In the many minutes of Oscar-winning documentary detailing the extraordinary life, success and monumental downfall of Orenthal James Simpson, it still comes down to one question that has never satisfactorily been answered.
Director Ezra Edelmen tirelessly examines OJ’s background, his incredible sporting success, his ease in the showbusiness world, his relationship with his wife Nicole, and the unforgettable events surrounding his trial for double murder,
The epic documentary is nearly eight hours long - delving into the racial conflicts that already threatened the peace of California, the attitude towards and of the LAPD following Rodney King’s videoed beating, and where OJ’s superstar glamour fitted into all of this.
As millions of viewers around the world will remember from the trial, played out again fully in the recent ‘American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson’, the ‘Dream Team’ defence counsel secured their acquittal on two elements - OJ trying on the glove, and the proven racism of police officer Mark Fuhrman. They successfully convinced the jury that Fuhrman was sufficiently motivated by his views, and his previous encounter with the sports superstar, to take the glove from the crime scene and plant it in the walkway of OJ’s Brentwood mansion.
However, the freshly spine-chilling moment comes very late in the tale - 5 hours 30 minutes in - when one of OJ’s oldest friends, film director Peter Hyams, a man who had stood by The Juice throughout his trial and all the allegations of spousal abuse that preceded it, describes a conversation with another of OJ’s friends.
“One day a friend of OJ’s, Alan Austin, came up to me and he said, ‘Answer a question for me - what would Mark Fuhrman have to know before he placed the glove there?’
“I said, ‘Well, I don’t know.’
“He said, ‘He would have to know that OJ, a 6’2” black guy living in a white world, had no alibi. He was in no woman’s bed, he was in no restaurant, he was on no aeroplane. He had no alibi. So how could Mark Fuhrman place that glove if he didn’t know that?’
“I said, ‘Are you telling me he’s guilty?’
“And Alan just nodded. and the tears were streaming down my face and suddenly I felt cuckolded.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time this problem with the defence’s case has surfaced, that Mark Fuhrman would have risked committing a major felony, had the defendant been able to place himself anywhere else definitively.
“When Fuhrman responded to the murder scene, neither he nor the other officers knew whether Simpson had an alibi, making evidence-planting a highly risky gambit.
“Testing of the glove later showed that it contained carpet fibers matching those from Simpson’s Bronco, strengthening the link between him and the glove.”
However, the same LAPD were forced to distance themselves once Fuhrman’s racist comments came to light, and were allowed to be heard in the courtroom. Once enough doubt had been instilled in the jury’s minds, OJ’s path to freedom was clear.
The debate will forever be waged. As many people cheered as despaired when OJ was declared ‘Not Guilty’ in 1995, and there is no dispute that he did himself no favours in the following years, writing a book ‘If I Did It’, and later being jailed for his part in an attempted kidnapping and robbery.
But, amid all the furore over the glove, the forensics, the superlative performances in court by Johnnie Cochran and co, OJ’s own dazzling charm, the much quieter moment of Peter Hyams’ quiet despair is a telling one, faced with a question about his friend he couldn’t answer.
The full 7 hour 47 minute film is available now on BBC iPlayer, in three parts.