Story, and how reliable are they really?
And, boy, did we watch. The verdict drew 150 million viewers, and that was just those who watched in their homes — not counting those who saw it in bars, restaurants, offices or schools. It is now known as the trial of the century, and could be considered to be the first reality show, since that Judge Ito ruled that cameras could be allowed in the court for the first time. But, for anyone whose seen those True Crime Movies on Lifetime that dramatize the cases of those like Casey Anthony, Drew Peterson and the Craigslist Killer, or for anyone who lived through the '90s obsession with TV movies based on very-of-the-moment court cases like Amy Fisher or the Menendez brothers, it's hard to believe much of what you see in this films is more than over-the-top entertainment.
The series, which debuts in February, comes 20 years after Simpson was found not guilty of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. In that time, a lot of information has come forth about the case. CNN broke down the numbers of the O.J. Simpson trial, reporting that testimony in the trial took about nine months, "encompassing about 120 witnesses, 45,000 pages of evidence and 1,100 exhibits." By 1997, there were already 67 books published on the case. Over the last two decades, more would be published, including I Did It, which was reportedly written by Simpson and revealed how he would have killed the two, if he did really kill them. It was later revealed to the Huffington Post by Simpson's former manager, Norman Pardo, that Simpson did not actually write the book, but was paid $600,000 to claim he wrote it, something Pardo advised against. However, it's only one book that the creators behind American Crime Story used as the source material of their show: The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, written by Jeffrey Toobin.
Toobin's book, which was initially released a year after the case ended, looks at the case from the perspective of the lawyers. He gives access to both the defense team and the prosecution, managing to make this as unbiased an account of the trial as he could. Toobin was more interested in the facts than anything else. He talked to anyone he could possibly talk to including "private eyes, waiters, dog walkers, cops, ex-football stars, TV personalities and forensic experts." It just so happens to be that the facts were as interesting as any legal thriller. Reviews for the book were incredibly positive, with many publications celebrating Toobin's ability to bring new life to a case so many thought they already knew.
Chalk that up to Toobin's ability to find that angle and to write about it. It helps that he's a well-regarded legal analyst who people trust, starting out as an assistant U.S. attorney before joining The New Yorker in 1994 and then becoming the senior legal analyst for CNN in 2002. He was the first journalist to disclose key information about O. J. Simpson’s defense team, specifically their plan to accuse L.A.P.D. detective Mark Fuhrman, who is credited with finding the bloody glove, of planting evidence and to use “the race card" to their advantage. His connection to the case is long and storied, and has earned his book the honor of being called the "definitive account" of the trial. It gives a bit of confidence that American Crime Story's assurance that it will get to the "truth behind" the trial is more than just a clever tagline.