Tagged Judge Lance Ito

American Crime Story – Season 1, Episode 10: “The Verdict”

FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 10: “The Verdict”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski

* For a review of the previous episode, “Manna From Heaven” – click here
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Finally, the last episode of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson has arrived!
We begin as O.J. (Cuba Gooding Jr) gets dressed for the big day. Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) advises him how they’ll proceed from here. In court, Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) is faced with letting O.J. address the court. Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is not happy with that, believing the defense is trying to get facts to the jury improperly. Everybody watches on, as O.J. speaks awhile. Until Marcia shuts that shit down.
In the defense camp, death threats are rolling in for Johnnie – twenty and counting. He’s not concerned, though. Too busy rehearsing and writing his famous “if the glove doesnt fit you must acquit” speech that, as we all know now, was so Cochran-like. He love rhymes and alliteration, he had an almost theatrical quality.

 


Over in court, Marcia’s doing the best she can to convince the jury, one last time, that her sides is the right side. She pleads that the testimony concerning Dt. Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) not poison the well entirely. With her in court she has a nice board made up stating its UNREFUTED EVIDENCE that Simpson is the murderer. The jury is swayed, back and forth. Clearly many of them, especially the African-American citizens, are on the side of Cochran and Simpson. But Marcia makes a good case. She does, indeed. As much as Johnnie can talk the talk, Marcia can, too. She can walk that walk, as well.
More of Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown), also pleading their case for the jury. He is another man whose passionate and plain way of speaking is an evident advantage as a prosecutor. But it’s the whole racial angle around the trial that’s interesting when considering Darden. He was faced with being a supposed Uncle Tom-like figure, when he was simply there on the side of justice: “This case is not about the Nword. It is about O.J. Simpson and the M word: murder.” Darden brings up many great points about Nicole Brown and her relationship with Simpson; his jealous, his anger towards her, the previous domestic abuse and the fact she filled up a safe deposit box with pictures of her injuries from those incidents, and so on.
Johnnie proceeds to stand on the high horse about domestic abuse. Ironic? Well, he moves on and gets loose, he orates like a man onstage reading Hamlet. Moreover, he again uses this as a chance to slag on the LAPD. He’s not only trying to get O.J. off, he wants to use this as a soapbox for the things he already fights against. He pops off the infamous glove line, then finishes up, the whole place hushed.

 


So now, they wait.
F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) is off to Laguna Beach, Johnnie has a flight to catch. Then Bob Shapiro (John Travolta) rambles about Oscar De La Hoya, and everyone leaves him all alone, almost without a word. They’re done with him and his bullshit, I suppose. Who wouldn’t be?
The jury starts to deliberate. Not Guilty keeps coming out, over and over. Out of the whole lot only two jurors claimed O.J. as Guilty. More of the black v. white stuff happening. Also there’s plenty of doubts about the trial itself, the weird things going on. But some of the Africa-American jurors are unwilling to budge, particularly because of racist Fuhrman and his absolutely despicable testimony.
Everyone’s surprised by the mere four hours the jury deliberated. Everyone’s worried, too. Naturally. Because it isn’t clear, at all, at any point what’s been about to happen in the trial. Meanwhile, Shapiro and Cochran are at each other’s throats again, as the latter has involved Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam in their protection because of the volatile nature of the trial and its surroundings. For their part, Marcia and Chris try keeping a positive spirit, hoping the quick deliberation means the best for the prosecution.
In jail, Simpson preps for the “big day” – “biggest,” as he says. Even signs a ball for one of the guard’s kids. The guard also seems to give up a bit of good news from a friend guarding the jurors. Uh oh.

