O.J. Simpson Prosecutor Writes Legal Thriller
By Marcia Clark
Published by Mulholland Books
Review by Elise Cooper
Marcia Clark, the former O.J. Simpson prosecutor, has launched a new career as a fiction author. She writes about crime and prosecutors and uses her experiences to make the plot and characters authentic.
Her debut novel, Guilt by Association, takes the reader through a marathon of crime issues: murder, mayhem, blackmail, child pornography, rape, and street gangs, to name a few. She is able to blend all of these together to create a very interesting, fast-paced plot. Pajamas Media interviewed her about the book.
In the first chapter, a prosecutor in the Special Trials Unit, Rachel Knight, explains why she entered that profession: to give victims a voice. Marcia Clark noted that Rachel (Clark’s middle name) can be viewed as her alter ego:
I started out as a criminal defense attorney. My desire to stand up for the victims and give them a voice made me want to be a prosecutor, which is what made me love the job as much as I did. Rachel is what I would like to be. I am jealous of her exciting lifestyle.
It appears that this book was written so Clark could relive her former life as a prosecutor. Clark did confide that she
missed the world of the DA’s office. The world where there was a mission I could believe in that had great people, a lot of camaraderie. It was a great life being in the Special Trials Unit, and working up the cases with the police, not the Simpson bizarro world, but the world before all the cameras entered into the courtroom.
Does she regret having cameras in the courtroom during the O.J. Simpson trial?
It’s a debate I had. From the standpoint of making sure a trial runs properly, cameras in the courtroom is a disaster. Everyone plays to the camera one way or the other: the judges, jurors, lawyers, and witnesses. Instead of focusing on the truth, they start focusing on a search for fame. On the other hand, Fred Goldman (father of one of the victims) made the point to me that if cameras were not in the courtroom you would never know the travesty of justice in the Simpson verdict. People would not have been able to see how much evidence we did present.
There are two very interesting quotes in the book. The first: “And, by the way, you can tell everybody that they definitely don’t screw up DNA all the time.” When asked to explain, Clark laughingly said that she wrote it as an “inside joke with the world.” The other quote is: “Better you ask forgiveness than permission.” She explained: “If you believe in something go ahead and do it. Rachel believed in justice and fighting a good fight. She does not want office politics or political rules to get in her way.”
Throughout the book Clark shows the reader the world of the prosecutor in the Special Trials Unit who “has the ability to go out and investigate a case. Unlike most prosecutors, those in Special Trials are able the take the case shortly after the cops find the body. We go out to the crime scene; we interview witnesses, and talk about the analysis of evidence. All of that is unique to the Special Trials Unit. In the book there is reality to what happens. I would take my own pictures and go out to every crime scene. My personal preference was to do as much testing, as much examination, as much investigation as possible.”
The book's exciting plot allows the reader to understand the power of a prosecutor. They decide whether there is enough evidence to file a case. In the book, everyone wants to put the finger on a gang member for committing rape. Since the book explores the possibility of the gang member’s innocence, did Clark ever have an innocent person convicted?
Absolutely not. I would get rid of the case. I was never forced to, nor would I go to trial against someone I fully and totally believed was not guilty. If I felt the evidence did not show guilty beyond ANY possible doubt, I would never file the case.
Gun enthusiasts should love this book, since Rachel is a gun-toting, concealed-weapons supporter. Although Clark does not carry a gun, she wanted to make the point in the book that
Rachel is self sufficient and self reliant. I wanted her to be able to rescue herself. A woman cannot win in hand-to-hand combat with a man. But if she has a gun she can certainly level the playing field.
Anyone familiar with Los Angeles, California, will appreciate the setting for the plot. Clark is able to write detailed, authentic descriptions, relaying the sights and sounds of the city. She includes landmarks such as Canter’s Restaurant and the Biltmore Hotel to “give the reader the full flavor, sounds, smells, and colors through graphic displays.”
What is next for Marcia Clark? She plans on continuing her ad hoc reviews of criminal appeals (looking for trial errors) and is working on a second book in the Rachel Knight series, Guilt by Degree. It’s another murder mystery, but this victim is a beloved police officer who gets killed.
If her first novel is any indication, this next book should be in the same mold: an insightful, reality-based, entertaining, funny, and riveting novel.