LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman cast a long shadow of reasonable doubt during the O.J. Simpson trial when recorded conversations between himself and aspiring screenwriter Laura Hart McKinny surfaced. The Fuhrman tapes, as they would come to be known, were a flagrant contradiction of the sworn testimony that Fuhrman had given earlier under cross-examination during the trial: That he had not, to his recollection, used the N-word in the past ten years. In those tapes, Fuhrman not only used it, but described committing various acts of police brutality (an L.A. public defender’s investigation later determined that he was exaggerating on the latter point).
The ninth and penultimate episode of FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson is devoted to the tapes, which Johnnie Cochran and his defense team would use to say that Fuhrman was not only a racist, but a racist who could have planted evidence to frame O.J. Simpson. Cochran called Fuhrman a “lying, perjuring genocidal racist.” Even prosecutor Marcia Clark closed her argument asking, “Is he a racist? Yes. Is he the worst LAPD has to offer? Yes.” So how is the man who emerged as the most controversial figure of the trial — second perhaps only to O.J. Simpson himself — doing? Pretty well, actually.
What happened to Mark Fuhrman after the trial?
Right afterward, Fuhrman was charged with perjury, to which he pleaded no contest, received three years’ probation, and paid a $200 fine. (It was then expunged from his record.) He retired during the trial, and like many of the major figures involved, wrote a book about his experiences. Murder in Brentwood, published by Regnery in 1997, shot up to the top of the New York Times best-seller list, and positions Fuhrman as a victim of America’s racial inequities. In the preface, the publisher Alfred S. Regnery writes, “It became apparent that somebody would have to be sacrificed … and the way he would be sacrificed would be to exploit racial conflict.”
Did he perjure himself?
In the exchange between defense attorney F. Lee Bailey and Fuhrman, Bailey had asked if he had used the N-word in the past ten years, to which Furhman replied, “Not that I recall, no.” In his book, he explains that he was referring to “the habitual use in the course of a lifetime” rather than particular instances. Whether this is perjury depends somewhat on whether you consider this issue materially relevant to the case. Perjury isn’t simply telling an untruth on the witness stand. (Lying about your age isn’t perjury unless the case were about retirement benefits, for instance.) Therefore the perjury depends on whether you see Fuhrman’s use of the word as materially relevant to the murder trial.
What does he think of Johnnie Cochran?
Obviously, he isn’t a fan of the man who dragged him throughout the trial. “Johnnie Cochran has been playing the race card for much of his professional life,” writes Fuhrman in Murder in Brentwood. “Was Johnnie Cochran really concerned with racism, or just money?” In fact, he thinks that Cochran is a hypocrite for going after him for using a racial slur when he apparently uses it. “Johnnie Cochran deems the ‘N’ word as a term of affection,” he writes.
What’s Fuhrman doing now?
After the success of Murder in Brentwood, Fuhrman would embark on a true-crime spree, writing Murder in Greenwich, Murder in Spokane, and a number of others (his last book was 2009’s The Murder Business). He then became a TV and radio personality with his own talk-radio show, “It’s All About Crime With Mark Fuhrman,” and then “The Mark Fuhrman Show.” He is now a forensic and crime-scene expert for Fox News.
What kind of commenting does he do?
Well, for one, he came on as an expert for the Michael Brown murder, saying that Darren Wilson “almost lost consciousness” in a struggle that ended when he shot Brown six times. In that video, Fuhrman also suggests that a cut Brown has on his finger could be the result of Brown trying to take Wilson’s gun. “I am wondering if that could have possibly been caused by grabbing the weapon,” he tells Megyn Kelly. “It’s a possibility.”
Is Mark Fuhrman watching FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson?
His agent told Vulture that he isn’t watching the show and consequently isn’t commenting on it. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have opinions! “It is sad that this movie will be the historical word on this infamous trial,” Fuhrman told the New York Post. “This miniseries will most probably define not the historical record of the murder of two people, but the almost pathological desire to elevate a narcissistic, violent man to victim status just because he was a black athlete.”
Is this the first time someone has played Mark Fuhrman on television?
Nope! USA aired a TV movie adaptation of Murder in Greenwich, where none other than Christopher Meloni played Fuhrman.
What happened to Laura Hart McKinny (the woman who made the Fuhrman tapes as part of a larger project interviewing LAPD officers for a screenplay she was developing)?
McKinny is now a professor of screenwriting in the film department of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She eventually wrote a novel called Men Against Women using the material from her tapes. “I didn’t set out to interview a racist,” McKinny recently told THR.
So how does he explain the tapes?
Fuhrman apologized a number of times for the tapes, including during an interview with Diane Sawyer, another with Oprah Winfrey, and in Murder in Brentwood. He offers up a number of explanations in his book, which hinge on the fact that he claims he wasn’t speaking as himself, but as a character creating “fictional situations, sometimes based loosely on true incidents.” He writes:
When I was making up dialogue, I spoke in the first person. But these weren’t my own words, my own experiences, or my own sentiments,” writes Fuhrman. “They were the words of fictional characters I had created based on my imagination and experience. I knew I had to exaggerate things to make the screenplay dramatic and commercially appealing … And since Laura and I sometimes drank wine while we had our recorded conversations, occasionally I got a little carried away.
Come on. Is that true?
According to the defense, there was only one identifiable instance where Fuhrman seemed to be speaking as a “fictional character.” Testifying during the trial, McKinny said she had outlined the point of the interviews to him: “I told him that I wanted to write a fictional piece based on fact, so it was very important to me that I had a really clear idea of what some police officers would say in a given situation, so that the instances that he would give me would be as factual and realistic as possible.”