Marcia Clark Fact-Checks 'The People v. O.J. Simpson' To Tell The Truth & Nothing But The Truth
You can't believe everything you see on TV, but according to Marcia Clark, you can believe most of what you saw on FX's recent docuseries, American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. While some details were left out, others added, and some just exaggerated for the show, the female prosecutor for the duration of the trial thinks the show did a good job of summarizing a 15-month saga in just 10 episodes. Warning: Spoilers lay ahead as Clark fact-checks the O.J. Simpson show that has regurgitated the nightmare she lived through years ago.
Overall, Clark thinks the series and the performances by each of the actors are excellent, although it's not an easy show for her to watch. "It's truly a tour de force," she tells Bustle. "And the fact that they were able to deliver so well on the big issues, such as race and sexism, is truly impressive."
Clark, who served as the lead prosecutor in Simpson's case back in the '90s, was criticized for her looks, personality, and handling of the case at the time. She has since written a nonfiction book about her experience with the trial. Yet despite her firsthand knowledge about the case, Clark was not involved in or consulted for the recent series, which became cable's most-watched TV show of 2016 when it wrapped up last week. "As for setting the record straight, there are a few things that should be corrected for the sake of historical accuracy," she says. Let's take a look.
The Death Penalty
According to Clark, there was never any talk of seeking the death penalty for Simpson, as the show depicts. "We never considered the death penalty for Mr. Simpson," she says. "It wasn't even discussed."
In the show, both legal teams stress over jury selection, but Clark thinks that her side's understanding of the jury is misleading. "The series shows us — and me — not believing or understanding that we would have a hard time convincing the black community that Mr. Simpson was guilty," she says. "The truth is, we — myself included — all knew from very early on that we were facing a steep uphill battle with the black community — and most particularly with African American women."
As the show depicts, the trial carried on with a mostly black jury, which seems to have had a significant impact on Simpson's acquittal. "The question was what to do about [African American members of the jury], how to reach them," Clark says. "No one had an answer."
One of the most controversial parts of the case — and the show — was the Los Angeles Police Department's Mark Fuhrman. Fuhrman was one of the investigators at the scene of the murder and at Simpson's house. In fact, he's the one who found the infamous glove that the prosecution argued linked Simpson to the crime. (Clark called the glove that Fuhrman found "some of the most damning evidence against Simpson.") The prosecution ultimately called Fuhrman to testify, despite his controversial use of racial slurs, but the show suggests that Clark's colleague, Chris Darden, urged the team not to call Fuhrman to the stand. This detail, according to Clark, is false.
If we presented another officer to testify to finding the glove at Rockingham, the defense would have asked that officer ... "Officer X, you weren't really the one who found the glove, were you? Mark Fuhrman found the glove, didn't he? But the prosecution called you to testify to that? Why? Mark Fuhrman lives here in L.A., doesn't he?"
Ultimately, Clark presumes, the defense would then have called Fuhrman himself and implied that the prosecution (aka Clark) had tried to hide Fuhrman from the jury. That's why they didn't even consider ignoring Fuhrman. "We could never have simply left Fuhrman off our witness list," she says. "It would have been a total debacle."
The Sexual Assault
This sad fact presented toward the end of the series is true: Clark was, in fact, sexually assaulted. It was understandably difficult for her to watch that confession play out on television, but she has written about it in her post-trial book, so she calls it "fair game."
What's false about the show's portrayal though is the discussion between Clark and Darden, in which she tells him about the sexual assault after the trial is concluded. "That discussion never happened," she says. "We were both miserable, and there wasn't really anything to say."
Clearly, Clark has watched FX's hit show about the trial that changed her and so many others' lives, but she probably won't be watching it again anytime soon. "Having lived the trial, suffered through every moment of it, it can never be entertainment to me — though of course, I can appreciate the brilliance of the performances," she says. Truly, the show captured the essence of the controversial case — from the sexism and racism, to the role of the media, and everything in between — even if it did get some of the details wrong.