Clark Tells of Regrets Over Simpson Case

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an interview with Barbara Walters airing tonight, O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark defends her work in the Simpson criminal case, saying that the racial makeup of the jury and the power of Simpson's celebrity made it impossible for the prosecution to win a murder conviction.

"I still feel terribly pained" by the verdict, Clark tells Walters in an interview on ABC's "20/20." "[But] when you hear these so-called experts talking about they didn't put this in or they didn't put that in, it's not like we . . . rested the case and forgot the Bronco chase. Every piece of evidence was hotly debated. . . . None of it would have made a bit of difference. We would have lost because of race and celebrity."

Although she expresses some regrets about her own decisions during the trial, Clark strongly criticizes practically everybody else involved.

The panel of jurors that acquitted Simpson with little deliberation, Clark said, "was the worst pool of jurors I have ever seen in 15 years." At one point during the trial, Clark said, she wrote in her diary about her frustration with the jury system, asking why the fate of the nation should be left in the hands of 'moon rocks.' "

Clark said she believes the predominantly African American jury was influenced by Simpson's popularity and distrust of the Los Angeles Police Department.

In the interview, timed to the release today of her memoir, "Without a Doubt," Clark said she believes criminalist Dennis Fung failed to take into evidence clothes that Simpson might have worn on the night of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman. Looking over black-and-white photographs from the case, Clark tells Walters, she noticed a photograph of Fung leaning over a laundry hamper in the master bedroom and holding what appeared to be a black cotton sweatsuit.

"It matched what [house guest] Kato Kaelin had said Simpson was wearing that night," Clark tells Walters. When she asked Fung where the sweats were, Clark said, he said he didn't "book them" because he couldn't see blood on them.

"I said, 'Dennis, they're black. How do you see blood on something black under regular lights?' " Clark said.

Regarding the damning moment in the prosecution's case when Simpson tried on the so-called "bloody gloves" and they didn't fit, Clark said that she and co-prosecutor Chris Darden argued about asking Simpson to try on the gloves. When defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran objected to Simpson trying on a duplicate pair that were not an exact match, Clark said, Judge Lance A. Ito suggested having Simpson try on the actual gloves.

"I objected . . . because then he'll have to wear latex [under the actual gloves] and that will alter the fit," Clark said. Darden, she said, argued for going ahead, and prevailed.

Clark strongly criticizes Judge Ito, saying that the glare of the cameras "brought out his overweening love of celebrity . . . and his desire to pander to the defense and to be liked by them." Ito was so infatuated with the stardom of Cochran and Simpson, Clark charges, that "he gutted our case. He made it virtually impossible for us to strategize. He didn't hold it in check. The courtroom was out of control from Day 1."

Asked whether she thinks Simpson's defense attorneys were a true "Dream Team," Clark laughed and said, "Only in their dreams." Robert Shapiro, she said, was a "deal maker," not a trial lawyer, who was "in over his head." Cochran, she said, "threw away principle" with the trial. She praises F. Lee Bailey, however, saying that he did "an excellent job" in his questioning of Det. Mark Fuhrman and other police officers.

Clark tells Walters that her biggest regret in the case is not arguing harder against Ito's decision to allow questions about Fuhrman's alleged racism during the trial.

"I'll never forgive myself," Clark said. She said she was afraid of angering Ito and aware that appeals courts are generally "is very loath" to rule on rules of evidence while a trial is in progress.

The ex-prosecutor also reveals to Walters, and in her book, that she was raped at the age of 17. After she became a prosecutor, she said, "I could tell every rape victim, 'You did nothing wrong.' "

Clark also tells Walters that her first husband was abusive to her. Clark said that she understands the question a jury might have asked of Nicole Brown Simpson--'Why did she stay?'--and regrets that, in Clark's mind, Nicole Simpson was murdered by her husband just as she had "gained independence."

She said that Lou Brown, Nicole's father, was reluctant to turn over his daughter's diaries to the prosecution. "I think it really was his form of denial, that perhaps he liked having a celebrity son-in-law," Clark said. "It was so hard to accept that this man that they wanted to continue in marriage with their daughter had actually killed her."

At the end of the interview, the ex-prosecutor--who admits to some "bittersweet" feelings over the verdict in Simpson's civil trial--addresses Simpson directly:

"I think you may now realize, Mr. Simpson, that not everyone bought your act," Clark said, staring into the camera. "Most people know that you did it. And you may not be behind bars. But, in a way, you're in a prison of your own making."

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