With just a few episodes left in the hit FX crime drama series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, viewers should be prepared to once again be blown away by the Trial of the Century. From John Travolta’s commanding performance as attorney Robert Shapiro to Sarah Paulson’s amazing portrayal of lead prosecutor Marcia Clark, the series has added depth and detail to the already-fascinating trial of O.J. Simpson for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. But there are still plenty of major moments left in the television adaptation. For example, those watching the trial unfold for the first time may still be wondering if O.J. Simpson actually tried on the bloody glove in court. Well, he did… and it turned out to be the single biggest moment in the real trial.
First, a little background. At the time of the trial, the Los Angeles team of prosecutors, led by Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden, had amassed a “mountain” of evidence in the case against Simpson, Clark recently said in an interview for NBC. Still, the team had trouble explaining the science to jurors not-yet versed in DNA evidence. And, perhaps even more damaging, the team made several errors of judgment that left plenty of room for doubt. (Simpson was, of course, ultimately acquitted of all charges brought against him.)
Speaking to Dateline's Josh Mankiewicz, Clark said that having Simpson try on the glove was not her idea — or anyone’s idea on the prosecution’s side, for that matter. Clark told Dateline that, during a sidebar, Judge Lance Ito made the suggestion that Simpson try on the glove while wearing a latex glove to prevent evidence contamination:
I immediately object to it. And I said, 'The latex will screw up the fit.'
But Darden pushed for the demonstration, according to Clark.
I was miserable from the moment that Chris said, 'No, I'm doing this'. And I never expected anything good to come of it.
In an column for NBC Los Angeles, veteran trial reporter Linda Deutsch recounted what happened when Simpson tried on the gloves in court:
O.J. Simpson arose from the counsel table at his murder trial and approached the jury box with the famous leather gloves. As he struggled to get them past his knuckles, he held his hands up to jurors and stated the obvious: ‘They're too small.’
Simpson’s charismatic lead attorney John Cochran made the connection that drove the point home for the jury — and for everyone watching. Even though his closing argument was months away, Cochran said the phrase that immediately became legend. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” Cochran told the jury.
In her essay, Deutsch said that Darden had broken the cardinal rule of courtroom law: never demonstrate something to a jury unless you’re completely certain you know the outcome. The former Associated Press reporter said she called Darden later that afternoon to ask why he pushed to have Simpson try on the gloves in open court. According to Deutsch, Darden had made the decision largely based on a hunch:
"What did it look like to you," he asked me.
"It looked like they didn't fit," I said.
"Well," Darden said, "I looked at his hands and I looked at the gloves and I thought they would fit."
The trial continued for several months after that day, but the moment was immediately etched in stone — or at least in the press — as the point when tide officially turned in Simpson’s favor.
Now, 20 years later, the moment will be revived for a new generation of viewers, thanks to FX. It should be interesting to see whether the ACS team is able to make that moment exactly as dramatic and pivotal is it was in 1995. If the last seven episodes of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story are any indication, the answer is undoubtedly a yes.