Born April 7, 1956, in Richmond, California, Christopher Darden began his legal career in the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. In 1994 he was tapped as second in command for the prosecution in the famous O.J. Simpson murder trial. The case made Darden a celebrity and he has since gone on to write, teach, and dabble in acting.
American lawyer, actor, and author, Christopher Allen Darden was born April 7, 1956, in Richmond, California, a low-income neighborhood near San Francisco. It's there that the future attorney weathered a childhood that was often shaped by what he didn't have.
His parents both worked—his father, Richard, as a shipyard welder, his mother, Jean, a school cafeteria employee—but struggles to make ends meet was a constant in the Darden household.
"It was noisy and crowded, and we fought over crackers and over space, and we peed in each other's beds," Darden wrote in his 1996 autobiography, In Contempt.
As a result, Darden turned to petty crime to secure his needs and keep himself busy. "It was how I existed," he wrote. "I stole in elementary, junior high, and high school."
It was in high school, however, that Darden seemed to turn his life around and focus on trying to lift himself out of the poverty that surrounded his life. He took school more seriously and after graduation enrolled at San Jose State University, where he set his sights on law school, immersed himself in campus politics and starred on the track team.
Darden graduated San Jose State in 1977 and immediately enrolled at the Hastings College of Law at the University of California, where he earned his law degree in 1980.
Over the next decade, the ambitious Darden, who'd become a father during his second year of law school, quickly rose the ladder in the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. By the time of the O.J. Simpson murder case in 1994, Darden had successfully prosecuted 19 homicides.
O.J. Simpson: Trial of the Century
The Simpson case had begun in June 1994 with the murder of Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. O.J. Simpson was eventually targeted as a suspect and in a moment that captivated most of the American television viewing public, fled police in his white Bronco that was driven by his close friend, Al Cowlings.
Darden was tapped to investigate Cowlings but when prosecutor Bill Hodgman experienced a stress-induced collapsed, he was promoted to work with lead prosecutor, Marcia Clark.
It cast Darden in a difficult position. Some African-Americans, including Simpson's attorney, Johnnie Cochran, criticized Darden's place on the prosecuting team, even suggesting he'd been tapped solely because he was black.
The issue of race hovered over every facet of the Simpson trial. So did the failings of the prosecutors. For his part, Darden was haunted for years by his decision to have Simpson try on a pair of blood-soaked gloves. The defendant's hands seemingly appeared too big for the gloves prompting Cochran to utter one of the trial's more famous lines: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."
After deliberating for just four hours, the mostly black jury found Simpson not guilty on all counts on October 3, 1995.
As it did for Clark, Cochran, and many others associated with the Simpson case, the trial made Darden a recognizable face. For years his own celebrity hounded him. Darden, who had contemplated taking a break from his work before the trial, stepped away from being a prosecutor after the Simpson verdict and now works as a criminal defense attorney.
In the years since, he's written his autobiography, as well as several mystery novels, taught law, worked as a network news legal commentator, and dabbled in acting. He also heads a successful criminal defense practice in the Los Angeles area.
The father of four children, Darden lives with his TV executive wife Marcia Carter outside of L.A.
Awards & Honors
Darden was given the Crystal Heart Award from Loved Ones of Homicide Victims in 1998. Two years later he was named "Humanitarian of the Year" by Eli Horne, a California shelter for abused women and children.
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