John Travolta’s interpretation of Robert Shapiro on American Crime Story has made the lawyer the most polarizing figure in the series. It could be argued, quite successfully, that Shapiro comes off more unlikable than O.J. himself. As of “100% Not Guilty,” though, American Crime Story establishes that Shapiro’s lack of popularity extends to the people on the show. Opinion turns against Shapiro fast among the public and O.J.’s trial team. While the murder trial begins for O.J. Simpson in episode four of American Crime Story, the real fight is between Johnnie Cochran and Shapiro to be Simpson’s number one lawyer.
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Shapiro is worrying that Cochran (and every other lawyer on the defense) is going to overshadow him, while Marcia Clark has some actual problems. Not only does she have the deal with the ridiculous antics of the defense, but also the grieving families of the victims.
Clark meets with Ronald Goldman’s family, who are understandably distraught about the death of their son and the way he is being ignored in the press. The actor playing Goldman’s father is a bit too intense, but his detailed account of what happened to Ron Goldman is horrifying and heartbreaking.
Faye Resnick is processing the death of her friend Nicole a bit differently. She meets with some publishers and explains that a psychic told her that the spirit of Nicole wants her to write a book. Faye doesn’t want to write an exploitative book. So, naturally, she tells all the dirtiest and possibly probably fake stories about Nicole that she can to her publishers. It’s totally classy, in a terrifyingly trashy and somehow still hilarious way.
A Popularity Contest
The trial teams hold focus groups for the trial. The results of the focus group shouldn’t exactly be surprising to any one with knowledge of the public opinion around the real O.J. trial. Marcia Clark is deemed unlikable and “a bitch.” Johnnie Cochran is loved by pretty much everyone. O.J. is looked at as innocent and likable, while Nicole is called a gold digger.
The focus groups lead into actual jury selection. Actual jury selection leads to even more animosity between Cochran and Shapiro. Cochran believes that the prosecution is unfairly targeting and dismissing black jurors. Cochran asks to give a press conference about the issue, but Shapiro turns him down because of his ego which is larger than John Travolta’s head. Shapiro says he will tell the press. Cochran holds an informal press conference of his own instead, and it’s this interview that makes the front page.
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Shapiro vs. Cochran
Public perception becomes even more muddled when Faye Resnick’s totally “non-exploitative” book comes out. The judge suspends jury selection to give both sides a chance to read it. While the book is quickly dismissed as trash, it does convince both sides that they are the right one. In the case of Cochran and Shapiro, it highlights the differences between the two. When the defense and prosecution meet again with the judge, Shapiro tries to get the trial moved and an argument breaks out. It’s an argument in which Cochran steps in and deflates the situation, much to Shapiro’s growing anger.
Things get only worse when F. Lee Bailey has an interview with Larry King. Bailey says that Shapiro is the lead counsel but discusses all the rumors that are going around about how incompetent and useless Shapiro is in the eye of the public. Perceiving the lack of confidence and respect, Shapiro tries to make a big move. He tells the defense that he wants to make a plea bargain. This does not go well. In fact, it goes so badly that nearly everyone on the defense team votes to replace Shapiro with Cochran.
There’s also a change on the prosecution as Marcia Clark finally asks Christopher Darden to join the team. Everyone knew that was going to happen, though, so it happens with very little ceremony. It’s probably best summed up by O.J. when he sees Darden for the first time: “When did they get a black guy?”
American Crime Story airs Tuesdays at 10pm on FX.
(Image courtesy of FX)