updated 12/25/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/25/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST
During the trial, Clark managed to laugh off most of the attacks. She changed her hairdo, friends explain, because she likes to try new styles, not because she cared about how she looked on TV. And most of those spiffy suits she wore she borrowed from pals. Not until her estranged husband, computer programmer Gordon Clark, dragged her into a bitter custody battle, did Clark crack. When Hard Copy polled viewers about whether Clark's sons Travis, 5, and Kyle, 3, should be allowed to stay with their mother during the trial, Clark—who had raced home every night to tuck her kids in before heading back to the office—burst into tears. "It hurt her to be criticized about her mothering abilities when she loves her kids and loves being a mom," says friend Lynn Reed Baragona.
The tide of scrutiny has begun to ebb—a little. Not long ago, Clark denied reports that she is engaged to fellow prosecutor Christopher Darden. ("Where's my ring?" she said she demanded when she heard the rumors.) As she recuperates from the trial, Clark is discovering her abilities as a role model. "I learned to trust my own instincts," she recently said, "to look within myself for the final decision." That may not hold up in a court of law, but in life, it's a winning move.