I read this book in 1997 when it was first released. I was 31 years old at the time and like many people in North America, followed the O.J. Simpson trial very closely, and again, like a lot of people, was angry at the verdict. I immersed myself in many of the books that were written after the trial and read the accounts of Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden, the family of Ron Goldman, and Jeffrey Toobin.
FX has been airing American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson and I have been impressed with how closely it is following what happened at trial and what has been described in various books. Watching this program rekindled my interest in Marcia Clark’s book and I decided to re-read it.
It is interesting how you experience or interpret things differently with the distance of time. Twenty years later (and twenty years older), I found the book more fascinating than I did the first time I read it and clearly see some issues that I either didn’t notice the first time or feel much differently about now at this point in my life.
The first issue that made more of an impact with me the second time around is the domestic violence aspect of this case and how little support Nicole actually had. The violence started at a very early stage in their relationship with a witness telling of a time that he heard strange noises coming from the apartment next to him and then a day or two later, seeing Nicole in the elevator with two black eyes. She was 18 or 19 at the time. There were numerous times the police were called to the residence due to these fights and so many times, the police were enamored with O.J. and nothing was done. So the next logical question is, why did she stay – why didn’t she just leave? The answer is that she left several times but she had virtually little or no support system to assist her. O.J. apparently had been providing financial support to Nicole’s parents and so they were not pleased to hear that the relationship was in trouble. On one occasion when Nicole did leave O.J., her father went as far as refusing to speak to Nicole until she reunited with her husband. I cannot imagine being in a situation where it is expected that the child (or their husband) is to financially support their parent(s). In America, normally each generation of parents take pride in the fact that they can provide their children more than their parents were able to. Apparently this was not the view of Nicole’s parents.
Another factor that hindered Nicole was her lack of education. She met O.J. when she was eighteen and didn’t further her education after high school. She waitressed for a bit but that was really all the work experience she had. How do you make a life for yourself when you have little education, no work history and two small children? She was financially dependent upon O.J. even after their divorce. Marcia Clark described Nicole as a “lost little girl”. I don’t know if I agree with this description but she certainly had very few options when it came to having the ability to support herself and her children in order to lessen her ties with her ex-husband.
The other issue that I just didn’t pick up on during the trial or my first read of this book was the sexism levelled at Marcia – the worst coming from Judge Lance Ito. There were many names that Marcia called Ito in the book, none of them flattering (my favorite was dunderhead) and he deserved every name she called him. There were several occasions that Ito humiliated Marsha by asking her in open court why she couldn’t sit late (maybe because she was a single mother and had to pick up her children!!), commenting on her new hair style (again in open court) and while addressing the other lawyers as Mr. Cochrane and Mr. Shapiro, he often referred to her as Marsha and not “Ms. Clark”. Being in 2016 and looking back at 1994, it is hard to believe that he actually got away with that. Thankfully, this behavior would not occur today in a courtroom full of cameras and if it did, there were would severe backlash in regular and social media.
My last comment about the trial is with respect to the LA criminologist, Dennis Fung. He was incompetent in his position and should have been fired after the trial but apparently LAPD kept him on (not surprising considering the ineptitude of the LAPD at that time). Just one of his blunders was that he did not wear rubber gloves when collecting a lot of the blood evidence. If he had worked at a private corporation in today’s world, he would have been fired.
I really enjoyed revisiting this book and give it four out of five stars review.