 


Everyone sits, waiting, hearts in every throat, pulse throbbing. Every single person looks stressed, both figuratively and literally on the edge of their seats. The verdict is handed over. Time slows down from O.J’s perspective. Each person watches the verdict pass over to the jury from the bailiff. Everything is by the book. This sequence is super tense, very well filmed and written, so as to draw things out. Even while knowing the verdict already it is still thrilling. The editing even cuts things to a higher level of intensity, too.
When the verdict is read out loud, everyone reacts in amazingly different ways. The racial tension is completely obvious. The editing cuts back and forth between jurors, family members, friends, the streets. An impressive little montage of edits within this scene that made the impact even more weighty. When one of the jurors holds up the Black Panther sign it comes as a whopper to both O.J. and Marcia; especially the former, who finally sees it wasn’t his supposed innocence that got him off, it was the fact he’s black. Therefore, nothing will change, people – some of them – will still see him as a cold-blooded murderer.
In the bathroom, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) loses his lunch, clearly doubting his old dear friend’s guilt. So many reactions that it’s just a gumbo of different opinion all over the place. But even those closest to Simpson have their doubts. Hell, Shapiro was never sure to begin with, so it’s not surprising.

 


The fallout of the trial is different for everyone, as well. Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) feels his career will be defined by their loss. Marcia says she’s “ashamed” of herself. Darden wants nothing to do with going out and facing the press. But they stick together. Gil even compliments lark on her class, for not stooping to the level of the press, nor that of the defense and their tactics. Obviously, though, she feels the weight of the decision against her. Amazing acting in this scene, Sarah Paulson gives us more of her excellent portrayal of Marcia Clark; some of the highlights of the series as a whole in this first season.
Many are devastated by the jury’s decision. The Goldmans, The Browns, Garcetti and his entire team, many in the community. They can only pick up the pieces and move on from there, learn from their mistakes and errors in judgements. Clark and Darden do their best to give a press conference, under all the emotion they suffer. Another emotionally charged moment out of this great finale. Then from the crowd someone asks: “Gilyou gonna look for the real killer now?” Whoa. That is a big one, and it hits Garcetti off guard.

 


On the streets people celebrate. But so many, like The Goldmans, are left wondering how to move on. How can they reconcile what they feel they know deep in their hearts with the verdict? And after so much madness throughout the course of the trial.
Very interesting is the meeting between Cochran and Darden. The faith Chris has in the law doesn’t waiver, yet he has no faith in the theatrics of Cochran and his tactics. But Johnnie is able to sleep at night knowing he’s slightly changed things. When he sees President Bill Clinton on the news talking about the LAPD, the black experience, he knows things may shift. If only he were still alive today, he’d know nothing ever fully changes. Not when it’s embedded like racism.
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Darden: “This isnt some civil rights milestone. Police in this country will keep arresting us, keep beating us, keep killing us. You havent changed anything for black people here. Unless, of course, youre a famous, rich one in Brentwood.”
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Marcia and Chris lick their wounds together. Neither of them is totally sure how to process what’s happened, even if it’s something they understand, how it came about, what went on during the trial. We get some insight into Clark, though. She reveals to Darden her rape, years ago, in Italy at the hands of a waiter. She tells him how there’s a “thing” in her seeking “vengeance for victims“, and that is her idea of justice, to get the justice those victims deserve, that they need. Although, the Simpson trial is really shaking her to the core, her beliefs wavering in the face of such injustice for Nicole’s murder after all the domestic abuse, the fighting, et cetera. Sad to see a strong person like Clark beaten down by a major case.
Simultaneously, O.J. gets out of jail. Funny enough, the only person waiting is Kardashian. He can’t even hide his feelings, almost weeping right there. But they head home, bringing Simpson back to his place in Brentwood. Big party, a “rager” is about to happen ’cause O.J. wants to get down. Only the reception is not what he’d expected. People in his upper class neighbourhood aren’t happy. So he’s experiencing the many-edged sword of race. The predominantly white neighbourhood of Brentwood isn’t exactly impressed with the verdict, not like the reactions in the inner city.

