Saturday, March 26, 2016

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story 1x08 Review: "A Jury in Jail" (A Gamble) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

"A Jury in Jail"
Original Airdate: March 22, 2016

Just as previous episodes focused on showing the complexity of cultural figures like Johnnie Cochran and Marcia Clark, People v. O.J. Simpson has now turned its focus to the jury in another strong episode. Through smart cuts and flashbacks, the episode shows how excited people settling in for a fun hotel stay transform into a stir-crazy group that’s beginning to lose it.


I hadn’t thought much about the jury throughout this show since the show has been focused so much on the teams of lawyers. But being on a sequestered jury for this trial would be an insane experience. I mean, I can’t keep a secret for 24 hours, much less for eight months and/or the rest of my life. In the microcosm of the jury, the show hits on so many of its themes: fame, racism, sexism, power, truth, and lies.

Early on in the episode, O.J. played a low-stakes game of poker (they bet using Skittles) with three of his friends. O.J., of course, bets it all on a bluff — just like he’s trying to bluff the judge and jury.

Marcia and Johnnie, however, play a game of high-stakes poker in the courtroom as they figure out ways to dismiss jurors and get someone new who would potentially vote their way. Both the prosecution and defense systematically investigate each juror to find if there is anything in their past that would make them eligible to be dismissed. Of course, it looks like they are more concerned with drafting a fantasy jury than upholding justice. So many jurors were dismissed that I couldn’t even keep track, and before they knew it, they were left with only four alternates. Judge Ito takes control — so you know it’s serious — but it ends in disaster. With the compassion of a snail (actually, that might not be fair to snails), Ito calls each juror into his office, referring to them only by their numbers, to ask them questions about themselves and the sequester.

One juror claims that the guards are treating the black jurors as second-class citizens, so Ito cycles out the guards for new ones. But this is the tipping point for some of the other jurors, and one woman organizes a protest. With most of the jury, but not all, wearing all black, they refuse to come into the courtroom when summoned.

Even though the people on the jury have the power to decide the verdict, they have almost no power anywhere else. They can’t talk about the case — even to each other — they can’t eat without being watched, they can’t watch TV, or read the whole newspaper, or communicate with their families. Jury members get removed and added with no explanation to the jury, and when they walk to Judge Ito’s office, it’s like they are walking the plank. So they protest in the ways they can: by wearing all black and delaying court proceedings.

Everyone in the courtroom is performing on behalf of the jury — the jury that has to decide the fate of the man on trial. But no one is thinking of the jury as human, only as an entity to be won over. Judge Ito can’t even remember to call jury members by their names, not even if they are crying in his office.

This denial of humanity is also happening when it comes to the murder victims. When the jurors come in wearing all black, F. Lee Bailey responds by saying “Someone better be dead.” But two people are dead — that’s why this trial is happening in the first place. But all of that gets overlooked for the O.J. show.


Bobby Kardashian is having the hardest time reconciling the facts with the image of “Uncle Juice.” After listening to dry, but overwhelming, DNA testimony, O.J.’s friends realize that most of the evidence is pointing to him as a killer. They even stop coming to poker night. The only steadfast presence is Bobby, and that’s only because he knows that leaving the trial now would cause an uproar for himself, his family, and O.J. Bobby’s face is stricken as he begins to connect the dots that maybe the police didn’t plant all the blood after all. And maybe O.J. isn’t as charming as he previously seemed to be.

I really feel for golden retriever Bobby Kardashian, and the scene where he confessed to Kris that he knows he got them into this and he is sorry was heartbreaking. I can’t imagine thinking you know someone for 20 years, and then coming to terms with them doing the unimaginable, all on top of creating a living nightmare for yourself and your family in a trial and in the media. Bobby is one person throughout this entire debacle who holds onto a sense of morality. Even Marcia descends to playing dirty with the jury, even though she thinks she’s doing it for the greater good. Bobby knows that if he leaves now it would look like O.J. is guilty, and he can’t be responsible for convicting his friend. What a horrible spot to be in.

Bob Shapiro and Johnny seem to have made up over his glove idea last week, and the rest of the defense is humming along nicely. Way nicer than the prosecution, in fact.


I love the cuts between the defense and prosecution reacting to the same events. The defense is singing and pouring champagne after O.J. tries on gloves, while the prosecution is yelling and slamming doors. But the way both teams went after changing the makeup of the jury showed that they weren’t so different after all: both teams were planning and nitpicking to the umpteenth degree to get the jurors that they wanted. Marcia claims that playing dirty is Johnnie’s game, but it seems like, for a while, she gets down in the dirt with him. At least, until they tentatively call a truce, with a coffee and a small nod.

Notes from the case file:
  • Sorry this review is late, y’all, I was on vacation. But I’m back for the last few episodes of season one.
  • Look, I love staying at hotels — that’s part of the reason I wanted to go on vacation in the first place — but staying in a hotel where you can’t leave your room, talk to other guests, watch TV, talk to your family, or use the pool sounds more like staying in a jail cell that is just better furnished.
  • Even the choice of what to watch on the group television was racially divided. “What is a Seinfeld?” 
  • Marcia’s face when F. Lee Bailey said it wasn’t technically rape in 1988, between husband and wife.
  • “Somehow I think if the defendant were white, we’d be having a different conversation right now.” Judge Ito isn’t wrong.
  • “Toughen up Cochran, this is a smokers’ lounge. Daycare is on the first floor.” ZING.
  • “It just gets curiouser and curiouser.” 
  • Did anyone else get 12 Angry Men vibes from this episode?
  • Next week, get ready for the wild ride of racist cop Mark Furhman.


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