Brentwood? Simi Valley?! This O.J. Simpson Trial Cheat Sheet Will Help Connect the Dots
The case ventured into new territory on tonight’s episode of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.
Simi Valley, to be exact.
Even if you live in Los Angeles, it isn’t easy to get a handle on its many zip codes (90210 is just one of dozens), its cross-the-street-and-you’re-in-a-different-neighborhood sprawl or its patience-obliterating freeway system. And a major character of the saga unfolding weekly on FX has been the city itself, including who lives where and what that means.
For instance, the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman took place at 875 S. Bundy Drive, a 2-mile, 10-minute drive away from O.J. Simpson’s estate at 360 N. Rockingham Avenue—both in the tony L.A. neighborhood of Brentwood and yet on opposite sides of the real estate tracks, “above Sunset” (him) versus “below Sunset” (her).
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E! Illustration by Lindsay Scheinberg. Map not to scale.
Then there was Robert Kardashian, who lived out in Encino, aka “The Valley,” and who opened his home to his longtime friend in O.J.’s hour of need. His Encino manse then served as the kickoff point for O.J. and Al Cowlings‘ Bronco ride down to Orange County, about 70 miles away (two hours, traffic willing), after which the pair returned to Rockingham, police trailing most of the way.
On tonight’s episode, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” the Simpson case and the Rodney King beating trial were inextricably linked by defense attorney Johnnie Cochran when he pigeonholed a detective on the stand as a resident of Simi Valley—in Ventura County but considered part of the Greater Los Angeles Area—where four cops accused of beating King were acquitted.
And not only that, the detective, Tom Lange, took a pair of O.J.’s shoes home with him in the trunk of his car and kept them overnight…in Simi Valley, 50 minutes (on a really good day) and about 32 miles away, from Rockingham. O.J.’s home was another 20 or so miles and an hour of drive time in the opposite direction to Parker Center in downtown L.A., where the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division was headquartered.
The evidence was so close to, and yet so far away from, its eventual destination at the police station.
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The trial would ordinarily have been destined for Santa Monica, which is adjacent to Brentwood, but it ended up being held at the Criminal Courts Building in downtown—20 miles and, to many people at the time, a world away. The official reason given was that the Santa Monica Courthouse had sustained too much damage in the January 1994 Northridge earthquake to be ready in a timely fashion, but there was talk of the prosecution not wanting it to look as if they were stacking the odds in their favor that they’d get a mostly white jury and therefore an easier conviction.
Ultimately, the racial overtones were built into the case, starting with the not-so-invisible lines that already existed between different parts of L.A., as well as the one between the LAPD and much of the city’s black population. It didn’t take Robert Shapiro or Johnnie Cochran putting race at the center of the defense’s strategy to expose some very harsh truths about the City of Angels.
Those truths were crying out to be uncovered.
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