OnlyOnAOL: Why the O.J. Simpson case continues to transfix us

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Ezra Edelman, Marcia Clark & Carl Douglas Full on "O.J.: Made in America"

By: Donna Freydkin

In 1995, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the double murders of his estranged wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

By any measure, Simpson's trial, which was televised, changed history. It put a face – a famous one – on domestic violence. It turned criminal law into a spectator sport. It made celebrities out of the legal teams, both prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden, and defense attorneys Robert Shapiro and Johnnie L. Cochran. And it brought race to the forefront of our conversation.

This year alone, the case was meticulously reenacted in Ryan Murphy's lauded "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," which had Sarah Paulson playing Clark, John Travolta as Shapiro, Courtney B. Vance as Cochran and Sterling K. Brown as Darden.

And now, award-winning filmmaker Ezra Edelman presents a documentary about the man who to this day remains an enigma, in prison not for murder, but for armed robbery and kidnapping. "O.J.: Made in America" is a deep, thorough undertaking; part one airs on Saturday, on ABC.

SimpsonThe documentary revisits Simpson's story, from his upbringing in poverty, to his meteoric rise in professional football, to his life in Hollywood, to his fraught relationship with Brown and all the domestic violence allegations, and the police investigation of her murder. And it shows photos from the murder scene, pictures so grisly they are almost impossible to stomach.

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Edelman, along with Clark and defense attorney Carl Douglas, stopped by AOL BUILD to discuss the massive undertaking.

"The initial concept was to do five hours for TV. I just dove in. It got bigger as I got further along. You don't know who's going to cooperate. This story in a lot of ways is about everything," says Edelman. "The scope of it and the length of it is justified."

So much of the SImpson trial revolved around race, and the explosive politics at play in Los Angeles. But Clark says that "the race card was played in every case where there was a black defendant."

From the start, she says, "We knew we were going to be facing that uphill battle. That was not news to me."

The one benefit of the trial? An increased knowledge about domestic abuse. "We have made some progress. The silver lining in the case is that it did raise some awareness," says Clark.

Douglas says that throughout the trial, "you had to be cognizant of the racial dynamics."

Which means looking at the big picture. Los Angeles was a town divided, and still reeling from the Rodney King case. "No one can understand the O.J. Simpson verdict really without appreciating the context of the city where the case evolved," he says.

As part of Simpson's defense dream team, he focused on the job at hand. "I'm representing one person who is accused of a crime," says Douglas. "I can't worry or dwell on the implications of what this case will do (in the future)."

