AMERICAN CRIME STORY Review: “A Jury In Jail”

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Airtime: Tuesdays at 10PM on FX
Episode: Season 1, Episode 8 (S01E08)

TB-TV-Grade-B

Tweetable Takeaway: The jury gets caught in the games between Cochran & Clark on #PeopleVOJ


The entire series thus far, the jurors have been relegated to mere extras. They are pawns in Johnny Cochran’s and Marcia Clark’s game. This episode they were front and center, which made for an interesting sidetrack, but ultimately hurt the episode overall as we got less of the phenomenal main cast than usual.

We really got a good glimpse into what it was like to be a juror for the People v. O. J. Simpson. They weren’t allowed to watch , to use the phone, to go outside their hotel rooms, to visit one another’s rooms, to speak to anyone about the trial, nor to speak to each other about it. It leaves one wondering what the hell was left for them to do for going on eight months. They could read books. They could read newspapers, as long as they didn’t mind anything relevant to the case being clipped out, which as I recall back in the day was about 75% of the newspaper to begin with. Blockbuster sent some VHSes for them to enjoy, and they were allowed to watch as long as they could all agree on what they should watch. In one particularly annoying scene, the jurors have it out on whether they should watch Martin or Seinfeld. Of course all the African Americans want Martin, and all the whites want Seinfeld. “What the hell is a Seinfeld?” one black woman exclaims. They put it to a vote, and since there are more blacks than whites on the jury, Martin wins.

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This illustrates the problem the prosecution has–with a majority black jury, it’s more likely O. J. will get off, which Cochran’s defense team is keenly aware of. Back during jury selection, Marcia wasn’t worried too much about race, believing that no sane and logical person could deny cold hard evidence. Now, this late in the game, she’s willing to try a few other tactics, especially when her DNA evidence gets pulled apart by a crafty defense, and it was boring the jurors anyway.

And so begins the back and forth of Johnny and Marcia eliminating jury members they don’t want to stick around. First, by chance (or so Marcia claims when Johnny accuses her of orchestrating his dismissal) a juror is dismissed for having lied about his criminal record–he had kidnapped his children years ago. This was a black man who Cochran had pegged as a Not Guilty vote for sure. Next to go was another black woman, who had lied during screening when asked if she had ever suffered domestic abuse (she was raped twice by her husband in 1988). Disgustingly, Nathan Lane’s F. Lee Bailey posits, “Technically rape wasn’t illegal yet between a husband and wife in ‘88.” Number one, I’m ashamed to know that this insane law wasn’t abolished until after I was born. Number two, the show creators really aren’t trying to pull any punches now when it comes to making the defense team into the villains they are.

But somehow you don’t blame Marcia for playing their game. When she keeps getting juror after juror dismissed (one black juror is presented by Judge Ito a photo of him shaking O. J.’s hand) you can’t help but feel proud of her, even optimistic (despite knowing she doesn’t win). Johnny is able to pick off a few of Marcia’s white jurors (one was found to be keeping notes on how many conjugal visits each jury member had for a book he intended to write). By the end of it all there are only four backup jurors left and they are dangerously close to calling a mistrial.

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What isn’t clear, and what the show didn’t do quite a great of getting across, was how the jury was exactly “revolting” by coming into the courtroom all dressed in black. We know that there was racial tension on the jury, not just amongst the jurors but with the guards as well. Many black jurors claimed they weren’t treated fairly by the white officers. But in the scene where the majority of the jury enters the courtroom wearing black (four or five defectors wear bright colors) it’s not clear what they are exactly protesting, and why Judge Ito is so perturbed that he cancelled the hearing for the day.

While interesting to see, I’m eager to get back to full storylines of all our principal players next week, and leave the jury in the background.

TB-TV-Grade-B

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Paul co-created and writes for SHOWoff, a game that lets players predict what happens next on their favorite shows, earn points for what they get right, and see where they stack up against friends and the world (free in the iOS App store).  Check out the SHOWoff app at playSHOWoff.com

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