If anyone knows about dealing with the fallout of major crimes, it’s Marcia Clark. Back in 1994, she became the most famous prosecutor on the planet, thanks to her leading role in the infamous OJ Simpson murder trial. Now, after amassing years of experience in the legal system, sifting through bloodied evidence and delving into the darkest of human instincts, Marcia Clark is back to cast new light on some of the most shocking and controversial cases in the history of homicide.
Marcia knows both sides of the system. Before she was a prosecutor, she was a defence attorney in Los Angeles, but soon realised she didn’t want to spend her whole career shielding violent criminals from justice. Convinced that almost every one of her clients was actually guilty of the crimes they were accused of, she had an epiphany that led her to cross over to the prosecution side. That epiphany was simple: “I really want to take care of the victims”.
Years before the OJ Simpson case thrust her into the blazing glare of the world’s media, Marcia proved her skills with another homicide in the world of celebrity. Only this time, the star was the victim rather than the alleged perpetrator. Her name was Rebecca Schaeffer, an up-and-coming performer who’d appeared in a sitcom and a few films, and had the misfortune to fall onto the radar of an unbalanced individual called Robert John Bardo.
Fixated with the young star, Bardo began to obsessively stalk her, eventually finding out where she lived. Driven mad by seeing her act out a sex scene in one film, Bardo decided to punish her for losing her virtue, turning up at her door with a gun. Rebecca Schaeffer was shot dead at point-blank range – a tragic curtailing of a woman with her whole life and career in front of her.
Marcia Clark successfully prosecuted Bardo, and he was sentenced to life in prison for this cold, executioner-style act. Clark had proven herself a formidable courtroom presence, but nothing could have prepared even this brilliant young attorney for the media maelstrom of the OJ Simpson case.
OJ was an American icon, a superstar football player and actor, who found himself in the dock for the vicious murders of his estranged ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Clark thought the evidence made it a slam-dunk case, but the televised trial soon became a kind of real-life soap opera, with every player – from the presiding judge to Clark herself – pored over by the media as if they were celebrities.
It went from being a “mere” murder trial to an incendiary encapsulation of American anxieties about race and bigotry. A key witness for the prosecution was revealed to have been a racist, while Clark herself was criticized in implicitly sexist terms by pundits – her appearance, her tough personality, her status as a single mother, all of that became fair game. Like a politician, Clark was given a makeover to make her more appealing to the jury and to the media. As a jury consultant said at the time,
“She's coming across as too hard, too cold.”
“Whatever you think about OJ Simpson’s guilt, two innocent people were brutally murdered and the killer never brought to justice.”
For Marcia Clark, all of this was a sickening distraction from the case at hand. And when the final, earthquake of a verdict came through – not guilty – she knew she couldn’t continue her career as a prosecutor for much longer. “Angry isn’t the right word,” Clark has said, remembering the moment Simpson walked free. “Whatever you think about OJ Simpson’s guilt, two innocent people were brutally murdered and the killer never brought to justice.”
Since moving on from the battlefields of the courtrooms, Marcia Clark has carved out a career as a crime writer and media commentator on high-profile cases. So many years on the frontlines have given her an instinct for the truths that can be concealed or overlooked – especially in those crucial first 48 hours after a killing has been committed. Now, in a new series which looks at cases like the death of infant Caylee Anthony, the murder of actor Robert Blake’s wife and the shooting of Run DMC legend Jam Master Jay, Marica Clark will be turning her unflinching, analytical gaze on new angles and new possibilities on mysteries that had the world talking.