Following my recent binge-watch of The People v O.J. Simpson and subsequent devouring of Without a Doubt – prosecutor Marcia Clark’s account of the trial – my desire for more background still wasn’t satisfied. As a rule I barely read non-fiction, so I’m letting myself follow this newfound interest despite its bizarrely narrow focus. After reading Clark’s memoir, I had a hankering for something from the defense’s POV, but with such a wealth of options available I turned instead to Jeffrey Toobin’s overarching account, which formed the spine of the TV series.
The Run of His Life both expands on the show, and fills in many of the blanks naturally left in Clark’s book with regards to the machinations of the defense. As a journalist one step removed from the trial – albeit one with an incendiary role in the villainization of bigoted LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman – Toobin’s is an impartial account, although he admits early on his belief in Simpson’s guilt. Despite this, he generally comes across as being far more favourable to the defensive Dream Team, while lambasting the DA’s office in general and Clark in particular for the outcome of the trial. Toobin also gives Judge Lance Ito an easier ride than Clark did, attributing his failings to his adherence to the truth school of justice and star-struck nature, rather than general incompetence and spinelessness.
I sometimes felt that Toobin strayed too far beyond the scope of interest, delving deep into LA police history and the family lives of trial participants. In retrospect, this added important context and served to make the book a richer read, but there were certainly times I found myself blinking at the page and wondering why I needed to know about the career trajectories of Christopher Darden’s parents. Despite this propensity toward excessive background detail, I emerged from the book having learned little and less about victims Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.
One area in which Toobin’s approach surpassed Clark’s was in his book’s sense of completeness. While Without a Doubt largely ends with the trial and Clark’s role in it, The Run of His Life devotes a brief but satisfying chapter to wrapping up the aftermath for the principal participants, and summarising Simpson’s civil trial. My interest was so piqued by this latter subject that at the time of writing, I’ve already moved on to civil prosecutor Daniel Petrocelli’s account, Triumph of Justice. Furthermore, Toobin’s examination of the failings of the jury has all but guaranteed that I’ll read at least one jurist’s memoir in due course.
I really couldn’t say why this particular topic has so grabbed my interest and refused to relinquish it to such an extent, but as true crime accounts go, Toobin’s is compellingly written.
[Read from 31 May-11 June 2016]