Breaking down American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson with Michael McCann.

By Allen Kim
March 10, 2016

FX's American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson has captivated the nation in the same way that the original case did back in 1994.

Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated's legal expert and the director of the University of New Hampshire's Sports and Entertainment Law Institute, joined Maggie Gray on her podcast The Gray Area to break down the major players–Simpson, Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden and Judge Lance Ito–in the case, clears up whether some of the incidents portrayed on the show could have happened, discusses the missteps that the prosecution made during the trial and the brilliance of Cochran and the defense team's legal strategy. They also discuss the recent discovery of the knife that was buried on Simpson's old property and if he could face any prosecution if it is indeed the murder weapon, and McCann shares his thoughts on whether or not he thinks Simpson will be released from prison when he's up for parole in 2017.

Some excerpts from the podcast:

McCann on Johnnie Cochran: "I think with Johnnie Cochran, there are some lawyers who will say he was excellent at his job. If you're the client, he is what you want. He will change the narrative, which is very hard to do in a case. You literally change in the juror's mind what the case is about into a storyline that's much more favorable. And there aren't many lawyers who have the skillset to do that. It's very hard to be that effective. A lot of lawyers try that and it's really difficult to pull off, yet he did it in a very impressive way. On the other hand, there are some lawyers who will say that he was dishonest, that he knew O.J. Simpson did it or probably thought strongly that he did it. That he essentially worked in a way to prevent the jury from adequately evaluating whether or not O.J. Simpson did it. So, I think it's sort of a cross section. If you're a criminal defense lawyer, you're going to look up to Johnnie Cochran; if you're a prosecutor, your view is going to be different."

McCann on Cochran and the defense altering Simpson's house before the jury went to visit: "The error there I think was in the prosecution not requesting to see the locations before the jury saw them, and that to me was a strategic mistake where they could have demanded to Judge Ito, 'We want to inspect these locations before there's any potential tampering.' In other trials, often the prosecution ensures that there's no changing of the locale if you will. It does happen, though. It arguably happened in the Aaron Hernandez trial where there were concerns about whether there was more Patriots memorabilia put up around his house with the local fans seeing it. It does happen, and it's up the prosecution to monitor that closely and, more importantly, to demand to see the property before the jury does."

Listen to the full podcast to learn more about the FX show and the case from the viewpoint of a seasoned lawyer.

You can subscribe to the show on iTunesStitcher or SoundCloud, and you can find more great Sports Illustrated podcasts here. Tweet @maggiegray or @McCannSportsLaw and use the hashtag #GrayArea to get in touch with the show.

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