Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

It’s true that Marcia Clark got a lot of grief during the Simpson trial, much of it ridiculous, so far as I was concerned. Her hairdo, her attire, shade of her lipstick. Even though I thought all the coverage of her appearance was vapid non-news didn’t mean I had a favorable opinion of her or felt sorry for her.

She struck me as arrogant, haughty, overly confident and inappropriately flirtatious toward defense attorney Johnnie Cochran — when she wasn’t fighting with him.

My sole knowledge of her was from my courtroom vantage point. What I saw each day was a woman for whom the trial judge had agreed to start court a half-hour later than he wanted to because of her child-care situation, who, as I wrote in Anatomy of a Trial, “habitually arrived later than the agreed-upon later time. And her late entrances, at times with an entire courtroom full of people—and, indeed, the entire television-viewing world—sitting and waiting, were just that. Entrances.

“Rather than trying to be unobtrusive or quiet, she would shove the courtroom door open and prance in and down the tiled aisle with the clack of her spike-heeled pumps reverberating loudly in the otherwise silent surroundings. She would push through the little swinging gates in the rail and leave them flapping behind her as she crossed the courtroom well with the eyes of spectators, defendant, fellow attorneys, bailiffs, clerk, court reporter, judge and jurors following until she finally arrived, with no hint of apology in her body language, at her place at the counsel table, barely an arm’s reach from the jury box.”

I also thought she misjudged the jury.

I had no direct communication with her and knew only what was reported about her, which might have been no more accurate than representations many members of the media made about the trial judge, Lance Ito. That said, it was my understanding that Clark believed she had connected with the jurors and that they thought the prosecution was presenting a convincing cased against Simpson.

In my book, I described my perception of the jury’s reaction to her:

“The African-American women sitting in the jury seats no doubt understood child-care problems, but more likely from a different perspective than an affluent attorney. I detected a growing disdain among the jurors for Clark’s chronic tardiness—in itself a sign of disrespect for not only for them but for the entire court and its business—the haughty demeanor she projected, and inexplicable schizophrenic alternating hostility and flirtatious posturing toward defense attorney Cochran. The black female jurors’ body language included arms crossed over chests, heads lowered with chins tucked into necks and an almost imperceptible drawing back into their seats. Certainly, none of that was lost on arguably one of the defense team’s most perceptive and incisive members in the courtroom.”

An article I read recently, made me reconsider my perception. Was what I had seen as haughtiness really her way of dealing with the stupid media stories about her appearance. Was what I saw as her nose in the air really her holding her head high to show that she was above the mindless coverage and focusing on the serious business of prosecuting a man accused of committing a double murder.

Might what seemed to me to be vamping into the courtroom, unapologetic to anyone about anything have been her way of dealing with feeling self-conscious and trying to ignore the media’s superficial tripe?

In the article, “‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’ star Sarah Paulson: It’s ‘mind-boggling’ that nobody rallied around Marcia Clark“, Paulson, who plays Clark in the miniseries is quoted as saying, “She was collectively abandoned by her people. She didn’t really have a lot of support from either other female attorneys or just women in general — and that, I think, is a great shame,” she continued. “I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know how she got up in the morning.”

Whether or not that was the case, I don’t know. But taking into consideration the ridiculous media coverage of her along with the marital and child-custody conflict going on in her personal life, which I don’t think was exaggerated in the miniseries, has made me rethink my assumption about her demeanor during the trial. How would I have acted entering a courtroom to face, not only the need to make my case, my responsibility to the people of the state I was representing, the murder victims’ families and the very people who were critiquing my clothing and hair  as if that were important news, or news at all? I wonder.

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5 responses to “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

  1. Haywood Galbreath

    I can’t say how you would have handled it for sure, but I think you would’ve handled it with the class and dignity that is supposed to come from you reference the people you were representing! I think I’m a pretty good judge of people in certain areas. Even though my opinions based on facts may not be well received! What I saw with Marcia Clark and many others was the attitude that comes with privilege! And is often said in the black community “white privilege”. That also goes for people of color who work for certain entities that are ran by white Americans.

    And let’s not be naïve, after about the second month of the trial we all begin to realize that the trial had taken a life of its on, it was becoming bigger than life itself! And everyone of us that was playing a significant part in it, from court personnel including prosecutors, the lawyers for the defense along with the expert witnesses and especially journalists. We all begin to see that we could possibly become big stars from the case! And most of us began to act accordingly! Especially the lawyers and the prosecutors who realized they could make a lot of money and have a lot of fame!

    Marcia Clark against the world, I don’t think so! With the tide of public opinion because of mainstream media, that O.J. Simpson was guilty. Anybody who was willing to go along with that was a winner in a certain way. And it doesn’t matter about the criticism Marcia Clark received. I can just about guarantee you that she had already recognized how famous she could become as well as wealthy! And she most likely had people consulting with her, to mold her public image so it would pay off big for her, and it did!

  2. You make excellent points, Haywood. I can’t disagree, except to say that having been in a negative spotlight myself, I can empathize. The most distressing situation for me was before my time with the court when I was city editor of the highly regarded, award-winning Pasadena Star News. The newspaper was bought by a Canadian conglomerate, which fired a wonderful and competent executive editor, made life so horrendous for an equally competent managing editor he resigned (the problem with both is they were journalists and the Canadian company, the Thomson Group, was a profit-at-all-costs machine with no regard for good, solid journalism), replaced the ME with a sports writer from another newspaper who was so scared because he had no idea how to do the job that he hid in a closed-door office on a different floor from the newsroom (he wouldn’t return my phone calls or meet with me — I once sat outside his office for an entire afternoon trying to get in to see him while his secretary first said he wasn’t in — I knew he was — then repeatedly said he wouldn’t see me) and gave newsroom control to an office administrator who had no journalism experience or education (she didn’t even attend college, much less graduate) who consistently put small-community afternoon tea ditties on page one and had all news stories generated by the news staff reduced to briefs which ran inside. She also started a whisper campaign against me, which resulted in an increasingly hostile news staff. My tactic, wrong or right, was to hold my head high and to continue doing the best I could under those onerous circumstances. (That untenable situation led to my applying for the director of public information position with the Court.)

  3. Um..
    How about Marcia saying to Johnnie Cochran, “And I’m not wearing any underwear”? Al D… whasshisface.. Harvard Lawyer heard it..

    You weren’t wrong.

  4. Wait..

    That article you cite says of Paulson when meeting Clark and discussing Clark goes from sympathetic to this,
    ““The first thing she said to me when I sat down with her was, ‘I want to apologize for the hair,’” Paulson said. “I didn’t meet her until we were almost done shooting, though, so I had already been wearing that wig long enough that it was like, ‘That’s a cold comfort Marcia. Thanks for nothing”

    Huh?

    Also, why would Paulson have to wear the same perfume Marcia wore?

  5. For what it’s worth, Marcia Clark received enormous media praise from the time she was named prosecutor in the case. Jeffrey Toobin wrote early on, “She’s winning so far.” In his New Yorker piece after the verdict, Toobin called Clark, “at times, brilliant.”

    Toobin was highly critical of Clark in his book, at odds with his reporting during the trial.

    Detectives Lange and Vanatter, in their book, described both Clark and Darden as being pleased with the attention the case had brought them.

    In her 1997 book, Marcia Clark writes of how much she wants to get her sons and herself out of the Glendale home they were living in. She meanders about hoping for a big trial after which her status would somehow improve.

    I believe she was looking for a big publicity trial and a book deal. She eventually got 4.2 million for “Without a Doubt.”

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