Marcia Clark, one of the lead prosecutors in O.J. Simpson’s infamous 1995 double murder trial, says it’s “incredibly painful” to watch a new dramatized television series about the case — and that if Simpson were white or not a celebrity, he would have been convicted.
In a lengthy interview with the Daily Mail, Clark, now 62 and a successful fiction author, suggested that she will grudgingly watch the new FX TV series The People vs. O.J. Simpson, but only because she “can’t not look.”
“It was a terrible tragedy. Two innocent people were brutally murdered — whatever anybody thinks about Simpson’s guilt — the murderer never was brought to justice,” Clark told the Daily Mail.
“But it’s like a train wreck. I can’t help but look at [it],” she added. “I don’t want to because I don’t want to relive it.”
The new FX series premiered Tuesday night, and was a hit both with critics and on social media. Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Simpson, while John Travolta plays attorney Robert Shapiro and Sarah Paulson plays Clark. The 10-episode series, which hails from Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy, retells the story of the sensational trial that gripped America in the summer of 1995 and that forever changed the landscape of media, culture and race relations in the country.
“At the time that I got the case, the only experience anybody had of a high-profile case was that cameras would be there for the arraignment and they might show up again at sentencing or verdict but there wasn’t gavel-to-gavel coverage,” Clark told the Daily Mail. “The kind of coverage that Simpson got was unprecedented. There was no way to anticipate that there was going to be the media experience that it was.”
Clark believes the trial was so captivating to Americans because it had everything, including “issues of race and celebrity and the impact those two issues have on the criminal justice system.” Simpson was ultimately found not guilty of the double-murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, on October 3, 1995 — but Clark told the Mail that if Simpson were white, he would have been convicted.
“I do believe that,” she said. “I also think that if Mr. Simpson had been Mr. Jones and not a famous football star but still an African-American, I think he also might have been convicted. I think it was a combination of the two – race and celebrity.”
The former prosecutor, who left her job after losing the Simpson trial, said that she knew race was going to play a big factor in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
“It was virtually ensured that the defense was going to make race an issue in order to get the African-American jurors to mistrust the evidence and mistrust the police,” Clark said. “They played on the racial divide when it came to law enforcement. And that happened as a matter of course… In the Simpson case I knew it was going to play a factor for sure. How big a factor was only in question for the first month after the murders.”
As for why she gave up her job after losing the trial, Clark said she “lost [her] faith” in the criminal justice system.
“The impact of the Simpson trial was an unpredictable thing in terms of my ability to prosecute cases anymore. And then I lost my faith,” she said. “I had always felt that, largely, the jury would come through — particularly when you have a case with so much evidence. So many things happened during that trial that disillusioned me about the criminal justice system. I just couldn’t bear to do it anymore.”
Read the rest of Clark’s interview with the Daily Mail here.
The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. on FX.