*The O.J. Simpson trial is dominating conversation again as FX revisited the historic case with its hit series “The People v. O.J. Simpson.”
For former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, the case is a reminder of the one glaring mark on his legacy: the failure of the prosecution to put Simpson behind bars for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. In Garcetti’s eyes, allowing Marcia Clark to be the lead prosecutor in the case was a bad call.
“She wasn’t my choice — I didn’t pick her,” Garcetti almost coldly told the New York Post as he admitting to yielding to Clark’s lobbying effort to take the lead.
Although he thought about giving the Simpson case to veteran prosecutor Bill Hodgman, Garcetti stated that Hodgman collapsed during a strategy meeting from a chronic heart defect.
Recalling Clark’s time as lead prosecutor, Garcetti later noted to the Post how not taking the advice of a trial consultant proved to be a less than desirable way of handling the case.
“Marcia is a very good lawyer, but one of the things with her was that she didn’t heed the advice of our trial consultant who told her not to pick African-American women — particularly black mothers — for that jury,” he said, noting eight black women wound up on the panel.
“She didn’t listen and once she did that, there was no chance that we’d get a guilty verdict, although I still thought we’d get two or three jurors to hold out for a hung jury.”
As the nation was caught up in the Simpson trial, Garcetti admitted that he was preparing for a second Trial of the Century long before the courtroom drama of the first trial ended., he started having serious doubts about even managing a hung jury about midway through the 10-month trial.
“I’ve never told anyone this story before,” he shared with the Post’s Stacy Brown. “I went to a function, a Hollywood agents’ function and everyone there was talking about the O.J. trial. Now, there was this one African-American couple, an agent and her husband who is a Ph.D.
“Naturally, I steered clear of the trial talk, but what the Ph.D. told me was that he thought O.J. was guilty but he’d still vote not guilty and that floored me. I asked him how he could vote not guilty if he knew he was guilty . . . I asked him how he would explain that to his kids and he just dropped his head and said he didn’t know.
“That’s when I knew I had a big problem,” Garcetti said.
It was in that moment that the former DA realized how much of an impact of race would have in the case. To deal with his realization, Garcetti ended up seeking advise from former President Jimmy Carter. At the time, Carter was in LA for his work with Habitat for Humanity.
“We met and what he told me was a punch to the stomach,” Garcetti said.
“Carter looked at me and said, ‘Gil, forget it, they are going to find him not guilty. The verdict will be about payback.’
“‘There have been too many blacks who have been convicted and even executed. O.J. is not going to do it again,’ ” Carter told Garcetti.
Regarding Clark’s skills compared to Simpson’s Dream Team of Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz and F. Lee Bailey, Garcetti stated that an emotional Clark was no match for the high-powered legal quartet, who he said demanded and received a speedy trial because they were sure that the sympathy in the black community for Simpson would dissipate over time, and prosecutors would find more evidence.
“They also knew that I couldn’t change prosecutors,” he said, referring to the sick Hodgman.
“Also, we would have found those Bruno Magli shoes and we would have had him,” Garcetti said of the shoes Simpson denied owning that were worn by the killer. He said the office had located photos of Simpson wearing the shoes.
For more of Garcetti’s reflection on the Simpson case and Clark, click over to the NY Post.