From Famous to Infamous

With the retirement of two icons of the 1995  O.J. Simpson trial — one a household name, the other not quite as famous — the tables seem to have turned, so far as mention in the news and on social media is concerned.

Ito, Linda and me . 7.29.2013

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito is closing the door to his courthouse chambers for the last time and on his 25-years as a Superior Court jurist. It’s hard to find much about Ito’s retirement or much of anything else associated with him in online searches. The “Lance Ito” Google News Alert emails that land in my inbox these days link to the same old snarky cracks and critiques by armchair parrots who have no direct, first-hand knowledge about the trial or the judge.

In June of last year (yes, 2014 is now last year) the Los Angeles Times did its obligatory “where are they now” piece observing the 20th anniversary of the Nicole Brown/Ronald Goldman murders, which led to the notorious ’95 Simpson trial.

Judge Lance Ito, still on the Los Angeles Superior Court bench has presided over some 500 trials since the Simpson case made him famous,” the Times Staff Writer reported. “He long ago took his name plate off his courtroom door because it kept getting stolen. He is not standing for reelection this year and will retire in 2015 with few plans other than to learn to play guitar.”

One place his name still routinely appears, though, is the world of crossword puzzles. The blessing or curse of having and three-letter name.

While Linda Deutsch’s name might not be in a crossword puzzle, as either a clue or an answer, news accounts have proliferated for days about her retirement after 48 years with The Associated Press. She’s being interviewed on numerous television and radio programs, and accolades, praise and congratulations flooded Facebook when she told her Friends she was hanging it up with the AP to work on a memoir of her astounding high-profile-trial coverage going back to Charles Manson in 1970.

Deutsch covered almost every day of the Simpson trial — I know, because not only was I there, I kept track of all the media representatives who were there. As pool reporter for the rest of the news media during the trial, she became the most identifiable face and voice reporting on the courtroom proceedings.

The intersection of the retirements of these two icons, both of whom I greatly admire and respect, is to me, ironic.

Deutsch, one of the most experienced, accomplished, objective, straight-shooting reporters of legal cases and court proceedings, became one of Ito’s staunchest defenders both at conferences, in interviews and in my book, “Anatomy of a Trial.”

When I said in an email to Ito the other day that it was hard to think of him as retired, ever the wit, his rejoinder was, “Well, since Linda Deutsch is no longer around to chronicle my trials and travails I decided to pack it in.”

I never read an error or misrepresentation in Deutsch’s reports, but her accounts were an exception during the media saturation of the Simpson trial.

The coda of media reports failing to get it right is reflected in the June 2014 L.A. Times 20-year update, O.J. Simpson case figures found fame, but not all of it welcomed, with it’s assertion that, “He long ago took his name plate off his courtroom door because it kept getting stolen.”

My understanding is that Ito didn’t take his name plate off his courtroom door because it kept getting stolen. He couldn’t take it off because it did keep getting stolen (by souvenir seekers, no doubt). After the court facilities folks replaced it and it was swiped, yet again, for the umpteenth time, he told them to not bother replacing it again.

Best wishes to both reporter Deutsch and jurist Ito as they start on the next chapters in their storied lives.

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