Looking Into ID’s Take on O.J.

Investigation Discovery seeks to bring a new perspective to the two-decades-old O.J. Simpson murder trial with its six-hour documentary series Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence, which premiered Sunday night (Jan. 15).

The series, which purports to have uncovered new evidence that could shed new light on the infamous 1995 “Trial of the Century,” comes in the shadow of two critically acclaimed 2016 projects: FX’s Emmy Award-winning limited series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and ESPN’s five-part docuseries O.J.: Made in America. I spoke with ID group president Henry Schleiff about the origins of Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence and how it differs from the other Simpson projects.

The series isn’t piggybacking on the FX and ESPN Simpson shows: “This is obviously a story that was really well covered last year, certainly by FX and even by ESPN, and was explored well before then,” Schleiff said. “I think most people who were aware of the case and the trial feel that at this point we know everything there is to know.

“It’s against that background that we actually went against the winds of familiarity,” he added. “We went in and said, even though we think we know everything there is to know about this and have seen everything, maybe we’re missing something. There are certain facts and evidence that we’ve never seen before that may cause us to at least consider alternative theories.”

The series reveals fresh, new findings: “There are three aspects of the show that makes this different than what’s been seen,” Schleiff said. “One is the new evidence. There’s a questionable presentation of the actual weapon involved. Without getting to specifics, there’s a look at a knit cap; then there is quote, unquote, Nicole’s watch, so some of the actual specific pieces of evidence are completely new. There’s also a closer look at old evidence that has been previously submitted both at the trial and around it. With the benefit of enhanced technology that every year increases in its sophistication, we can take another look at some of the old evidence.

“Two, we have new witnesses that for a variety of reasons are coming forward for the first time that did not come forward at the time of the trial or even after all of these years,” he continued. “We also have witnesses that have previously testified, but now with the benefit of time they have a slightly different perspective. Three, and most importantly, we present for the viewer’s consideration a new theory. Part of that new theory is the possible involvement of O.J.’s son Jason. We’ll let the six hours speak for themselves, but what I think will come out is, for the first time after all these years, you will really question whether O.J. did this alone.”

ID is not looking to retry the case: “This is not meant to convince you, but like many things we do, it’s better to raise the level of dialogue with intelligent, evidence-based arguments and truly fact-based material,” Schleiff said. “We’re very careful about our responsibility to not abuse our position as the number one network for true crime investigation. So for us to come forward with another O.J. story means that it has to be credible and worth the viewers’ time. So the challenge is to see whether the juice has been squeezed too much out of this story — no pun intended — and I think we take a look at that very scenario in a very different and compelling way.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.