Did O.J. Simpson & Robert Shapiro Really Feud? 'American Crime Story' Depicts Tension Between The Pair
While he was on trial for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, O.J. Simpson was represented by the now-famous "Dream Team" of defense attorneys. He was later acquitted in 1995. (However, according to The New York Times, he was found liable in the resulting 1997 civil suit and ordered to pay "$25 million in punitive damages to the families.") The "Dream Team" successfully secured an acquittal for their client, but there was no shortage of tension and discord amongst the lawyers. Robert Shapiro, who was originally Simpson's lead attorney before being replaced by Johnnie Cochran, has been open about his disagreements with Cochran throughout the nine-month trial. But, Tuesday's episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story depicts a disagreement between attorney and client and will have many viewers wondering if O.J. Simpson and Robert Shapiro really had a feud.
Although he had a lot to say about Cochran, Shapiro has been considerably less open about any conflict that may have transpired between him and Simpson. In his 1996 book The Search for Justice: A Defense Attorney's Brief on the O.J. Simpson Case, he described his relationship with his client as purely professional. The Los Angeles Times published the closing paragraph from Shapiro's book:
I spoke with O.J. not long ago. He asked my advice about life after the trial, and I willingly gave it. However, we were not friends before the case; as is common in a criminal representation, it was a one-time thing. I suspect our relationship will be what it was before: professional acquaintances in a large city. Our professional business relationship ended the day the verdict came back. We never had a personal relationship before, and we won't have one in the future.
In yet another book about the case, An American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense, trial insider Larry Schiller and Time magazine correspondent James Willwerth described alleged conflict between Simpson and Shapiro. Although Schiller and Willwerth claim that all of Simpson's attorneys questioned his innocence, the book describes Shapiro as being the one to confront Simpson directly about the murders. According to The New York Daily News, Shapiro allegedly even urged Simpson to plead guilty on Oct. 11, 1994. The authors claim Shapiro allegedly said the following to Simpson:
I'm not saying you did this. Just hear me out. I'm giving you an alternative...You were offended when the [Brown] family refused to allow you to go to dinner with them at Mezzaluna. You decided to punish Nicole by slashing her tires. You went to her home with a knife and were about to slash the tires when she caught you. And you were so embarrassed you didn't want her to tell anyone. So in a rage, you cut her throat. Goldman came by, and you thought he was her lover. You were so enraged, you killed him... The bloody clothes and the knife go in the golf bag to Chicago with you. ... A day later, after we met, you and Kardashian go to the airport to recover the bag. You take the bloody clothes and knife out. Kardashian disposes of them.
Another member of the Dream Team also claimed that Shapiro tried to get Simpson to plead guilty, according to CNN. "Bob Shapiro did everything in this world to try to get a plea bargain going before Johnnie Cochran got in the case because that was the only way he was going to stay in control," F. Lee Bailey claimed, according to CNN.
According to Schiller and Willwerth, Simpson allegedly angrily told Shapiro: "You've got to be crazy!" If this account is accurate, then it seems highly likely that it would have sparked a feud between Simpson and Shapiro — the football star has always vehemently maintained his innocence. However, Shapiro denied any such action, telling CNN at the time that he "never talked at any time with anybody about a plea bargain."
Another potential reason for conflict between Simpson and Shapiro could have been Shapiro's decision to wear a pin supporting the LAPD in the courtroom. As reported by The Los Angeles Times, this move caused many people to question whether or not Shapiro even planned to remain on the defense team. He immediately responded that: "I committed to O.J. Simpson 100 percent. I'm in this to the end." Shapiro defended the pin by saying that, despite his criticism of the LAPD's handling of the Simpson case, he supported law enforcement. However, since the defense's case hinged on a conspiracy within the LAPD, the pin could have caused conflict between Shapiro and the other members of the Dream Team — and it may have influenced Simpson's trust in Shapiro.
Still, despite any alleged differences with his colleagues and Simpson himself, Shapiro remained on the Dream Team throughout the duration of the trial and was instrumental in securing a not guilty verdict for his client.