The big trials remind us of the changing times

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Oscar Wilde’s trial reminds us of where gay rights stood in the 1890s, his astonishingly bold defense of gay sex reminds us that Victorians standards were beginning to crack. Big trials do that, they make an era vivid. The same is true of the trial of O J Simpson, which reminds us of where race relations were in 1994/1995.

I’d forgotten how much Marcia Clark was herself put on trial during the trial:

But, surely, the hardest part had to come tonight as Clark was forced to relive the moment when her private photos were splashed across the pages of the National Enquirer. In FX’s fictionalized version of events, Clark says that it must have been her ex-husband, Gabriel Horowitz, who sold her photos. In truth, it was her ex-mother-in-law, Clara Horowitz, who sold her out to The National Enquirer. Woman on woman betrayal is always worse.

The photo was taken in 1979 and showed Clark topless on a St. Tropez beach with then-husband Horowitz. In the print edition, her breasts were censored with a black bar. Though Simpson’s lawyers weren’t directly responsible for the damaging photos, the so-called Dream Team was allegedly the inspiration. Clark wrote in in her 1997 memoir Without A Doubt:

In my mind’s eye, I could see Gaby and me and our Italian train-conductor friend. We were playful and giddy. I’d shed my top. It was so innocent. . . . I later learned that a private eye, hoping to curry favor with the Dream Team, had tracked her down in Israel and put her in touch with the Enquirer.

And, just as it played out in The People v. O.J. Simpson, Judge Lance Ito did dismiss the court that day. As Clark tells it, “I overestimated my own strength. No sooner had I taken my seat at the counsel table . . . I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. . . . Lance must have caught my distress, because, in a singular act of compassion, he quickly managed to recess court for the day.”

And even though the jury allegedly never saw the photos—they were sequestered thanks to some brutal fake photos of a battered Nicole Brown Simpson that had also been printed in The National Enquirer—the damage to Clark’s reputation was done. The FX show reverses the timeline to show Clark having to publicly defend herself as a mother before the Enquirer spread. In fact, the photos ran in early February and Clark’s battle with her estranged husband Gordon didn’t hit headlines until March.

At the time Susan Reimer of The Baltimore Sun wrote a piece titled “Marcia Clark’s Trials Have Now Begun Outside the Courtroom.” It reads, in part, “I knew that when the National Enquirer ran those ancient photos of her in a topless bathing suit, it was only a matter of time before somebody went after Marcia Clark’s ability to mother her young sons.”

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