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The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story recap: A Jury in Jail

The 12 jurors (and 12 alternates) go stir-crazy as the trial drags on for months. The defense, meanwhile, is ‘having some Fung.’

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Prashant Gupta/FX

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
tvpgr:
TV-MA
seasons:
1
run date:
02/02/16
performer:
Cuba Gooding Jr., Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer, Selma Blair, Connie Britton
broadcaster:
FX
genre:
Biography, Crime, Drama

Stockholm Syndrome is named after a 1973 bank robbery in Sweden, in which a standoff ensued and the hostages grew compassionate and defensive of their captors. It is also the title of the 19th chapter of Jeffrey Toobin’s The Run of His Life, the main source book for The People v. O.J. Simpson, and Toobin deserves props for devoting 18 uninterrupted pages to the one of the trial’s juiciest topics: the jury. The Stockholm Syndrome reference is both ironic (as they were ostensibly performing a civil duty) and in another way chilling, since the accused double murderer whose trial they were all impanelled and sequestered for, O.J. Simpson, was inexplicably a source of their sympathy.

This episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson, “A Jury in Jail,” written by Joe Robert Cole (Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther writer) and directed by Anthony Hemingway, sees the jury jumble as a cause for very entertaining drama. Or, you could almost say, comedy. The episode begins with a transfer of three deputies away from the Intercontinental Hotel, halfway through the 265-day sequestration of the jury, which reportedly cost the city $3 million. Then we flash back eight months to the excited arrival of these 24 people (12 jurors and 12 alternates) to the hotel at the trial’s beginning.

Those 12 alternates would eventually be whittled down to just two. And the rage over the removal of the guards from the hotel (which is the explicit link to Toobin’s choice of the phrase Stockholm Syndrome) was the impetus for at least one of those dismissals. That would be 25-year-old Tracy Hampton, who apparently had no idea what she was in for when she volunteered to serve, spending most of her time as a juror “looking catatonic,” according to Toobin, “rarely directing her glance away from her feet during testimony.” It was her suspicion that the guards were reading her private letters to friends which prompted Hampton to request to Judge Ito that they be removed — as she explained in this CNN interview:

She also describes the other juror’s cold attitude toward her on the day after the guards were transferred, which the show accurately depicts, though goes a step further by portraying Hampton experiencing a grand mal anxiety attack when she notices her fellow members gossiping about her. In fact, that came the day after his ultimate dismissal, when she was carried out of her house on a stretcher and hospitalized for panic and depression. (She fully recovered and posed naked for Playboy later in 1995, followed by the media rounds, including an very interesting interview with a very interested Howard Stern.)

But the jury revolt as seen in the episode — wherein the aggrieved members wore all black to protest the expulsion of the guards — happened as shown. Obviously there are no pictures of the members from that or any other day during the trial, but the facts where as shown. “One of the more curious public spectacles in the history of American jurisprudence,” Toobin wrote. Twelve members wore all black, but the remaining members wore bright colors as a counterprotest to the ones wearing black. The episode doesn’t have time to go down that rabbit hole more that to simply depict the jury entering the courtroom, but it’s indeed a rabbit hole that Bugs Bunny would be proud of. (Two of the counterprotesting jurors hated each other, for example, and the leader of the revolt, Armanda Cooley, would later be voted the jury’s foreperson.)

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But “A Jury in Jail” does zero in on a few other aspects of the surreal circus. It doesn’t mention the trip to Catalina Island, during which the whole gang was rendered seasick. But it does begin to explore the case of Jeanette Harris, a 38-year-old woman who Judge Ito dismissed because she had failed to mention a previous domestic violence incident. Ito’s befuddlement at the defense and prosecution’s arguments was warranted. Here was a victim of spousal abuse, a main ingredient in the people’s case against Simpson, and Johnnie Cochran as desperate to keep her on the jury, while Marcia Clark was desperate to see her kicked off.

But that’s only the punchline in the Harris saga. She was also the juror who complained that white members were given extra time to shop at Target (attributed to Tracy Hampton, incidentally, in the episode) and would claim that multiple of her fellow jurors, including a 63-year-old secretary, had struck and shoved her during the trial. After she was dismissed, Harris went public with her thoughts about the case against Simpson. In other words, what case against Simpson. “From day one, I didn’t see it as being a fair trial,” she explained, referring to the prosecution’s case as “a whole lot of nothing.”

NEXT: A tantalizing letter enters the picture — as well as three not-so-tantalizing letters, D-N-A.

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