Marcia Clark, Prosecutor
Marcia Clark will always be known as the L.A. District Attorney who prosecuted the circus-like murder case against O.J. Simpson in 1995. But while arguing her case in the courtroom, Clark was also defending herself against sexism in the media and among her peers. Today, as a bestselling author and executive producer of a new true-crime series on A&E, she sees a new perspective. “I think we are having an awakening right now.”
The lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial makes a great case against sexism. In her new series “Marcia Clark Investigates The First 48” on A&E Network, Clark explores some of America's most controversial and shocking unsolved crimes.
Marcia Clark, Prosecutor
Type Cast: Marcia Clark was raised to believe girls could do anything they wanted. She graduated from UCLA with honors and fluency in four languages. And yet, when she applied for a job at the State Department, “They asked me if I could type. Really? That was my first headbanging right into the cement wall of sexism.”
Women on Trial: After law school, in 1989, Clark became an L.A. County District Attorney and won 19 out of 20 first-degree murder trials. Then came O.J. Simpson—and a shift in focus from her skills to her skirts. “It was suggested that I wear pastels, that I speak more softly, that I smile more. And I thought, that’s ridiculous. This isn’t a dinner party; it’s a murder trial.”
Clark’s Day in Court: Justice wasn’t blind to Clark’s gender. Her biggest objection was to Judge Lance Ito who was “dismissive, condescending, and downright rude in a way he never was to the men.” Now Clark isn’t alone in her frustration. “I was interviewed a lot by millennials. The reporters I spoke to—both male and female—were outraged at the sexism they saw as they studied the case. ‘Did you really go through that?’ That’s a whole new world we’re living in. That’s progress.”
MARCIA CLARK: I think it was really a new experience to see a woman on the national level like this, doing a job that was typically done by men and not really something people were willing to accept yet.
I never had a sense that there was anything I couldn't do. Being a girl didn't matter. In fact, the opposite. You can do anything. And so I was kind of raised with that awareness that there are no limitations.
And they asked me if I could type. Really? That was my first, like, head banging right into the cement wall of sexism. So I went to law school. I figured, get a Law degree. They can't stop me from practicing law because I'm a woman.
It was suggested that I wear pastels, suggested that I speak more softly, suggested that I smile more. And I thought I'm not going to let these guys tell me to go curtsy and wear a pinafore. That's ridiculous. This is not a dinner party, this is a murder trial.
- Yes, Marcia Clark has a new 'do. Old Clark, new Clark.
- She found herself under scrutiny for everything, even the short skirt she wore during the tour of the Simpson estate.
MARCIA CLARK: There was not one thing I didn't know and commit to memory, nothing I didn't fix, touch, handle a million times before walking into court. If this is all you can talk about, my hair and the length of my skirts, we haven't come as far as I thought or hoped.
Ito never lost an opportunity to undermine me in front of the jury. He was dismissive, condescending, and downright rude, in a way that he never was to any of the men. He was completely oblivious to his own misogyny.
Cannot succumb to the temptation to thwart justice and throw truth out the window.
JUDGE ITO: I'm going to stop you right here, I warned you three times now.
MARCIA CLARK: OK. All we're asking is that you--
JUDGE ITO: Counsel!
MARCIA CLARK: I'm coming--
JUDGE ITO: I'm warning you. I've warned you three times now.
MARCIA CLARK: I'm concluding right now, your Honor.
JUDGE ITO: Please.
MARCIA CLARK: May I?
JUDGE ITO: Please
MARCIA CLARK: Thank you.
At the end of the day, you can't let the fact that you have a sexist on the bench affect your job. But the rulings were so terrible. I remember there was a moment in court when I was objecting, because they were going all over the place with things that were completely irrelevant, and I was overruled again and again and again. And I could feel my stomach knotting, knowing these are all wrong rulings. Every single one is burying the truth under a mountain of garbage.
There's no way to say that there wasn't enough evidence to convict. It's a question of whether you're willing to.
- We the jury, in the above entitled action, find the defendant not guilty of the crime of murder.
- The trial of O.J. Simpson is over. He is not guilty.
- Today, his imprisonment and trial are over, but the questions raised about race, the police, the judicial system are not.
MARCIA CLARK: I just remember thinking, wow, they really did it. It left me with a hole in my heart about all of the social injustice that led to a verdict like this. The divide was so profound. I walked out of the courtroom and never went back.
Every movement, you have a step forward and then there's a retraction. I think we have another awakening that's happening now and that's really a beautiful thing to see. I was interviewed a lot by millennials. The reporters I spoke to, both male and female, were outraged at the sexism they saw as they studied the case. They said, did you really go through that? Is that true? I said oh yeah. They were disbelieving, stunned, and outraged. That's a whole new world we're living in. That is progress.
MARCIA CLARK: Trust your own instincts. You cannot listen to a million voices, the cacophony of voices saying, your hair, your makeup, your clothes, your this, your that, you wear pastels, whatever. You have to go with who you are and be true to yourself and not let anybody talk you out of your own authenticity.
MARCIA CLARK: I mean, I think we are getting to a time when a woman is allowed to have a high powered job and have a family. Because women are doing it. And I think that's the only way that we make that happen, is by making that happen. So the more women who do it, the more women will be able to do it. And people have to accept it. If you're really good at what you do, if a man is looking at the fact that you have children and saying, I'm not going to hire you because of that, that's his loss. And I think increasingly, in our competitive society, you can't afford to do that anymore.
MARCIA CLARK: To me, a feminist is someone who believes in equal rights. Don't you believe in equal rights? I don't know-- and I do think-- this is a matter of civil rights. Women's equality is a matter of civil rights. Gay rights is a matter of civil rights. You are entitled to be treated equally. Why would you not want to be the standard bearer or the flag bearer for the title that says, I believe in equal rights? I don't believe that should even be controversial.
MARCIA CLARK: You can't win unless you sometimes fail. You have to try. Everything has a plus or a minus to it. When you make an effort in life and step out the door every morning, you have a chance to fail. But you also have a chance to succeed. If you're not walking out that door, you don't ever have a chance to succeed. You must get out there and never be afraid of failure, never be afraid of taking that risk, because risk is the only thing that leads to success.
MARCIA CLARK: It was suggested that I wear pastels, suggested that I speak more softly, suggested that I smile more. You have a pretty smile, Marcia. Two people had been slaughtered. What is there to smile about?
I mean-- and I was offended and yet, at the same time, thinking, well, they're right. And if I want to see justice done, maybe I should try and soften it up a little. So I tried to tone it down for a few days. And I tried to kind of pull it back and tried to talk more softly.
And had I got along with that advice, I would have been criticized for being a cream puff. Then I would have been a girl who can't handle the heat and has to get out of the kitchen and can't handle a man's job and don't-- you know, that kind of thing.
There was no winning this. This was a lose-lose proposition right from the start. And so you have to go with your gut. Be who you are. Do what you do.