Simpson Judge Gets 2nd Chance to Discuss WWII Injustice

The O.J. Simpson murders trial judge Lance A. Ito has rarely agreed to talk to the media for the record or attribution since the verdict in that infamous 1995 trial. But he did so today, about a subject that is near and dear to his heart.

Witness: The Legacy of Heart Mountain – David Ono hosts special  http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/national_world&id=9139470

“Judge Lance Ito’s family was held there,” Los Angeles ABC affiliate, Channel 7-KABC, reporter David Ono says. “In this Eyewitness News special, ‘Witness: The Legacy of Heart Mountain,’ I talk to the Honorable Lance Ito and his mother about their family’s remarkable story. It’s a story very few people know about.”

Another aspect of that story and its intersection with Ito’s role as the judge presiding over the 1995 Simpson trial is also something very few people know about. It involves Ito’s effort — and, indeed, his sense of duty — to talk about the heartbreak of Heart Mountain, both to Americans of Japanese with Japanese heritage as a group and to individual Americans with Japanese heritage, such as two people who became Ito’s parents.

He tried to honor his sense of obligation in another Los Angeles TV interview. That one in the fall of 1994 backfired in just about every respect and probably did more to alienate him with the news media covering the Simpson case more than any other one thing to that point and after.

I discuss that debacle in Chapter 3, “Careening Off Track”, of Anatomy of a Trial, which begins:

“As mistakes go, it was a doozy. It began one October morning when I walked into Ito’s chambers.

‘Jerrianne, I would like for you to come up with a graceful way for me to get out of doing an interview,’ he said without preamble.”

How differently things might have turned out for Ito and public perception of him had the KCBS TV management not violated agreed-upon conditions with Ito and had the other media not gone off in a snit because he had granted an interview to one amongst them and not the rest — never mind that the subject of the interview wasn’t what the other news outlets wanted to interview him about.

So now, Ito had a second chance to talk publicly about Heart Mountain and to honor not only his parents, but all Americans of Japanese descent who were held prisoner during World War II in internment camps such as Heart Mountain. Too bad it’s more than 18 years later.
 

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