It's been more than 20 years since Los Angeles police arrested and charged O.J. Simpson with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. But his trial has been catapulted back into the cultural zeitgeist this year with the critically acclaimed FX miniseries "The People v. O.J. Simpson" and the ABC/ESPN documentary series “O.J.: Made in America.”
The reasons behind the renewed fascination are no mystery for Marcia Clark, the former L.A. prosecutor tasked with laying out the case against Simpson in 1995. In a one-on-one interview with host Phil Ponce, Clark says Simpson’s trial brought to the forefront questions about race and the criminal justice system that are still being raised today, with police shootings of young black men like Michael Brown and Laquan McDonald that have grabbed national headlines.
“It so encapsulates major issues that are still troubling and plaguing us today—the issue of the racial divide and the difference in the way the black community views law enforcement with mistrust,” she said.
“Today that’s still very much in play and I think today maybe we understand better why that’s so, with the advent of body cams, dashcams, surveillance cameras. We’re seeing footage of police shootings and contacts between police and members of the black community that show you why there is that mistrust. And it very much had an impact on the Simpson case.”
Clark said she initially had been cautious of both the “People v. O.J. Simpson” and “O.J.: Made in America.” In the FX series, Clark is played by Sarah Paulson (“American Horror Story”), whose performance has been heralded by Vanity Fair for transforming Clark into a feminist icon.
“I don’t know what a feminist icon feels like,” Clark said. “It’s nicer to be called that than a bitch, so I’ll take it. But it’s nice to be understood.”
Clark said Paulson did a “phenomenal job” on the series, which she says turned out much better than what she originally envisioned.
“I was really surprised by how good it was. I didn’t expect it,” she said. “When I first heard it was going to come out, I was just really dreading it because for me, it’ll never be entertainment. It was a nightmare that I lived every day. But then I saw it and I thought she was brilliant in the way that she was able to show you how I was feeling.”
After the trial, Clark resigned from her post as deputy district attorney and wrote a memoir, “Without A Doubt.” Clark has also dived into writing mystery novels. Her latest book, “Blood Defense,” follows a criminal defense attorney who represents an LAPD detective accused of killing a television star.
“I was always addicted to crime since from the time I was really, really little, and it was kind of weird,” Clark said. “I really wanted to write crime stories but as I grew older, I realized that’s not a very realistic way to make a living, so I wound up going to law school.”
Read an excerpt of “Blood Defense,” below.
I raced into the studio and hopped into the empty chair in front of Bonnie, the makeup wizard. I had just five minutes till airtime. She gave me an exasperated look as she whipped the red nylon cape around me.
The television in the makeup room—always tuned to the stu- dio’s news programs—showed a reporter standing in front of Chloe Monahan’s apartment. I turned to look. Bonnie grabbed my chin and turned my head back. But I couldn’t help myself. My head swiveled around again when the reporter snagged the lead detective for a sound bite. Bonnie gave an exasperated huff. I turned back to face the mirror again. “Sorry.”
I kept thinking they’d come up with some new leads. Or actually, any leads—period. So far, there was nothing but speculation, and most of it centered on the burglar theory. The only other possible suspect I’d heard mentioned was a drug dealer. But no one was giving that idea much play—in large part because the source was Amanda Trace, the snarling muckraker who hosted Justice on Fire! Even Tony Banks, a fre- quent guest on her show and one of my fellow criminal defense attor- neys, disagreed and pointed out that Chloe had been clean for nearly a year. Tony could kiss that guest spot good-bye. No one was allowed to argue with Queen Trace. Which was one of the many reasons I refused to do her show. Her producers started calling after my first appearance on Sheri’s show, Crime Time, and though I’ve turned them down consis- tently, they still haven’t given up. I don’t know whether they’re admirably tenacious or mush-brained robots who have me on speed dial.
I heard Chloe Monahan’s voice on the television and the shock of it made me jerk my head toward the screen again—but it was just a clip from her interview on Ellen. Bonnie put her hands on her hips and fixed me with a death ray. “Once more, Brinkman, and I’ll let you go out there looking like a raccoon in drag.”
My sparring partner for the evening, lawyer Barry Stefanovich, sauntered in and flopped down into the seat next to mine. “Actually, that sounds kind of cute.” Bonnie shot him a dagger. Barry blew her a kiss and turned his chair to face me. “Hey, Sam.” I didn’t think I could rock the “raccoon in drag” look, so I kept still and just wiggled my fin- gers at him. He nodded at the television. “When they get the guy, are you going to try for it? It’s gonna be huge.”
Which is always good for business. And as Michelle, childhood BFF, paralegal, and the lone “associate” in my firm, the Law Offices of Brinkman and Associates, would say: “Take the damn case; we need the money.” Ordinarily, it would be a no-brainer. I’ve handled uglier cases that had no publicity benefits, but this was different. I’d been a fan of Dark Corners—and of Chloe in particular. I’d seen her on the late-night talk-show circuit. She was cool, very real, not actress-y. And she was funny. In that weird, sort of ridiculous way we have of bonding with people we see only on television, I felt like I knew her. So my human side said, No frigging way. But the lawyer in me said, Isn’t that why you got into this business to begin with? To stick up for the underdog? I shook my head. “I don’t know.”
Excerpted from Blood Defense, A Samantha Brinkman Novel with permission of the publisher, Thomas & Mercer. Copyright © 2016 Marcia Clark.
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