Key Players in the OJ Simpson Trial
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OnlyOnAOL: Why the O.J. Simpson case continues to transfix us
FILE - In this Wednesday, June 21, 1995 file photo, O.J. Simpson holds up his hands before the jury after putting on a new pair of gloves similar to the infamous bloody gloves during his double-murder trial in Los Angeles. The return of O.J. Simpson to a Las Vegas courtroom next Monday, May, 13, will remind Americans of a tragedy that became a national obsession and in the process changed the country's attitude toward the justice system, the media and celebrity. (AP Photo/Vince Bucci, Pool, File)
Defense attorney Robert Shapiro (L) sits next to O.J. Simpson during a preliminary hearing following the murders of Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman July 7, 1994 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Lee Celano/WireImage)
Johnnie Cochran Jr., left, and Gerald Uelmen leave the Criminal Courts Building following the arraignment of O.J. Simpson on murder charges Friday, July 22, 1994, in Los Angeles. Cochran, who is a high-profile attorney known for his trials kills and links to the city's African-American community, is the latest addition to Simpson's defense team, which also includes Uelmen. (AP Photo/Chris Martinez)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Prosecutor Marcia Clark complains to the judge 27 February about a second statement by Rosa Lopez, a key defense witness, that was not released by the defense. Lopez, a housekeeper to a neighbor of O.J. Simpson's, claims to have seen a white Ford Bronco outside his home at around the time the prosecution claim the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman took place. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
Witness Brian "Kato" Kaelin testifies under direct examination during the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial at the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building in this Tuesday, March 21, 1995 photo. (AP Photo/John McCoy, Pool)
FILE - This file photo combo shows O.J. Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, left, and her friend Ron Goldman, both of whom were murdered and found dead in Los Angeles on June 12, 1994. O.J. Simpson was arrested in connection to the murder and acquitted of the crime. Simpson is now serving nine to 33 years in a Nevada prison after a jury found him guilty in 2008 of leading the gunpoint robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in Las Vegas, and he's seeking a new trial because he says his longtime lawyer failed to disclose that he knew about the plan in advance and told Simpson it was legal and provided bad advice at trial. (AP Photo/File)
FILE--Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman testifies in the Simpson double-murder trial in Los Angeles Thursday, March 9, 1995. The calm, controlled voice of Mark Fuhrman sliced through the O.J. Simpson courtroom Tuesday on racially explosive tapes offered by the defense to unmask the detective as ``L.A.'s worst nightmare,'' a racist, lying policeman. It was the same voice jurors heard months ago when the investigator who found the bloody glove on Simpson's property swore under oath that he had not used the word ``nigger'' in the last 10 years. (AP Photo/Pool, Kim Kulish)
Los Angeles Police Department Det. Philip Vannatter denied lying to the jury in the O.J. Simpson trial when he testified that he didn't consider Simpson a suspect when investigators entered his estate without a warrant Tuesday, Sept. 19, 1995, at Simpson's double-murrder trial in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy, Pool)
Los Angeles Police Department criminalist Dennis Fung, right, arrives with Brown family attorney, John Kelly, at the Los Angeles County Superior Court in Santa Monica, Calif. on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1996 for the wrongful-death civil case against O.J. Simpson. Fung was on the stand on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Michael Caulfield)
Potential O.J. Simpson alibi witness Rosa Lopez testifies in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday, March 2, 1995, without the jury present during Simpson's double-murder trial. The woman billed in Johnnie Cochran Jr.'s opening statement as the Maid With the Alibi came to court in late February, testified under protest, hopped on a plane to El Salvador and hasn't been heard from since. (AP Photo/Blake Sell, Pool)
Limousine driver Allan Park, left, testifies while attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. displays a bag during the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial in Los Angeles Wednesday, March 29, 1995. (AP Photo/Hal Garb, Pool)
Prosecutor Christopher Darden points at a chart during his closing arguments as Marcia Clark looks on, Friday, Sept. 29, 1995, in a Los Angeles courtroom during the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial. Darden said to the jurors ``It's time to stand up. It is time to stand up. The Constitution says a man has no right to kill and get away with it just because one of the investigating officers is a racist.'' (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, pool)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 19: O.J. Simpson (R) whispers to Defense attorney F. Lee Bailey (L) during testimony of FBI special agent William Bodziak 19 June during the O.J. Simpson murder trial in Los Angeles. Bodziak compared one of O.J. Simpson's tennis shoes to a model of the Italian-made Bruno Magli shoes, which left imprints at the murder scene of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 16: O.J. Simpson defense attorney Alan Dershowitz (standing) gestures during a motion to Judge Lance Ito 16 June in which he said that the standard of juror dismissals must be changed. The defense has accused the prosecution of juror targeting and hiding witnesses. Seated are (L-R) prosecutor Marcia Clark and Scott Gordon. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
Defense attorney Barry Scheck, right, continues his cross- examination of Los Angeles Police criminalist Collin Yamauchi, Friday, May 26, 1995, during the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, Pool)
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito yells in court during the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial in Los Angeles Friday, Sept. 29, 1995. (AP Photo/Eric Draper, Pool)

Donna Freydkin <>

Jun 6 (3 days ago)

to me

Ezra: Who he was and how he was portrayed during the trial was extreme.My job was to have him reflect on his experiences of this time.
I'm not his judge, I'm not his jury.

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