No, not the mystery of “Did he do it?” That was settled long ago, at least in the minds of everyone who had an opinion.
This mystery was, where did Jeffery Toobin come up with his tale of what happened in Simpson trial judge Lance Ito’s chambers when TV talk show celebrity Larry King visited during the trial?
Larry King revealed the answer himself last night at a Los Angeles Society of Professional Journalists’ super-duper, fantastic Linda Deutsch Roast. Deutsch rested her 48-year career in January as The Associated Press’s star reporter for high-profile and notorious trials since the 1969 Manson Family spectacles. Last night, journalists and media lawyers from far and wide gathered to honor and poke fun at this super-scribe and maven of courtroom dramas.
King blew in and out of last night’s soiree long enough to regale the 200 or so (my uneducated guesstimate) attendees with anecdotes and jokes, mostly about himself. (A reporter sitting next to me summed up King’s performance succinctly with his observation that, “I thought this was supposed to be about Linda.”)
One tale King told was about his visit with the judge during a break in the trial. Except for a few embellishments, such as getting a FAX signed “Lance” (he didn’t know anyone named Lance he told the Roast audience, and weren’t people named Lance gay?) inviting him to visit, King related almost word for word what Toobin wrote about that visit in his book, which Toobin promoted by calling Ito a “La-La-Land judge.”
“He had all his press clippings there,” King said last night. “He was so proud of them and he went on and on about them. Finally, I said, ‘Don’t you have to get back to the trial?’ And he said, ‘I’m the judge.’” King told about going into the courtroom where Simpson greeted him. Then saying he didn’t want to appear to favor one side over the other, King went to the prosecutors’ table and spoke to them.
Entertaining stuff. Except it never happened. I know, because I was there.
I can’t attest to the FAX signed “Lance”, but here’s what I do know, which I wrote about in Anatomy of a Trial:
“King’s assistant, Ellen Beard, called to say he was going to be in L.A. and still wanted to interview Ito or have him on his show, I knew the judge would decline. But … I thought he might consider thanking King in person for understanding his position and accommodating his requests, not just once, but twice. First was when Ito declined to participate in a show about media complaints of restrictions in the case. King read Ito’s written statement on air, with no edits or omissions, about all he had done to accommodate the media. The second occasion was when King was the only TV talk or magazine show host who, at Ito’s request, delayed interviewing Nicole Brown Simpson’s self-described best friend Faye Resnick when her “tell-all” book came out on the eve of jury selection. So I offered to see if Ito would be willing to at least say hello to King.”
It was definitely a good intention that went south, which I included in my book “to illustrate how an event is seen, perceived, remembered and retold, particularly when hearsay forms the foundation.”
Here is how the entire visit went down:
“I accompanied King and his entourage of producer, staff assistant and college-student daughter, Chaia, from the elevator lobby through another courtroom, Department 105, and down the back hallway toward Ito’s chambers.
But instead of going in, King stood in the back doorway to the courtroom and waved to the press corps in the spectator seats.
With the help of Deputy Sheriff John Castro, who had accompanied us from the elevator, we finally steered everyone into Ito’s chambers. There, we waited for twenty minutes while court remained in session with King fidgeting impatiently, saying several times that his time was limited. When Ito took a break, rather than “rambling on about the case,” though, he spent most of the time listening to King name drop, boast about dating the defense team’s jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, and compare Ito’s modest chambers and small courtroom to the grandiose federal courthouse and judges’ accommodations in Miami. As Ito turned his attention to Chaia and asked about her education, King, started beckoning to the defense lawyers who had gathered in the chambers’ doorway to come in.
The lawyers flooded in with King glad-handing and back-slapping them like old friends. Instead, Toobin portrays King as being concerned about Ito’s time and quotes King directly when he writes in his book that King asks Ito, “‘Don’t you have to get back to court?’” Although I was standing directly behind the sofa where King was seated, I not only didn’t hear King utter those words, that didn’t even seem to be on his mind. In fact, Ito seemed to have slipped from his mind entirely as he continued to laugh and joke with the lawyers while Ito donned and snapped up his robe. Neither did the entourage follow Ito “through the rear door into the well of the courtroom,” as Toobin relates. Both Ito and I were trapped behind the gaggle of lawyers, King and King’s entourage as they squeezed through the cramped passage behind the clerk’s chair. Peering past their heads, I watched with horror as the lockup door opened, the bailiff escort Simpson into the courtroom and Cochran start to steer King toward the defendant to greet him. My repeated, “Please don’t do that,” finally got Cochran’s attention. Later Cochran told me I needn’t have worried, he would never have let them shake hands.
King, with his group following, proceeded into the courtroom well where King greeted the prosecution team. Then King’s daughter, who had followed him into the courtroom, drew a raised eyebrow and a “you don’t want to go in there!” from Simpson and a laugh from the spectators when she turned to leave and, with the help of her famous father, tried to pull open the wrong door—the one that led into the courtroom’s inmate lockup area.”
As I note on my website at www.anatomyofatrial.com, “…New Yorker writer/CNN legal analyst Jeffry Toobin shows why courts don’t–and shouldn’t–permit hearsay testimony. Pages 65-67”
Listening to King last night reminded me of how horrified I felt when I learned that that a TV series-in-the-making that is being promoted harder and more furiously than the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing debacle is based on Toobin’s book.
Yep, my suggestion that Ito thank King in person was indeed a good intention that went south – a direction it continues to sink to to this day.