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What if the OJ Simpson trial happened in 2016? Marcia Clark weighs in




Marcia Clark, formerly the lead prosecutor of the O.J. Simpson murder case, at KPCC's studios on April 22nd, 2016.
Marcia Clark, formerly the lead prosecutor of the O.J. Simpson murder case, at KPCC's studios on April 22nd, 2016.
Dan Tuffs for KPCC
Marcia Clark, formerly the lead prosecutor of the O.J. Simpson murder case, at KPCC's studios on April 22nd, 2016.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark points to a chart as she describes to jurors where evidence was found at O.J. Simpson's home during opening statements in the O.J. Simpson murder trial 24 January in Los Angeles, CA. Simpson is accused of the 12 June 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman.
POOL/AFP/Getty Images
Marcia Clark, formerly the lead prosecutor of the O.J. Simpson murder case, at KPCC's studios on April 22nd, 2016.
Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark (L) talks with fellow prosecutor Christopher Darden during court proceedings 26 January 1995 in Los Angeles. The O.J. Simpson trial was delayed by the hospitalization of prosecutor William Hodgman and continuing fray over the defense's failure to turn over the names of its anticipated witnesses
POOL/AFP/Getty Images
Marcia Clark, formerly the lead prosecutor of the O.J. Simpson murder case, at KPCC's studios on April 22nd, 2016.
Marcia Clark, formerly the lead prosecutor of the O.J. Simpson murder case, at KPCC's studios on April 22nd, 2016.
Dan Tuffs for KPCC
Marcia Clark, formerly the lead prosecutor of the O.J. Simpson murder case, at KPCC's studios on April 22nd, 2016.
THE PEOPLE v. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY "Conspiracy Theories" Episode 107 (Airs Tuesday, March 15, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX
Ray Mickshaw/FX
Marcia Clark, formerly the lead prosecutor of the O.J. Simpson murder case, at KPCC's studios on April 22nd, 2016.
Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark carries documents during the morning court session in the O.J. Simpson murder trial 08 March in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Police Detective Tom Lange continued to testify as to his actions in investigating the crime scene.
POOL/AFP/Getty Images
Marcia Clark, formerly the lead prosecutor of the O.J. Simpson murder case, at KPCC's studios on April 22nd, 2016.
A still from the "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" episode of "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story." Pictured: (l-r) Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden.
Ray Mickshaw/FX


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The last time you found yourself talking about Marcia Clark, it was probably after the moving finale of FX's "American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson" this month.

Sarah Paulson's portrayal of Clark, the lead prosecutor in the Simpson trial, was nuanced, sympathetic and compelling. Even the real life Marcia Clark agrees: "I was really, up until the very last minute, thinking 'I don't want to relive this nightmare.' That was 15 months of hell," said Clark. "But the performances were phenomenal. Sarah Paulson — unbelievable! She's so incredibly talented."

Clark, for her part, has kept busy since the trial. She wrote a tell-all memoir, appeared on TV more times than she can count, and since 2012 has found a new career: crime fiction novelist.

Clark's latest book, "Blood Defense," looks at the murder of a beloved but troubled Hollywood starlet through the eyes of criminal defense attorney Samantha Brinkman. "This is a woman with a tortured past," said Clark. "And kind of a twisted, warped view of justice."

"I wanted to write a book that incorporated all of my experience as a criminal lawyer," said Clark. "I used to be a defense lawyer before I was a prosecutor."

Clark tells a tale of murder, fame and family that's both familiar and new: social media and tech play a crucial role in every character's life. So we asked Clark: if the Simpson trial, one of the most covered trials in American history, happened today, how would the case be different?

Race would still play a factor

The trial of O.J. Simpson raised questions not just about the defendant, but also the Los Angeles Police Department and race in America. Clark believes there's still no avoiding a topic like that today.

The factor, to me, the biggest one and what was the biggest influence on the case, was the subject of race. And the fact that it happened just a couple years after the Rodney King riots, which was huge. And the tension — especially in downtown Los Angeles and the criminal courts building — was enormous. 

But nowadays, we've just had a spate of police shootings. We've seen Ferguson, we've seen Laquan McDonald, we've seen Trayvon Martin, in a way, although the shooter was not a cop. They weren't even going to arrest Zimmerman! That was shocking to me.

We've seen it in a visceral form in all this footage: body cam, dash cam. I think that has really brought the issue to the forefront again. So we might be confronting a very similar feeling.

Social media would be unavoidable, obviously

"We didn't have to deal with [social media] — I'm so grateful for that," said Clark. "Can you imagine?"

Coverage of the trial made celebrities out of nearly everyone involved in the case. Factor in Twitter, Facebook and the pursuit of celebrities on social media, and their online privacy could vanish.

But social media could have impacted the trial, too. Anything posted online by the victim, suspect or witnesses could potentially be used as evidence. Clark says that could have helped with Mark Fuhrman's testimony: "That was, to me, one of the things that was so horrible and painful, was that he never told us about the tapes that existed, about this writer that he spoke to. If we'd known, yeah, it would've been horrible. But I could've put it out there right to begin with and dealt with it."

Technology could have made it easier for the prosecution

Any fan of Serial remembers that cell phone usage can tell you a lot about a murder case — not just who a person called, but where they were when they made the call. "So you can access the cell towers and tell where [O.J.] was, where [Nicole Brown Simpson] was, where Ron [Goldman] was," said Clark. "Not to mention where Mark Fuhrman was."

The defense might bring up Simpson's concussion history in the NFL

The fallout after the TV series brought in new speculation that Simpson, a five-time Pro Bowl running back, might have suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. While Clark doesn't doubt that's a possibility, would it have changed the circumstances of the case? 

"There is — to my knowledge — it does not promote the kind of planning behavior that you see in him. Getting the knife, getting the gloves — the knit cap. This was a warm Summer night — you're not going to have these items with you," said Clark. "I've never heard that CTE causes that kind of behavior, I've heard that it causes explosive rage."