“The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story” ended its 10-episode run on Tuesday (April 5) and to say the series was an achievement for FX would be an understatement. Who knew that 21 years after the fact, the OJ Simpson (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) murder trial would still hold so much relevance in present day society?
Well, it does and the Ryan Murphy series not only succeeded at once again drawing back the curtain on racial tensions in early ’90s Los Angeles, but the sexism and politics that surround the American judicial system as a whole. A lot of bases were covered in the episode titled, “The Verdict.” Aside from the most known detail of the case, which happens to be just that.
Whether you believe Simpson is guilty or innocent of these crimes, it’s fascinating to revisit the public’s reaction once the news hit that the former NFL great was acquitted of the double murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
There’s a brief moment in the finale that shows just how split society’s reaction was on the jury’s decision. From jubilation to sheer outrage, the reaction footage shows just how right the series got it.
It’s a fact that Johnnie Cochran’s (Courtney B. Vance) team got OJ Simpson acquitted by shining a light on the racial injustices of the country. Just two years after the Rodney King riots, timing was indeed on the defense’s side. But what about the amount of evidence the prosecution piled up against the defendant? Two decades later and the importance of DNA evidence in trials such as this usually clinch any sort of conviction.
Yet in 1995, the DNA science wasn’t fully understood by the public and ten years after the fact, it seems that such evidence was also ignored in the trial of Steven Avery, as documented in Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” docu-series.
A correlation between the cases have been drawn before and there are multiple similarities that can draw comparisons. Being the biggest murder case in Wisconsin history, the highly publicized trial found coverage similar to the OJ trial that happened just one decade prior.
As viewers witnessed throughout the series, the DNA evidence attorneys Jerry Buting and Dean Strang presented wasn’t enough to acquit Avery of the murder of Teresa Halbach. It was even shown in the series that Avery had reached out multiple times to The Innocence Project, with hopes they’d take on his case. But what is The Innocence Project anyway?
As noted in the final moments of the FX finale, Barry Scheck (played by Rob Morrow) helped create the project in question in 1992, with the goal of exonerating those who have been wrongfully convicted through the use of DNA evidence. It’s worth noting that Schecuk — and co-creator Peter Neufeld — was co-counsel on OJ’s “Dream Team,” which raises a whole other set of questions … but let’s not dive down that ironic rabbit hole.
Instead, let’s just acknowledge this connection for a second. Avery was refused assistance by the Wisconsin Innocence Project once he was found guilty for Halbach’s murder in 2007. It’s a safe assumption that the organization followed the state’s collective opinion of the man and threw out any possibility of taking on his case as … well, everyone agreed he was guilty.
Yet, DNA evidence is a powerful thing and here we are nine years after his incarceration and it seems that WIP has finally decided to give his case a second look. They’re not the only ones as the Netflix series brought new eyes to Avery’s situation giving him a new face of hope in lawyer Kathleen Zellner. With an appeal making its way through Wisconsin’s legal system as we speak, one has to wonder how the DNA will be viewed now.
A lot can change in a decade, heck … a lot can change in two. But it seems that with the enduring relevance of cases like Steven Avery’s and OJ Simpson’s, the more that society does change … the more it might very well just stay the same.