OJ Fact Check: No, Chris Darden and Marcia Clark Didn’t Risk Jail Over the Mark Fuhrman Tapes

FX’s “The People v O.J. Simpson” misrepresented events for the sake of drama

(Correction: a fact check on this fact check is in order. An earlier version of this story said we couldn’t find a record of Marcia Clark saying, “Shall I take off my watch and jewelry?” but we found it. She said it. A link is below.)

In the latest episode of FX’s “The People v O.J. Simpson,” Chris Darden (played by Sterling K. Brown) and Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) finally lose it over what a mess the trial has become. In a lengthy speech, Darden chastises Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) for allowing the case to become a circus, and Ito threatens to hold him in contempt. Darden asks for a lawyer, Clark rises to speak for him, and pretty soon Ito threatens to hold her in contempt, too.

“Shall I take off my watch and jewelry?” Clark coolly responds, signaling she’s willing to go to jail. It’s one of the most dramatic moments in “The People v OJ Simpson.”

The only problem? It didn’t happen in the time frame it did on the show. Welcome to OJ Fact Check.

THE POINT OF THE SCENE
Darden and Clark’s explosions are meant to dramatize their frustration over Ito’s ruling that Det. Mark Fuhrman’s despicable racist statements will be played for the jury, destroying his credibility as a prosecution witness.

THE FACTS
There was a heated exchange in which Ito threatened to hold Darden in contempt — but it happened six months before Ito’s Aug. 31, 1995 ruling on the Fuhrman tapes.

In fact, it happened on Feb. 23, 1995, over the prosecution’s objections to Johnnie Cochran’s questioning of a witness. (The Los Angeles Times has a full transcript.) The February outburst had nothing to do with Fuhrman — it was about Nicole Brown Simpson’s friend Faye Resnick.

“I’m going to hold you in contempt,” Ito told Darden.

“I should be held in contempt,” Darden responded. “I have sat here and listened to …”

“Mr. Darden, I’m warning you right now,” Ito replied.

Later, Ito told Darden to take “three deep breaths,” just as he does on the show. The judge told Darden he had cited him for contempt, and Clark requested counsel — just as he does on the show. Clark spoke for Darden, and she and Ito clashed.

Ito really did suggest Clark take “about 10 deep breaths,” and she really did say,
“Shall I take off my watch and jewelry?”

(You can find it in the transcript here, by searching that famous phrase.)

The Feb. 23, 1995 argument, like the argument shown on the show, did end with Darden apologizing to Ito.

THE VERDICT
The show has combined and condensed events before, but this was an extreme. It dramatically misrepresented the timing of the “contempt” argument, and the reason for it.

The episode would have been plenty dramatic enough without the misrepresentation.

“The People v. OJ Simpson” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX. 

'The People v OJ Simpson': Fact-Checking the Series So Far (Photos)

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