Prosecutor pays price // O.J. scrutiny adds to stress of her divorce
Richard Price; Jonathan T. Lovitt
LOS ANGELES - From the start, it was clear the role of World's Most Famous
Female Prosecutor carried an enormous price, especially for a woman who
values privacy as much as Marcia Clark.
There were the comments about her hair, her short skirts, her tough style. Sharp
rebukes from the judge. Grueling 16-hour work days. The unrelenting glare of a
TV camera beaming close-up images around the world.
For Clark, all that and more surround her job as chief prosecutor in the O.J.
Simpson double-murder case - the biggest professional battle of her life.
But even as she argues fine points of the law against some of the best defense
attorneys in the nation, Clark is also in the midst of a more personal battle - a
divorce from her husband of 13 years, Gordon Clark, and a fight for custody of
their boys, ages 3 and 5.
If Marcia Clark were just another lawyer, the divorce would be the same
'90s-style split showing up in courthouses across the USA: two-job couples
trying to divide the spoils of a marriage torn apart by the demands of their
But Clark is a star, the headliner in what many consider the biggest legal
showdown of the century. So her divorce trial - she first filed June 9, just three
days before the murders - is very public, and her two trials enmeshed.
Last week, Simpson's defense lawyers accused Clark of fabricating child-care
problems to delay a session the defense said she wasn't ready to handle. And in
papers filed in a courthouse across the street Feb. 24, Gordon Clark accused her
of putting the Simpson trial ahead of her children.
He characterized her as a tyrant and a neglectful mother whose sons are "starved
for attention" with "cuts and bruises, more than one would expect, even for two
Gordon Clark's words were taken from his response to his wife's request for an
increase in monthly support payments.
In court papers she filed in December, she says she is struggling financially.
Overloaded by debt that includes credit card debts of $23,500 and a $14,000
dental bill, she says her wardrobe demands have soared because of the Simpson
case, and her baby-sitting bills have risen to $945 a month, plus another $625 in
As a result, Marcia Clark - who earns $96,829 a year as a prosecutor - wants an
increase in the $650-a-month child support payments from her husband. He's a
36-year-old computer engineer at Soligen Inc., who reports his income as
Beyond the emotional pain of the split comes painful publicity spawned by the
O.J. trial media machine: Tabloid stories have reduced her to tears, and she has
yet to grant a one-on-one interview. She fought to seal her divorce papers,
complaining about "constant scrutiny and public display."
"I can't imagine the pressure she must be experiencing," says former federal
prosecutor Laurie Levenson. "Dealing with this case and trying to fulfill her role
as a mother at the same time. . . . It's beyond comprehension."
Occasionally, it takes a toll. During one courtroom battle, a pale Clark offered
Judge Lance Ito an apology, explaining that she'd had little sleep because one of
her boys had been ill the previous night. "When they're up, you're up," she said.
But many analysts said the exchange left her open to criticisms. Then came
Cochran's accusation that she lied about leaving court last Friday evening to take
care of her children.
Stung, she said she was "offended as a woman, as a single parent, as a prosecutor
and as an officer of the court." As it turned out, Clark had warned Ito earlier she
couldn't stay late, apparently bearing out her version.
The exchange has generated new support for the 41-year-old prosecutor. District
Attorney Gil Garcetti lashed out Thursday, blasting the media for printing the
details of her divorce.
"Is that fair to Marcia Clark?" he demanded, calling the publicity "a horrible
situation. . . . It's very hurtful."
Clark's personal lawyers declined to comment, but leading divorce lawyer
William Johnson offers the reminder that bitter custody battles produce
"The lawyers take basic information from the client and create these little literary
masterpieces. Although they may contain a kernel of truth, they are certainly not
Gordon Clark's lawyer, Edward Blau, says his client is "interested only in what's
best for the children." But his client's declarations in the divorce papers
sometimes ring bitter.
Gordon Clark says he was shocked when his wife announced on Christmas Day
1993 he was "not intellectually stimulating enough for her." Now, he says, she
wants to "control me and hurt me in an obsessive way."
He also says she "tricked" him into leaving home and family, and that she "may
have been involved with another man even while we were together," but offers
no proof. The charge could be gratuitous; under California's no-fault law,
infidelity is immaterial unless it has a direct impact on children.
He uses the Simpson case as a weapon, charging that Clark never sees her kids
more than an hour a day. "There is absolutely no reason why the children should
not be with me instead of continually being with baby-sitters," he says. His
visitation rights are two evenings a week and every other weekend.
Divorce lawyer Johnson's characterization of Gordon Clark's charges: "It smacks
of hitting somebody when they're down. Here's this woman. . . . prosecuting
arguably the trial of the century. What's she supposed to do? Is she supposed to
give it half an effort?"
Marcia Clark argues she needs more money from her husband because the
Simpson case has cost her so much: she says she spent $1,500 on five new suits
Response from her husband: Marcia has money in a 401K plan (she recently
withdrew $26,000 for dental work) and future wealth guaranteed by her fame -
while he's flat broke.
Furthermore, he contends, "I do not think because the Simpson trial has become
a Hollywood production that (Marcia) needs to become a Hollywood personality
herself and that I should pay for her makeovers."
Whether he wins or not, Gordon Clark clearly has hurt his wife with the
publicity. But for Marcia Clark, the real threat lies ahead - next Tuesday's
hearing for custody of her boys.
Her position is clear: "I am devoted to my two children, who are far and away
more important to me than anything," she said in a statement released this week.
More than a few professional women will be rooting for her.
"I see this as a feminist issue," says family lawyer Heidi Tuffia. "She's the most
prominent female attorney in the country today, and here comes her husband
trying to take her children. It's what we as women have always feared. If you
become successful and outspoken, you'll lose your kids."
CLARK DIVORCE CASE EXCERPTS Marcia Clark's petition -- "I now must
have babysitters for the weekends while I work and someone to spend the
evenings with my two children. This costs an additional $200 a month . . . I have
to pay teachers to pick up my children after school. . . . These cost . . . $150 per
month." -- "Because of the notoriety of the trial with press and television
coverage, I have purchased five suits and shoes at a cost of $1,500. I am under
constant scrutiny. . . . It has been necessary for me to have my hair styled as
needed and to spend more money on my personal care and grooming. As I am a
county employee, none of these expenses are reimbursed."
Gordon Clark's response -- "For 13 years, until Christmas Day in 1993, I thought
I had a terrific romance with Marcia, the petitioner. . . . Petitioner informed me
that I was not intellectually stimulating enough for her and indicated she did not
have much interest in continuing our marriage." -- "While I commend petitioner's
brilliance, her legal ability and her tremendous competence as an attorney, I do
not want our children to continue to suffer because she is never home." -- "I
firmly believe that there are three reasons the petitioner does not want the
children to stay with me . . . She wants to control them and hurt me in an
obsessive way. She also knows that it is more economically beneficial (to her)
for me to keep the current (visitation) schedule. Finally, she hopes that if the
children see little of me, they will forget me." -- "I have been an equal primary
caretaker for our children since their births." -- "I do not think that because the
Simpson trial has become a Hollywood production that petitioner . . . needs to
became a "Hollywood personality" and that I should pay for her makeovers." --
"My financial situation is bleak, at best, and I am operating at a deficit every
PHOTO,color,Reed Saxon,AP; PHOTO,color,Blake Sell,AP