Marcia Clark on O.J. Simpson Murder Case: The Verdict Was "Physically Painful"

Marcia Clark
Dateline NBC

Of the fans cheering for Simpson roadside during notorious white Bronco chase, Clark says: "I thought, 'Oh my god, this is not good. … He has murdered two innocent people, slaughtered them, and you're cheering his escape?' It gave me a full view of what we were up against."

Marcia Clark, the former Los Angeles County prosecutor who was the lead attorney on the O.J. Simpson murder case, says the 1994-95 trial "was a nightmare for me every single day."

Clark — along with a slew of other individuals who were part of the so-called "Trial of the Century," from Kris Jenner to Fred Goldman — sat down with NBC's Dateline for an episode that aired Sunday night.

Before the trial even started, Clark recalls, she didn't have a good feeling about the way things were headed in the murder trial, in which Simpson was ultimately acquitted of killing ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. She recalled seeing Simpson fans standing at the side of the road cheering during the infamous white Bronco police chase. "I thought, 'Oh my god, this is not good. … He has murdered two innocent people, slaughtered them, and you're cheering his escape?' It gave me a full view of what we were up against."

She added: "I had so many days going to the office feeling like, 'We're toast; it's over,' because I remember watching the jury every single day" and not getting a good feeling from her observations. "Throughout the trial, it felt like one minefield after another. Every day we'd walk into court, and something else was blowing up."

Clark was referring to a series of setbacks experienced by the prosecution, from the decision to have Simpson try on the leather glove that didn't fit to former LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman's decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment right when asked if he planted evidence after tapes surfaced in which he repeatedly used the n-word. She also noted that her closing argument "wasn't my best."

"I was tired; I was demoralized," Clark said of the eight-month trial. "By the time I actually got to talk to the jury, [it felt like] 'Are you hearing anything? I don't know.' It just didn't feel like anybody cared."

The not-guilty verdict, she said, was "physically painful. That was not justice." She ultimately blames herself but said, "The problem was the jury didn't want to believe, and so at the end of day, you can't make someone believe something they don't want to believe."

Clark also insisted that it was co-prosecutor Christopher Darden's decision to ask Simpson to try on the glove during the trial and that she believed it was the wrong move at the time. The mistake turned out to be costly and led to defense attorney Johnnie Cochran's famous line: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." Still, Clark doesn't hold the decision against Darden: "He said to me, 'I'm sorry.' And I said, 'That's OK. If that lost the case for us, we were never going to win anyway.'"

Asked if that was "one of the dumbest moves ever," Simpson's defense attorney Carl Douglas said: "You never try a demonstration if you're not sure what is going to happen."

As for the Fuhrman tapes, Douglas said Cochran kept those in a safe that only he could open. "Johnnie was very careful with those tapes … because they were so explosive," he added.

Meanwhile, Clark said she didn't put Brown's close friend Kris Jenner on the stand, despite Jenner's claiming that Brown had said she was afraid Simpson was going to kill her, because it was "hearsay. I couldn't put it in. [But] I would have been happy to put her on the stand; she would have been a great witness."

She also didn't use the note Simpson left that was widely thought to be a suicide note as evidence because it would have been a risky move; it might have painted him as a sympathetic figure. "I had enough solid evidence without taking risks like that," she said.

For her part, Jenner told Dateline that Brown, who had allegedly been physically abused by Simpson for some time, "couldn't live with him and she couldn't live without him," even though she frequently worried about his fidelity.

Goldman's dad, Fred, told Dateline that he found out his son had been killed via a phone call. "'Did you hear today that Nicole Brown was killed, and your son was the other person?' That's how we found out, over the phone," Goldman said.

Viewers of The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story have seen much of this dramatized in the FX miniseries starring Sarah Paulson as Clark and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson.

One of the moments dramatized for the show was one in which Simpson's defense team "staged" his house by removing photos of Simpson with white women and instead displayed more photos of him with his mother. Douglas insisted that was "not tampering with evidence. … It was simply making his house presentable, like washing the floors, like putting flowers in the house. … I'm trying to get the optimal advantage to win. They play hardball in the big leagues. This is the big leagues."

He added: "We wanted to make it look lived in and stand with all its regalness so the jury would say he would not have risked all this for this woman."

Lon Cryer, who served on the jury, admitted that he and fellow jurors — who took only four hours to come to their decision that Simpson was not guilty — were tired after the eight-month trial. On first vote, two jurors voted "guilty" but didn't do much to try to convince their fellow jurors to change their minds, and the DNA evidence didn't come up at all. "It wasn't that I thought he was innocent; it was that I thought there wasn't enough evidence to convict him," Cryer said.

After being acquitted, Simpson was found guilty in a civil trial brought forward by Ron Goldman's parents, Fred Goldman and Sharon Rufo, and Brown's estate. "I wanted a court to say he was guilty," Fred Goldman said. "It was a different kind of trial. It was a trial based on evidence; it was all about facts." The plaintiffs were awarded $33.5 million in punitive damages but have only received a fraction of that total.

Simpson, meanwhile, was later found guilty of robbery after he and a group of men held up a sports memorabilia dealer at gunpoint — and is currently in prison; he's up for parole next year.

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