Reliving the “Trial of the Century”

Posted By Natalie Kay & Kim Cox on April 05, 2016

Somewhere in the middle of selling ideas and solving communications problems, we talk to each other. We talk about things that matter to us. Things that inspire us to do more and become more. Things that are happening in our world and in the news.

And then we talk about TV.

We are no strangers to pop-culture shows, podcasts or binge streaming. We are loyal love-to-hate fans of the Bachelor as much as we are of Frank Underwood. We've never missed an episode of Serial–which, considering the second-season slump, is saying a lot. And you’ll find many Karmite signatures on the petition to the White House to pardon Steven Avery.

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story is the latest talk of the water cooler just as the case was more than two decades ago. The chronicle makes powerful comment on contemporary issues such as racism, sexism, police brutality and the incompetence of the judicial system.

Two of Karma’s own, Natalie Kay and Kim Cox, followed the 10-part series exploring the chaotic and captivating lives of the legal teams battling to convict or acquit ‘The Juice’ in the double homicide case.


Do you remember where you were during the Bronco chase?

NK: Like it was yesterday. I was celebrating the end of my Freshman Year in high school at a friend’s pool party. The NBA finals were on in the background. My mom called the house to make sure we knew about the breaking news and told me to be safe. I still get this type of call every weekend just without the national car chase.

KC: At the time, I was nearly five years old and I remember sitting in my parents’ bedroom watching the chase on their television. My mother was adamant that I witness what I now know to be one of the most defining moments of the ‘90s. As I watch the show, I couldn’t be more thankful for those memories, because while many of my peers simply can’t connect the dramatization to the reality, I can. And I think that adds something special to each week.


Who delivers the best character depiction?

NK: Some characters are spot on while others are, well, let’s just say David Schwimmer is playing Ross Gellar playing Robert Kardashian. Sarah Paulson delivers a beautiful, nuanced performance. But, you can’t look away from John Travolta as vain attorney Robert Shapiro. The voice, posture, antics and demeanor are just uncanny.

KC: I think Courtney B. Vance is phenomenal as Johnny Cochran. His voice, mannerisms, attitude; everything is dead-on.


What role does storytelling play in the depiction of the trial? In the overall series?

KC: As communications professionals, storytelling is a critical tool in our arsenal. In regards to the series, storytelling allows for a condensed, but no less captivating, summary of one of the most publicized trials in history, and does an excellent job tying week to week while underpinning the trial narrative with the social climate of the time.

Within the series, Johnny Cochran best understands the deep, complex connection between society and the jury, making him best suited to tell the most persuasive “story” of the trial and convince the jury members to ultimately question the evidence and, therefore, OJ’s guilt.


After having an outside-the-courtroom look at Marcia Clark’s trials and tribulations, did sexism sabotage the prosecution?

NK: Women who work in male-dominated professions are tougher than most. And if they are successful they are always targets of the unfair and ruthless attacks that Clark faced. The predominant conversation was about what she looked liked and her manner. Was she feminine enough? Was she strident enough? 

Do I think this sabotaged the case? No. But I think it added ridiculous layers to already sensationalized media. What’s worse is that these conversations are still making headlines, even in a country where a woman is running for the highest office.


How did the Simpson trial change the media landscape?

NK: Everything about the case was unprecedented. 100 million people watched the Bronco chase. Supporters and motorists gathered on a California freeway in real time. A suicide note was read live on television. Cameras were allowed inside the courtroom for the 9-month trial.

Our current 24-hour news cycle, infatuation with celebrity and never-ending stream of reality shows can all be traced back to the trial of the century. It might have been the impetus for social media...


Did the television series shatter your perception one way or the other?

NK: We all have strong opinions about whether O.J. is innocent or guilty. Mine didn’t change all that much but I was shocked at the amount of evidence that was inadmissible in court. How could the jury not listen to the Fuhrman tapes?!

KC: In a way, yes. If I didn’t know how OJ’s life panned out in the years between the actual trial and this show, I think I might side with the jury based upon a few key pieces of evidence that I didn’t remember way back when. So looking back, I think they made the right call. Reasonable doubt was proven and that’s all it takes for a vote of innocence.


What do you rate the series?

NK: Two thumbs up. Almost as gripping as the case that inspired it.

KC: Dramatic and addictive. Four stars because they tried too hard to squeeze a Kardashian storyline into the show.


Natalie is Karma’s Group Account Director and Kim Cox is a public relations account executive. They build and elevate reputations by day, and critique television by night.