“People Like Stories …”

15-oj-people.w529.h352It was finally said. I had been waiting and waiting and finally, eight and a half hours into The People v. OJ Simpson, someone said it. The thing I had been saying for the previous eight weeks, the – to me – one, clear, overriding, theme of the trial.

Something I had gleefully relayed to my clients, over and over again – um, this might be a good time to apologize, so, ah, sorry – was finally said aloud by Chris Darden (a great Sterling K. Brown): “People like stories. It helps them make sense of things.”

It was obvious to me from pretty early on that this trial – one I saw live, day in and day out while I was studying for the Bar exam, but didn’t see this then – was about story telling.

The prosecution had overwhelming evidence – and proceeded accordingly. The defense told stories. The prosecution talked blood trails, and gloves, and science, and more science, and matter-of-factually laid out a building block, evidentiary case. The defense presented a protagonist, several antagonists, colorful side characters, humor, pathos, theories, and fleshed it out with scenes complete with dialogue.

Marcia and Chris presented the jury with a law school casebook, a scientific journal, and a criminal procedure manual. Johnny, Barry, Bob, and the rest of the defense showed them LA Law.

It was never a contest, as Darden finally realized – at a time when the People’s best bet was a mistrial and a ‘do over.’

The storytellers won out – in the criminal trial. The civil trial, which began less than a year later, was handled by a torts attorney, a man used to telling stories. He told a better one that time around.

It really is all about the stories.

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