 


There’s a neat juxtaposition of things at the end here in this finale. We inally see O.J. back at home – the first time we’ve really seen him free the entire series. But he is alone. He cries to himself. Even he doesn’t know exactly how to go on after everything.
At his party afterwards things are even more telling. The only person on his defense team that’s present is Kardashian, who doesn’t even stay too long. A moment with a waiter is also pretty interesting, revealing more racial undertones to every relationship which O.J. engages in. Also, his last look with Kardashian is extremely heavy, as Simpson can tell his good friend no longer has faith; at least in him ,anyways.
In the backyard, O.J. stares up at his statue, long and hard. A larger than life figure, both him and the statue. In his head are the sounds of his old days on the field, the crowd roaring. How far he has fallen.

 


An impressive series that I loved, start to finish. I look forward to seeing what they’ll do for next season, which is rumoured to be centered on Hurricane Katrina. Also dig the end where they showed everyone with their real life counterpart side-by-side. Lots of great writing, acting, editing, the whole thing was nearly perfect, only a couple rare missteps. I see some awards in this series’ future.

 

American Crime Story – Season 1, Episode 8: “A Jury in Jail”

FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 8: “A Jury in Jail”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by Joe Robert Cole

* For a review of the previous episode, “Conspiracy Theories” – click here
* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “Manna From Heaven” – click here
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Only a couple more episodes left, as O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr), Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson), Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), and the rest of the various figures hurtle towards the trial’s finish.
This episode begins with the jury being chewed out for tardiness. The trial went from two months to eight months. Everyone in the jury’s a little pissed.
But wait, let’s skip back 8 months earlier. Everyone is happy to be on jury duty, away from home and on a sort-of-vacation. At least until they start to discover the rules of their jury duty for the trial of the century, or “The Superbowl” as one of them puts it. Not so fun anymore when the pool is “off limits” and when you can’t even skim a Reader’s Digest without it being approved.
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Well Cochran and Bob Shapiro (John Travolta) are back together, laughing, toasting champagne. As Marcia and Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) still aren’t too steady. And Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) is losing his god damn mind over the ill-fitting glove.
Over at the hotel with the jury, everyone’s arguing over what to watch. “What is a Seinfeld?” one of the women quips after Martin gets vetoed. Amazing to see the Martin versus Seinfeld showdown, more of the subtle racial angles within the writing of American Crime Story brings out.
Then we switch over to O.J. playing poker for Skittles in an interrogation room with a couple buddies, including Kardashian. What’s amazing is that O.J. is in the process of retelling a portion a Seinfeld episode, saying: “Im tellinyou they gotta give that Kramer his own show.” Never have we more evidently seen, directly in the writing and editing, an instance of where the perceived whiteness of Simpson comes out. Nicely written sequence all over.
What this episode gets into big time is how nobody, even just a little over 20 years ago, understood DNA. It frustrates Marcia, while providing fodder for jokes in Simpson’s camp. But when Clark has an expert break it down in layman’s terms, the jury, the defense, everybody in the court understands how damning this testimony is for O.J. Even Kardashian sees it, the look on his face almost ghostly. 1 in about 170-million; hard for Rob to get past.
Later, he and Simpson sit alone together talking of “the numbers” involved in the DNA found at the scene. Rob has a problem with Nicole’s blood being everywhere, disguising it as concerns of the jury. The faith of Kardashian is shaking in his old friend.


Simpson: “And this is them asking?”
Kardashian: “Yeah. This is them asking.”


More problems now; in the jury. One of the jurors was previously arrested for kidnapping, which Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi). He plays it off saying “you know how ladies can get“, not worrying about Marcia’s presence in the room. Even with Cochran dancing his best dance, Ito dismisses the juror. At least now Marcia doesn’t have to put with even more sexism. For the moment.
In the jury room, some of the other black jurors worry about being dismissed because they’re black. So within all the racial things happening during the trial, within the jury itself, there is even a division between some of the black people who see things differently. So many perspectives, it’s mind boggling at times.
So on goes court with a new juror in place. The defense bring up questions about missing blood belonging to O.J. and there becomes a doubt; in the minds of the jurors, those looking on. It gives Simpson confidence, Rob pause, and Marcia a look of terror. All of a sudden their explanation on the DNA becomes near redundant. Even wilder is the fact the expert, when off the stand, shakes the hands of everyone – the prosecution, except Marcia who refuses, and then the defense. Uh oh. That ain’t good.
Back in her office, Marcia loses it and tosses the place a bit. All that pressure has got to be getting to her. Wouldn’t be human if she brushed it off without any worry.


