The setting and the conversation were private. At least, in a TV show, they were, and to my knowledge, that’s the only place either happened.
On TV, former movie producer, turned author and Vanity Fair correspondent Dominick Dunne is sitting in Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito’s chambers. Ito is telling Dunne that he is giving Dunne a coveted courtroom seat next to members of the murder victims’ families, then pulls an autographed photo of TV personality Arsenio Hall out of a desk drawer and rather giddily shows it to a rather nonplussed Dunne.
First, I was present in the courtroom (not Ito’s chambers) when the seat assignments were made, which was in January,before opening statements in the trial. A law intern and I drew names out of a bag.
Second, Arsenio Hall, or someone, did send Ito an autographed photo of Arsenio Hall. But…
- that was long after the trial was underway, meaning, Dunne had been sitting in his assigned courtroom seat for weeks by that time,
- Jeffrey Toobin, on whose book the TV miniseries currently showing on the FX channel is based, was in Ito’s chambers for a few minutes the day the picture did arrive in the mail. How that visit came about is described in Anatomy of a Trial, and in no way resembles what Jeffrey Toobin describes in his book.
- Far from giddy or jazzed that Hall sent him the picture, Ito expressed near disgust. He didn’t have to pull it out of a desk drawer as if he were hiding or coveting it. Shortly before I escorted Toobin into Ito’s chambers (for a meeting Toobin had been begging for for weeks — “Just to say hello, to introduce myself and, as a lawyer, shake the judge’s hand.”), Ito had shown me the photo which had arrived in the mail that day and said, “Don’t these people have a life?” The context in which he said something similar to Toobin was in response to Toobin remarking about the attention the trial had gotten. The picture of Hall was laying on a table. Ito showed it and the note Hall had sent with it to Toobin and said something to the effect that he had been getting all kinds of stuff in the mail, then added. “You would think these people would have something better to do.” (A more detailed account of Toobin’s brief visit in Ito’s chambers is on page 64 of my book.)
Did Dunne meet privately with Ito in his chambers before the trial began? I don’t know. What I do know is that I generally acted as the liaison between media types, and that included Dunne, and the judge and accompanied them if they met with him. In another chapter of my book I tell about a meeting Dunne had with Ito that did happen, in which I was present.
But telling what people actually said and did and what their intentions were would not make nearly as great of a story as fantasies or “dramatic license”.
The FX series has received almost unanimous praise from critics. The only major exception I’ve found is from the March issue of Commentary Magazine.
Googe: “Commentary Magazine, O.J. Simpson.”
This piece by Christine Rosen points out Simpson’s guilt is played down, and is “as subtle as a sledgehammer about it’s sympathies.. It’s flattering enough to its titular character that O.J. ought to consider presenting it during his parole hearing next year (he’s currently serving a 33-year prison sentence in Nevada for robbery and kidnapping).”
Rosen also writes: “The People vs. O.J. Simpson is a crime story where the crime and its victims are never shown.”