The FX series American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson was a phenomenal achievement. Crisply written and well-acted, the series packed the real-life drama of “The Trial of the Century” into 10 intense episodes. It will probably win a boatload of Emmys.
The series was based primarily on this book. Jeffrey Toobin left a job as a federal prosecutor to write for The New Yorker, and a few years later wound up covering Simpson’s trial for the magazine. Thanks to his former career in the courtroom he brings a unique perspective to the proceedings. And he doesn’t like much of what he sees.
Toobin doesn’t feign neutrality. He is convinced of O.J. Simpson’s guilt and believes that Simpson is a barely-literate narcissist who has been coddled and protected all his life because of his athletic ability. However, Toobin saves his most venomous attacks for the prosecution. He condemns the prosecution team’s efforts, citing Marcia Clark’s arrogance and goes as far as calling Christopher Darden “incompetent.” Toobin clearly delineates the prosecution’s series of blunders, in a way that will make most readers shudder.
The defense, lead by Johnnie Cochran, earns Toobin’s scorn through their publicity-seeking behavior and reliance on the “race card.” In his view the defense team cynically tried to have it both ways, framing the LAPD as incompetent or astonishingly sinister depending on what suited their purpose at the time.
Those who enjoyed the TV series may wonder whether it’s worthwhile to read a book covering the same ground. But Toobin’s book is both a deeper and broader examination of the case, containing more than enough additional information to make it worth your time.