Fielding an L.A. Times Query

Gorgeous weather can have a downside, at least it did for me yesterday.

I was out in it all day, so didn’t see this email until after dinner:

From: Stevens, Matt
To: Judge Lance Ito
Cc: Jerrianne Hayslett
Sent: Fri, Jun 13, 2014 4:09 pm
Subject: RE: QUERY // LOS ANGELES TIMES

Judge, thank you for responding and looping in Jerrianne. If I have any further queries, I’ll be quickly in touch.

Jerrianne, if you have any input you’d like to share, please feel free to do so. We’re right up against deadline, so I’m not sure what we’ll be able to get in the paper. But we’d welcome your thoughts.

From: Judge Lance Ito

Sent: Friday, June 13, 2014 2:05 PM

To: Stevens, Matt
Cc: Jerrianne Hayslett
Subject: Re: QUERY // LOS ANGELES TIMES

Matt:  The Simpson case is still a pending collection matter and the Canons of Ethics restrain me from responding.  You may wish to speak to Jerrianne Hayslett who was the court’s PIO at the time.

From: Stevens, Matt

Sent:  6/13/2014 10:42 AM

To: Judge Lance Ito

My name is Matt Stevens and I’m a reporter for the LA Times. I know you’ve been barraged by requests to speak about the O.J. trial over the years, and especially, I’m sure, within recent days.

We too have a story set to run tomorrow looking back. In it we discuss many of the lessons folks say were learned from the trial.

As you’re aware, some have accused you of running too loose a ship during that trial and keeping an eye on the cameras. “He would have celebrities in his chambers, and that didn’t look good,” veteran defense attorney Harland Braun told us.

We’d like to give you a chance to respond to those criticisms or comment generally on the case if you desire.

We’re on an immediate deadline, as the story is scheduled to run in tomorrow’s paper. But we’d love to talk with you if you are willing.

Best,

–Matt

Even though the hour was late, I sent the following reply to Matt Stevens:

I’ve been out all day, Matt, and just saw this email. I’ll try to answer and hope it’s not too late.

I was in the courtroom every day of the Simpson trial and believe I had a good sense of what went on both in the courtroom and behind the scenes.

Re: Judge Ito’s courtroom management. He is a jurist who believes in allowing lawyers to put on their cases. When it became apparent that counsel in the Simpson trial were abusing the rein he gave them, he took measures to corral them. He fined them, sanctioned them, admonished them from the bench, chided them in chambers and issued written orders. One order, issued on April 26, 1995, titled “Attorney Conduct” addressed nine specific areas with specific instructions concerning their behavior and courtroom demeanor, including prohibiting “speaking objections” and reactions such as “gestures, eye rolling, head nodding, laughter, stage-whispered comments or any other conduct of reaction which is visible and/or audible to the jury.”

His intent for the cameras was that they provide the public a view of the trial that they had a right to see. He was not interested in being on camera himself and repeatedly asked the media not to focus on him.

Re: celebrities in chambers. Of the few, the most notable were Katie Couric, which was a Public Information Office staffer’s doing, and Larry King, which was my suggestion, primarily because Larry King had cooperated with two of Ito’s requests when no other member of the media did. Many, many others asked to visit him in chambers, but were denied. Some journalists who had not achieved celebrity status at the time, such as Jeffrey Toobin, did after submitting repeated requests.

Interestingly, although I was present in chambers when those and many other individuals visited the judge, to my knowledge Harland Braun was never in Ito’s chambers during that trial, so any information he believes he’s been privy to, is hearsay.

Thank you for contacting me and, again, I hope this will meet your deadline.

Jerrianne Hayslett

Matt was courteous enough to reply, even though I didn’t send my email until after 7:30 p.m., saying he wasn’t sure his update made, it but that he might contact me again if the Times does a follow.

The story, Simpson murder case brought change to LAPD, D.A.’s office, in today’s edition doesn’t appear to include my input, even obliquely.

Neither is it as castigating or derisive as other accounts have been over the years. It is disappointing, however, to know that the vast majority of the critics–even those in judicial circles–either have no first-hand experience or knowledge of the trial, didn’t read the transcript or lack objectivity, such as lawyers involved in the case and members of the media Ito kicked out of the courtroom for misbehaving, such as L.A. Times reporter Matt Stevens’ co-writer on this story, Gale Holland.

Ito’s court order, dated May 18, 1995,  which is on page 49-50 of Anatomy of a Trial says, in part, “The Court has received notes from two jurors complaining of noise created by two news reporters in the audience section of the courtroom. … Talking or whispering amongst audience members while court is in session is never acceptable behavior, especially when it interferes with the jury’s ability to hear the evidence. The court finds good cause to bar Kristin Jeanette-Meyers/Court TV and Gail [sic] Holland/USA Today from admission to Department 103.”

Even though I have long since left my position as the L.A. courts’ media liaison and no longer in the business of having to field media questions for the court or its judges, I think I’ll try to check email more often, even when outside in the sunshine when it’s nearly impossible to see my cell phone screen.

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