Katherine Ryan On: The People V OJ Simpson

I’m still watching The People V OJ Simpson on BBC2. Of course I am. It’s a masterpiece. I catch myself pondering how the series will end, then I remember that OJ definitely didn’t murder Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Except that he clearly did. (If you’re NME’s lawyer reading this and you’re feeling very worried, you can relax because I’ve learned a lot about how to do perjury after watching this thing, so we’ll be cool. I’m not sure it’ll be relevant in the forthcoming libel trial against us, but I’ve also picked up a few tips on how to make it look like my gloves don’t fit me).

Brown and Goldman were found stabbed to death just days before my 11th birthday. Simpson was a person of interest to police but failed to turn himself in, becoming the object of a low-speed pursuit in his white Bronco SUV. I’m not sure of the level of UK coverage, but it took over every TV channel back home. I was staying at my best friend’s house that night, where I was allowed to eat sweets and watch scary films. Amanda’s mother bought her books about sex and let her shave her legs. She let us do whatever we wanted when I was over there, so encouraged us to watch the Bronco chase with her as it unfolded in LA. ‘He killed her, he fucking killed her!’ she screamed, either down the phone to a friend or directly at the TV screen. Amanda’s mother was a beautiful granola eccentric feminist and a survivor of abuse, so she followed her intuition that this was domestic homicide.

When you’re little, every experience writes on the canvas of who you are. Simpson was acquitted of all criminal charges in the hugely publicised trial that followed, but I was certain he’d gotten away with murder. A few years passed and a lovely girl I worked with was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend – a man I’d seen around often. I ran – actually ran – home to tell my mother after the police had been to inform us at the restaurant. ‘Mom, it’s the worst thing ever! They’ll make a MOVIE about her!’ I won’t forget the pain on my mother’s face when she sat down to explain that: ‘No, Katherine. They won’t. Because this happens every day.’ I’m 32 years old now and I’ve only just accepted that not every man will kill you if you leave him.

Isolated incidents have lateral, lasting implications. Racism is what acquitted OJ Simpson. In the wake of the horrific beating of taxi driver Rodney King by the LAPD in 1991, Simpson’s ‘dream team’ of defence lawyers (Johnnie Cochran, John Travolta and Ross from Friends) were able to cast doubt by masterfully exposing the systemic racism of the LAPD. Twenty years later, what’s changed? American police are still shooting unarmed black men in the street and the Republican front-runner for President, Donald Trump, wants to ban Muslims and Mexicans from entering the country. As my six-year-old daughter put it: ‘Why is it these guys against those guys when we should all just be good guys against bad guys?’ Because we’re just too stupid, honey.