OJ25: Roger Cossack anchors explosive new look at OJ Simpson trial

Photo: OJ25 Key Art.. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Court TV.
Photo: OJ25 Key Art.. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Court TV. /

OJ25 is the OJ Simpson trial like you’ve never seen it before, and host Roger Cossack tells Precinct TV what makes Court TV’s new series tick.

It’s been a quarter-century since the OJ Simpson trial, and Court TV is bringing the trial back into the headlines with the definitive TV series about one of the country’s most well-known and hotly debated crimes. OJ25 takes viewers through the entire trial, step by step, over 37 weeks—with unique insight from legal analyst Roger Cossack.

Not only did Roger originally cover the trial for CNN, but he’s a former Los Angeles prosecutor, so he has a distinct professional perspective. He also has a personal one: his friendship with Robert Shapiro, one of Simpson’s defense attorneys. When you put all those things together, no one can look at this historic legal event quite like Cossack, and certainly no one has been more ambitious than Court TV in devoting so much air time to this project!

Precinct TV connected with Roger Cossack recently to discuss what he believes OJ25 brings that true crime fans haven’t seen or heard before, how his perspective on OJ Simpson’s case changed over 25 years, and everything you need to know about this massive series.

Precinct TV: OJ25 may have viewers who weren’t alive when the OJ Simpson trial took place, or were very young. How do you appeal to both new viewers and those who remember the case?

More from True Crime

Roger Cossack: In 25 years, there are a whole group of people who either weren’t alive or didn’t see most of it but are still interested. OJ Simpson was the trial of the century. It seems to be everlasting as a cultural phenomenon. I don’t think interest has ever really waned.

The goal was to go back [and] be able to present the trial with analysis, with interviews, in a way that people can go back and view it and see what happens and satisfy their interest.

PTV: There have been many OJ documentaries, but OJ25 is unique because of your involvement. Was making this series, and revisiting this subject, different for you because of your ties to the material?

RC: Yes, and I didn’t realize that it was going to be as different as it was until we started doing it. The reason is when I did it the first time, what I was doing was analyzing what was happening [in the trial]—really not looking at it in the sense of an overview, of a beginning, a middle, and an end, because every day was a new day.

This time, knowing how it ended, knowing what went on during the trial, I view it much differently. Things happened that had an impact on the trial—the way Judge Ito acted, the way Judge Ito treated the defense, the way Judge Ito treated the prosecution. I didn’t realize at the time, perhaps, the impact that was having. But you see little things that went along during the trial, that along with the evidence…you began to see why that ending happened.

PTV: Are there particular aspects of OJ25 that you believe set it apart from all of the other true crime coverage we’ve seen of this case?

RC: I remember very clearly, people thought at the end of the day, the jury will come back and find him guilty. There was a great deal of [surprise] when the jury acquitted him. There’s been a lot of criticism of the prosecution; how could they possibly lose this? The defense was overwhelming, and the defense was good. It was obviously a terrific, terrific defense. But now, I think if you look at this, you see that the prosecution’s case…the job of proving it beyond a reasonable doubt with the evidence they had was much more difficult than we realized at the time.

They had three avenues of evidence. One was the bloody glove that was found by [Mark] Fuhrman, one was the DNA, and one was the timeline. That was the evidence. So now you take the bloody glove found by Fuhrman. Fuhrman turns out the be the guy whose motives are highly questionable, who lies on the witness stand, gets caught using terrible racist terms in front of a predominantly African-American jury. If I was an African-American, I simply wouldn’t have believed anything this guy said. So now here’s one-third, and I’m using that term roughly, of their presentation that’s questionable.

Now you have the timeline. A great deal of that timeline, at least the beginning of it, was based upon the howling of the dog. It wasn’t a person that came and said, “I saw this,” or, “I heard this,” or, “I know this to be the time.” There was an assumption that when the dog started howling was in and around when the slaying event happened. But who knows why that dog was howling? It’s a nice narrative to think that the dog was upset because it was Nicole’s dog, and the dog was crying because of what happened to Nicole. How do you know that beyond a reasonable doubt?

Finding the DNA everyone thought was going to be the determinative factor, and it turns out that there was a great deal of discussion about whether or not that DNA was contaminated. The prosecution’s job is to prove that case beyond a reasonable doubt. What this documentary will show is that, that the prosecution didn’t have such an easy job, and the defense was terrific.

Photo: Roger Cossack hosts Court TV’s OJ25. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Court TV. /

PTV: What are you hoping that OJ25 leaves viewers with? How are you hoping it changes their perspective on OJ Simpson and this murder trial?

RC: One is is an understanding. The prosecution has received over the years a great deal of criticism that they folded, that they lost the unlosable case. If we go back and now analyze this, you see that there were problems with the prosecution, and when you go to a jury, the jury is instructed to don’t convict anybody unless you’re convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s not in your heart to know he’s guilty and so forget the evidence, I’m just going to do what I know is right. I have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. And what is reasonable doubt? My reasonable doubt may be different than yours, and hopefully it is. That’s why you have 12 people on the jury.

But nevertheless, there were questions with the evidence. It wasn’t anything that the prosecution did wrong. It was just that Mark Fuhrman found the glove. It could have been anybody else and we wouldn’t have had these problems. But no, it was Mark Fuhrman. The DNA should’ve been unshakeable, but there were problems in how they collected the DNA. The timeline was tough, because it was a short timeline. It made it difficult to believe that Simpson could have been the murderer, gone back to his house, gone to the airport, and gotten on an airplane.

And so you had these problems. It really was the evidence. The prosecution was stuck with this evidence. The brilliance of Robert Shapiro in this was that…he pressed the prosecution to have a speedy and immediate trial, perhaps robbing them of their time to prepare, so when they went to trial, they went to trial with whatever evidence they had. Most people just said, “Well, if he’s guilty, he’ll get convicted.” But I think once you start breaking this down and analyzing it, you’ll have a better understanding of why he might not have been.

PTV: Why do you think OJ Simpson’s story is still so compelling? What is it about this crime that left such a huge mark on American legal history?

RC: 25 years ago, OJ Simpson was a person known by the name OJ. He didn’t have to say Simpson. Today, we have a lot of people who are known by one name [but] in those days, there was Cher and there was maybe one or two others. You go back and think about those days, one name was not very common. OJ was OJ at a time when people used both names. I think people have to realize what an American hero he was.

If anything, I would criticize the prosecution. I’m not sure they ever understood that it was going to be more difficult to convict OJ Simpson in Los Angeles, where he was at that time perhaps a hero. That’s difficult to describe. Marcia [Clark] had a long history of getting convictions in South Central Los Angeles of gang members and people like that, and I think that in some ways, she thought that this trial was going to be the same kind of trial.

I would fault the prosecution for, I would suspect, not understanding of the difficulty or the depth of the feeling about OJ Simpson in Los Angeles. I think that’s something that Simpson thought about. Today, he’s a pariah. He’s not thought of very much and certainly has fallen from grace, but in those days, he was really something.

Next. Live PD sets another TV record. dark

OJ25 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Court TV. You can find Court TV in your area or stream the channel online here.