Tag Archives: Robin Clark

Fallen Reporter Brings Warring Factions Together

We all were at war,

Then gathered in Clark’s honor.

Became family.


Author Joe McGinniss hosted a gathering to honor and memorialize Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Robin Clark a few days after he was killed in a car crash. The memorial was held at a house in Beverly Hills McGinniss was renting while he attended the Simpson trial. (Even though McGinniss occupied one of the highly coveted courtroom media seats, and had presented a letter from a publisher who had contracted with McGinniss to write a book about the trial, he never did.) The gathering included not only the trial press corps, but members of the defense and prosecution teams and Simpson’s sister and brother-in-law, Shirley and Bennie Baker. Although the trial judge, Lance Ito, was also invited, he declined and asked me to represent him.

Here’s a short excerpt from Anatomy of a Trial about that remarkable evening:

“People hugged and mingled and talked quietly after arriving. I couldn’t help but think that no one would ever have known that some of these people were on opposite sides in a double-murder trial. McGinniss talked about some of the conversations he had had with Clark, including one about the difficulty Clark had reconciling himself with his father, an educated man who became a derelict and hung out on street corners with ne’er-do-wells.

“’Recently,’ McGinniss said, ‘Robin had started writing about his father and gave me the few first pages for an assessment. After reading them, I told him to keep going.’

“But, of course, the rest of the story died with Robin in the car crash.

“McGinniss invited anyone else who want to speak to do so.

“AP reporter Deutsch stepped forward. After relating several anecdotes about Clark, she surveyed the group. While most of the people present were strangers at the beginning of the Simpson case, she observed, ‘Like it or not, we have become a family.’

“But that was a brief and rare moment of unity in an otherwise distinctly dysfunctional ‘family,’ rife with bickering, rivalry, contempt, envy and disparate philosophies, perspectives and goals.”

One Death and Potentially a 2nd One Shakes the Press Corps

I wrote two haiku on this date 20 years ago because of two events that never made onto the main stage of the trial. One was momentously tragic, the other the prelude of what could have been parent’s worst nightmare — and a less violent echo of the reason for the trial.

Robin Clark was here.

No promise of tomorrow.

Empty courtroom seat.


Here’s the lead in as I included in Anatomy of a Trial. The day was Friday, August 4, three days before I wrote the above haiku:

“I didn’t get to the courtroom until the mid-morning break. When court reconvened, a woman I hadn’t seen before was sitting next to me. She wore the proper badge for the seat, so I figured she had worked a deal with Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Robin Clark, who normally sat there. Strange, I thought. Clark never missed a day in court.”

It turned out, he never sat there or in any other courtroom seat again.

Neither did the woman in Robin’s courtroom seat that Friday. She was a friend of Robin’s cousin. Both she and the cousin were visiting from out of town. After court that day, Robin took the women sightseeing. All three were killed in an automobile crash in Malibu.

It hit all of the media covering the trial hard. Robin was very well liked. I also wrote in Anatomy about the moving memorial gathering members of the media held for him. Another very well liked member of the media, magazine writer/book author Dominick Dunne didn’t attend the gathering.

He was the subject of the second haiku I wrote on August 7, 1995, which was.

His son was missing

Gone for a mountain bike ride

More Dunne tragedy?


I picked up the story in Anatomy: 

” The answering machine in my office the following Monday was jammed with messages making sure I knew about Robin. Then Dominick Dunne called who had a crisis of his own. His son, an experienced cyclist, hadn’t returned from a weekend ride in the Arizona mountains. Dunne was frantic and planned to stay by the phone rather than come to court. He might even go to Arizona, he said. He wanted Ito to know why he wasn’t there and hoped it wouldn’t be held against him and take away his courtroom seat.

“Dunne didn’t lose his seat, but because he was still waiting for news about his son, he did miss the memorial service. ”

The “More Dunne tragedy?” reference was to the fact that his daughter, the actress Dominique Dunne, was murdered in the early 1980s, and his ex-wife was crippled with multiple sclerosis.

Dunne’s son returned from his ride several days later, unharmed and unaware of the ruckus he had caused.

The Book Author Who Didn’t Dies

Reading this morning that Fatal Vision and The Selling of the President 1968 author Joe McGinniss died, I repressed the urge to say, another one bites the dust.

Joe’s death follows that of a number of notables from the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial–fellow authors Dominick Dunne and Joseph Bosco; defense attorneys Robert Kardashian and Johnnie Cochran; newspaper reporters Andrea Ford, Dennis Schatzman and Robin Clark (killed in an automobile collision late in the trial), at least one juror, Tracy Kennedy–although McGinniss ended up shucking the chance to profit from it after investing daily attendance at court proceedings for more than a year.

In Anatomy of a Trial (published in 2009 by University of Missouri Press), Joe makes his entrance at my office in the Los Angeles County Courthouse within days of Joe Bosco. Here are a couple of excerpts that spotlight the rivalry and contempt among writers of various stripes who intended to cover the trial:

Bosco, author of Blood Will Tell, about a DNA-based court case in New Orleans, arrived in my office in late August 1994 full of hand wringing and teeth gnashing over the news that he might not get a courtroom seat in the Simpson case. …

With his graying mane flopping over a forehead festooned with bushy eyebrows, he hrumphed at newspaper reporters, who were “at the bottom of the food chain,” getting seats over himself, Joseph Bosco, who had paid his reporting dues and graduated to the fine art of writing books. He spewed indignation that Fatal Vision author Joseph McGinniss, whom Bosco called a hack, was going to get a seat and Bosco might not. The very idea was unthinkable to any rational human being who had the slightest modicum of intelligence or literary knowledge. …

Joe McGinniss was the yin to Bosco’s yang. Quiet, unpretentious and anything but flamboyant, McGinniss washed in to my office not long after Bosco with the advent of Southern California’s rainy season. Intent on learning the terrain and players, he seemed oblivious to his dripping jacket and rivulets of water running off strings of his gray hair and into his eyes. He announced sometime into the trial that he wasn’t talking to anyone or doing any research. His book would be from the jury’s point of view and based entirely on what occurred in the courtroom.

Although Bosco beat McGinniss to Los Angeles, McGinniss had the upper hand. Within days after Ito got the Simpson case, McGinniss wrote to him requesting a seat. Ito agreed, then told me. It was a done deal. Ito would not go back on his word, even though in hindsight after learning the ultimate fate of the book McGinniss said he was going to write, he might have decided otherwise. At the end of the trial McGinniss ditched his book project and reportedly took off for Europe to cover international soccer.

Veteran reporter, Linda Deutsch, who is in her 47th year with The Associated Press as its renowned legal affairs reporter whose coverage goes back to the 1970 Charles Manson mass murder trial, was outraged than any book author got a media seat at the trial. Here’s what I wrote in Anatomy about her reaction:

While hers was a cult of professionalism as opposed to the cult of personality that imbued so much of the nouveau journalism that was emerging in the mid-1990s, Deutsch could express righteous indignation with the best of them. An example is when the Simpson trial seating plan included seats allocated to people who were writing books.

“That’s unconscionable,” she fumed, puffing up her five-foot-tall frame, her cloud of champagne-colored hair fairly shivering. “They’re just in it for the money. They won’t be reporting anything to anyone until their books come out months after the trial.”

And Joe McGinniss’s didn’t come out at all, and never will.

While we all know none of us will get out of this life alive, the departure is a bit unnerving when one among the Simpson-trial ranks, which, as Deutsch observed at the memorial gathering for Robin Clark, who was about 40 years old, that Joe McGinniss held at his rented Beverly Hills house following Clark’s shocking and untimely death in August of 1995, had become family.