Tag Archives: California State University Fullerton

It Wasn’t Just Her Hair

A story headlined The Female Gaze: Marcia Clark in ‘People v. O.J.’ faces sexism in the courts and in the media which was published in Daily Titan, the student newspaper of my alma mater, California State University, Fullerton, perpetuated at least one media generated People vs. Simpson misperception involving Marcia Clark’s hairdos.

I had to respond, so here’s what I wrote:

As L.A. Superior Court’s director of public information & media liaison during the 1990s, and was present in the courtroom every day of Simpson’s murder trial, I feel compelled to address some points in this article.

Regarding “As soon as she entered the courtroom, all eyes were on her hair.”, that is not true.

As noted in this article, Marcia Clark had two young sons who needed childcare on weekdays. Clark asked Simpson trial judge, Lance Ito, for trial proceedings to begin later than the court’s regular start time of 8:30 a.m. so she could take her boys to childcare herself, rather than have someone else do so. Ito accommodated her request by taking care of other court matters at 8:30 and scheduling trial proceedings to begin at 9 a.m. For whatever reason, however, Clark was chronically late, sometimes by half-an-hour or more. Indeed, all eyes were on her when she entered the courtroom, but not because of her hair. In fact, one morning after she had assured Ito she would be there for a specific matter, she wasn’t. He delayed and finally, with an apology to the jury, said court would remain in session with everyone seated and wait for Clark to arrive. We did, in uncomfortable silence, for many minutes. I didn’t keep track of exactly how long, but it is reflected in the court transcript. Here is my account of Clark’s morning arrival routine as described in my book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson http://www.anatomyofatrial….

“And her [Clark’s] 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, a bare arm’s reach from the jury box.”

Clark’s hair was an issue, not for trial participants, but for the news media and, I suspect, for District Attorney spokeswoman Suzanne Childs. Childs was much about appearance. Here’s another short excerpt from Anatomy of a Trial:

“Pulling me aside one day, Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti’s director of communications, Suzanne Childs, said that since the whole world was watching and forming an impression of the court and judge, she thought we should change out the florescent bulbs in the ceiling that were standard—and cast a rather harsh light—throughout the Criminal Courts Building and put in pink-tinted ones. Those, she asserted, would give the courtroom and everyone in it a softer look.”

I thanked Childs, but thought about the public outcry if the chronically underfunded court spent money on special lighting just for the sake of appearance when the media reported on it, which they would have.

It makes sense to me that Childs suggested that Clark change her hairdo, but I think it backfired. Had Clark not permed her hair in the midst of the trial, no one—either with the media or in the courtroom—would have even remarked about her hair, much less made it headline news.

MarciaClarkImage result for Marcia Clark's hairdos

I agree with this article’s assessment that unfair scrutiny is embedded in American culture, and is magnified and exacerbated by the media. I did a presentation years after the Simpson trial about how differently female attorneys in death penalty cases have been depicted in the news.

I was not immune. As you can see from my description above of Clark’s courtroom entrances I mentioned her clicking spike heels and what might be interpreted as “haughty” demeanor” (although in retrospect, she might have just felt self conscious).

And as a Cal State Fullerton alum who majored in communications/journalism, I learned from the best. –Jerrianne Hayslett

L.A. Doings — Leno, “The Soloist” and More

Getting my book “Anatomy of a Trial” on people’s radar is taking some doing — sort of like walking around the world — one step at a time.

One step out here in Los Angeles got a pleasant boost when an NBC staffer I met after one of my presentations at my alma mater, California State University, Fullerton, on Monday asked if we (hubby’s here with me) planned to go to Jay Leno’s show. We thought that would be fun, we said. She could arrange it, she said. I told her I had sent Leno a signed copy of my book — in which he’s mentioned — a couple of months ago in appreciation for his generousity during the Simpson murder trial. He had performed a private show — monologue, band, the works — for the jurors after learning that we had to scrap the idea of having the jurors, who were sequestered, attend his show in Burbank because his production crew couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be shown on TV. (California prohibits photographing and televising jurors.)

When the NBC staffer emailed me about the date and time she had arranged for us to attend the show, she said that after the taping we could meet Leno and give him a copy of my book.

The news yesterday that Leno had checked himself into the hospital because he wasn’t feeling well was certainly disturbing enough and we were wishing the best for him. This morning’s news that he’s OK and will be back at work was doubly good. He’s not seriously ill, number one. But it means our visit scheduled for Tuesday (28th) is still on. Tune in. Who knows, a camera sweep of the audience my catch our happy Cheesehead faces!

So the trip so far has included three presentations to university journalism media law classes — about 300 students and a number of faculty, and speaking to half-a-dozen service clubs and a journalism class at UCLA. I’ll do a couple more talks — a USC jounalism class and another service club — and do a radio interview before winging home to South Milwaukee next Thursday.

We’re also taking time for a little fun. In addition to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno next Tuesday, we’re hitting the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA on Sunday. I couldn’t cough up the $1,000 display book fee for “Anatomy” so we’re wearing our “Anatomy” tshirts and taking a supply of “Anatomy” bookmarks to give anyone we strike up a conversation with and attending a panel discussion on the “Packaging Fear: The Art of Persuasion” that includes former Cal State Fullerton jounalism professor, Nancy Snow, who is now on faculty at Syracuse University. It’ll be great to see her again. A friend here is hosting a small book-signing party Sunday evening. We’re hanging out with our son, Chapen, at a shoot of a TV program he’s working on as editor, and going to his kickball game on Monday night.

A highlight, though, was yesterday. We took the subway — yes, Los Angeles has a subway! — from where we’re staying in Hollywood Hills, to the Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown — catty-cornered, in fact, from the County Courthouse where I worked for more than a decade. I watched this fantastic Frank Gehrey creation go up — with its unique stainless steel tulip petal-shaped facades — mystified over where in the world the auditoruim would be located. (Turns out that’s literally a concrete box that was plopped own in the space provided in the middle of the structure.) Despite numerous trips to L.A. after we moved to South Milwaukee seven years ago, I had never toured the WD Concert Hall.

While on our guided tour yesterday, which consisted of four of us — Hib, me, a screenwriter who lives in Palos Verdes and our guide — our guide suddenly whispered, “Oh, do you know who that is?” We were outside in a gardened courtyard viewing a tulip petal-shaped projection and three people were approaching from the opposite direction. We said, no.

“It’s the soloist!” she said. “Nathaniel Ayres. The movie about him opens tomorrow night.”

Next thing we knew, she spoke to the man. She was so smooth, so low key. Then the four of us fell into conversation with him and his two companions, who turned out to be relatives visiting from Ohio. “He wanted to show us his city,” the woman, who was his sister-in-law, said.

The movie, “The Soloist,” is about Ayres, a classically trained musician who, because of mental illness, ended up homeless in Los Angeles where a Los Angeles Times columnist encountered him and began to write about him.

Ayres is no longer homeless. He’s living in an apartment, he said, with a leaky faucet. He told us about meeting Jamie Foxx who plays him in the movie, his reaction when he attended the premier (he wore a blindfold he said, which enabled him to focus on the music and other audio, and, he said, “it absorbed my tears.” Although he didn’t say specifically, it was obvious that the tears were of joy.

So a beneficial trip so far. Most gratifying is the reaction of the journalism students who were assigned “Anatomy of a Trial” as required reading and said it was a fascinating book, and members of service clubs where I’ve spoken who said they wished to program could have been longer.