More juror worries. A woman on the jury accused her husband of abuse, but lied about it.
F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) outright drops some highly sexist shit in front of Marcia, already bringing more of that nonsense on her. But again, a black juror is dismissed. Hmm. Even Judge Ito recognizes there’s some ridiculous racial foolishness happening behind the scenes. And this is what American Crime Story brings out beautifully, the things we know about after the fact but couldn’t see during the original trial. So many racial games, from jury to prosecution to defense.
Marcia and Johnnie have a head-to-head outside. She proves time and time again how tough her mettle is, despite any of the sexist bullshit she has to suffer.


Marcia: “Toughen up, Cochran. This is the smokers lounge. Daycares on the first floor.”
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The problem jurors are being sussed out on the defense side. Meanwhile, the prosecution has their own ideas. And some of both sides clash. So now with Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” we’re getting the battle of the races amongst the jurors, the prosecution and defense going back and forth. Amazing little sequence, even before Queen kicks in. We see how what was on the surface of the trial was truly only scratching it, barely. All the games behind the scenes made things much more volatile. Even some of the jurors are upset about racial treatment, the divide in the room: “They treat us like were second class,” one woman yells at the judge in his quarters.
Ultimately, Ito has to step in and stop all the madness after accusations against jurors and all kinds of things. He’s experiencing his own skewering in the media, from jurors to people on television.
Now we’re back to the beginning of the episode. The jurors’ guards are switched up, the environment in the lunch room is vastly different, everybody speculating on the mindset of others. A real mess. Then they refuse to come into court, which throws Ito into a furor threatening to have them all arrested. When they do come in, many of the jurors are dressed entirely in black. So Ito suspends testimony and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” plays loud, proud with jurors smiling proud.


Dominick Dunne: “It just gets curiouser and curiouser


Cochran and Co. are all worried about what’s happening in the courtroom. Worst of all, Simpson is losing his mind. He wants on the stand, and definitely doesn’t want a mistrial. Bailey thinks it’s a good idea because “people love him“, Johnnie seems open to it, yet of course Shapiro resists at first. Bob is worried about Marcia cross-examining O.J. and so Cochran decides they’ll do a “rehearsal” for their client.
Over with the jury, one of the women goes absolutely nuts and tries to flee before the deputies catch her. She’s almost gone absolutely mental.
More alone time with Clark and Cochran. He brings her a coffee, the way she likes it apparently. Greasy, Johnnie; real greasy.
So the defense rustles up a Marcia lookalike. They have her press him with Clark-like questions he’ll encounter on the stand. Everyone watches O.J. do his thing, charming, joking a bit. Kardashian looks almost filled with fear. Bailey and Cochran aren’t sure of what to make of it. Shapiro’s not happy at all. It’s a whole new ballgame if they intend on putting him up there with the real Marcia.
Most of all, Kardashian’s taking things incredibly hard. He believes they might “get him off“, but it is clear he doesn’t believe fully in his friend’s guilt. His ex-wife Kris Jenner (Selma Blair) urges him to just get up and go. Kardashian admits, unfortunately, that would essentially convict Simpson if it happened, and it would all makers things worse for their family. An emotional scene. Schwimmer is awesome in the role, loving his performance.


But the finale is the most damning. Someone gets a call – it’s about Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale). And it is not good.
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The next episode, penultimate season finisher “Manna From Heaven”, promises to be a whopper. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans. Dig this series so much, it is all around 5-stars.