The website “Bustle” had this story, Where Is Judge Lance Ito Today? He’s Stayed Out Of Spotlight Since The Simpson Trial, today. It’s one of the more accurate stories I’ve seen about the Simpson trial and people associated with it in a long time. And it was a good story.
It pretty much reflected what I wrote eight years ago about Ito in the introduction of Anatomy of a Trial (pages 4-5):
“Interestingly, although Ito was and still is trivialized as star struck and grasping for fame, immediately after the trial he tried to return to anonymity. By contrast, the other major figures capitalized on their celebrity with book deals, speaking tours, TV shows, commentating gigs and even acting stints. Without a doubt, Ito could have joined their ranks—publishers offered deals with two-to-three million-dollar advances and eventual five-to-six million net—but didn’t. He also, until agreeing to contribute to this book, has turned down interview requests and public-speaking invitations, and declined to counter his critics.
“I prefer to remain in the tall grass,” he said a few years ago when I proposed doing a magazine profile of him. He’s done a good job of that. People generally express surprise when they learn that he’s still on the bench trying felony cases and has twice since the Simpson trial been re-elected to his Superior Court office.
“While Ito’s discipline in remaining mum and out of the spotlight might be laudable, he has not necessarily done himself or the judiciary any favors as it has left his judicial reputation publicly besmirched and allowed other judges’ disdain for him to flourish. Some in the media, such as syndicated talk show host Larry Elder, have speculated that Ito’s silence springs from embarrassment. That, however, is not the case.
“Fingers of blame for Simpson becoming the spectacle that it did have pointed in many directions, with most eventually resting on Ito. But the truth is, blame belongs to just about everyone associated with the trial, including the vast public audience that followed it.
“Ted Koppel, host of ABC’s Nightline said in an interview on a Public Broadcast Service tenth anniversary show of the verdict that although Nightline tried to minimize its coverage of the trial, it got a ten percent ratings boost every time it included coverage in a broadcast.
“In that same PBS show, Harvard law professor and member of Simpson’s legal defense team Alan Dershowitz, puzzled over the public’s obsession with the trial.
“’I could never understand that,’ he said. ‘To me it was just another murder case.’”
I then go on to list all the reasons it wasn’t just another murder trial.
Lance Ito was and still is one of my favorite judges, even though he is now retired. It distressed me that he and his actions were so blatantly misrepresented in media reports. Long after the trial as ridicule and criticism of him continued at every mention of the case or his name, I offered to find ways to counter it. He seemed interested, then would decline. I also wrote about that and how I came to understand why in Anatomy of a Trial, It’s at the end of Chapter 3 on page 34. Here it is:
“Ito was deeply affected by the criticism and the blow to his professional image. During the trial and in the months following it, he seemed grateful for my offers to rebut the most blatant of misperceptions. Yet, when I gave him drafts of letters and op-ed pieces for his review, he would tell me not to send them.
“’Just let it go,’ he would say.
“It wasn’t until I read a profile of him in a legal newspaper years later that I began to understand that aspect of his persona.
“As reported by Los Angeles Daily Journal writer, Don Ray, in his June 2005 article, Ito ‘remained silent, true to the same cultural fabric that gave his parents and grandparents emotional strength during their internment.’
“’It’s called ‘shigata ga nai,’ and it’s a philosophy of life that’s very, very typically Japanese,’ Ito is quoted as saying in the profile.
“’Shigata ga nai means it can’t be helped,’ Japanese-American pastoral counselor Cliff Ishigaki explained in the profile. ‘It’s the deepest form of resignation. It signifies a form of victimization, where life is done without their permission.”
I thought it ironic that in attempting to educate the public about how “life” was done to interned Americans of Japanese descent without their permission during World War II, he had inadvertently become a victim of that very phenomenon himself.
If anyone would like to buy my book, it’s no longer available from the publisher, University of Missouri Press, even though it’s still listed on Amazon.com as being “Temporarily out of stock.” I bought the remainder of UMP’s stock and am selling it for $10.99 directly and on an Amazon program called Fulfillment By Amazon, which, unfortunately is buried two clicks away from the main page where no one can find it unless they know how. (FYI — type the name of the book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson in Amazon.com’s search window. Under the first listing (which is the UMP listing that says (Temporarily out of stock), click on the tiny live link Hardcover. On the page that opens, go down to “More Buying Choices” and click on “13 New from $7.00. My listing (currently) is the first one on the page that opens. I say “currently” because on a couple of occasions, I’ve had to scroll down a bit to find it. I’m really angry that Amazon won’t list it on the main page–i.e. the first one that opens when the book title is typed into the search window and have a 1/2-inch (so far) file of printouts of email communication with Amazon — or rather people in some other country with names like Jaden and Abdul — trying to get moved to the main page. If you’d rather buy it directly from me, please let me know.
I bought your book (and exchanged a couple of emails with you) when it came out. Almost none of these people commenting on the FX program seem to be aware of it.
I frequently post a comment recommending my book to stories that are the most blatantly wrong. So many people these days don’t read books and don’t want to be bothered with facts.
I’m looking forward to your opinion on the latest episode. It looks like Judge Ito is going to be portrayed as starstruck and eager for the publicity the trial will bring him.
I would be greatly surprise if he weren’t given that the series is based on Toobin’s book. Toobin, more than any other one person, created that misperception.