Called by The Wall Street Journal “the pick of the litter” among books on the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, this is the definitive commentary on the most famous trial of this century.
Everyone – unless you never used to follow current affairs back in the 90’s or you’ve very young- remembers the trial in which O.J. Simpson was accused, tried and ultimately adquitted of murdering his ex girlfiend Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994. All the evidence pointed to Simpson’s guilt- in fact, ridiculously so- and so it was a shock to many when, in 1995, he was found not guilty. I had heard about the case and knew a fair amount about it…or so I thought.
Turns out, there was so much I didn’t know about! In The People VS. O.J. Simpson, author Jeffrey Toobin completely opened my eyes to just how much manipulation of the jury and the American legal system Simpson’s lawyers managed during this trial. It’s a real eye opener, and it’s packed full of facts and information about the whole rigmarole, starting from when the murders happened leading through to Simpson’s ultimate acquittal- and even afterwards, including the civil lawsuit the victim’s families filed against him afterwards (something I wasn’t really aware of)!
The level of detail in this book is astounding. At times I felt there was almost too much to take in; the book certainly could, in my opinion, have benefited by being cut down by about 50 pages or so. Despite usually being a really quick reader this took me ages to read- it’s a pretty long book and there’s a lot of detail to take in! However Toobin managed to include information about the jurors, the prosecutors, the defense team and Simpson himself, leaving the reader feeling like they’ve really learn a lot- the majority was hugely interesting stuff, too.
One of the key themes in this novel is, of course, race and racial relations between the Police and the black community in America at the time. Though Toobin is evidently completely convinced of Simpson’s guilt, he manages to convey a fairly even, balanced presentation of the murders and subsequent trial. He effectively shows how the Police’s past behaviour towards black residents in the area ultimately damaged what should have been an ‘open-and-shut’ case. He doesn’t seem to really blame the jurors for ruling against what the prosecution wanted, either, due to errors in the presentation of the case and the slick expertise of the defence team. All topped off, of course, by the celebrity effect- and how someone famous can change the way even the most level-headed people act.
I don’t tend to read a lot of non-fiction, but I really enjoyed this. Like many others I am planning on watching the incredibly popular TV show (I’m a bit behind the times, I know, but I missed it when it was initially on TV!) so really wanted to read this beforehand. I’m really interested to see how it translates onto the screen- it’ll be truly gripping, I’m sure, judging by how interesting this book was!
Definitely recommended, particularly for fans of true crime!