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Marcia Clark metes out justice in murder-mystery novel

Fiction enables the former O.J. Simpson prosecutor to take the law into her own hands.

April 18, 2011|By Susan Carpenter | Los Angeles Times

Clark speaks from experience. She was the first woman to serve in the special trials unit in L.A.'s district attorney's office in the '90s. Contrary to public perception, Clark said she never experienced gender bias from Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran or Judge Lance Ito during the trial. But she added that women who are in the limelight, as she was, tend to get scrutinized in a way that men don't.

"Looks are always considered a fair topic for comment in a way they never are for men. On a behavioral level, I think women are often in a lose-lose position: Don't show emotion and you're too tough.... Show emotion and you're a wimpy 'girl,' not strong enough to handle the gig. Although I think we're making strides to get out of those binds, it's going to take a while before women are judged with a fair measuring stick."

In "Guilt by Association," Clark weaves two female colleagues into the story line — both of them supportive and humorous foils.

"To the extent that I have any political message in the book, it's that I'd like to see women love and support each other more," Clark said. "Women are unfairly depicted as competitive with one another in a way that's unnecessary and counterproductive. If there's one thing I consciously set out to do it's to say it doesn't have to be that way."

Clark said she's wanted to be a writer since she was a kid. She joked that one of her "signature moments" was growing up in Los Angeles in the second grade, when she had a poem published in the school paper.

Lawyering isn't typically known for eloquently written legal briefs, but Clark said part of the reason she became a lawyer was because she loved to write. She said she wrote all of her own motions until the middle of the Simpson trial, when there were simply too many to write them all herself.

Even 16 years after O.J. Simpson was acquitted, Clark said she still thinks about the case every day.

"I think about a lot of my old cases. Not just that one," Clark said. "There's so much sadness. Handling those kinds of cases where loved ones were murdered and you're dealing with the victims, their lives are forever changed no matter what you do. There's no amount of justice that can take away the hurt or pain they go through. You live it with them and carry some part of it with you. You never get away from that."

susan.carpenter@latimes.com

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