Tag Archives: Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss: Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson

A Sad Anniversary

Twenty-one years ago today a jury in Los Angeles that had been sequestered for nearly 9 months and was itching to go home, declared O.J. Simpson not guilty of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown and Brown’s friend Ron Goldman on a June night in 1994.

I have spent a good deal of my professional and personal time since then trying to correct many misperceptions that have abounded ever since the Simpson case entered the court.

Now, as the 21st anniversary date comes and goes after a year of TV blockbusters rewarded with Emmy nominations and awards, which not only perpetuated many of those misperceptions but created new ones, such as Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark’s accusation that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, who presided over Simpson’s trial, is sexist and misogynistic, my one small voice is getting smaller and being drowned out in all the renewed ballyhoo.

I saw in the news some time ago that Clark was making a public appearance in Milwaukee this month. I rehearsed daily what I would say during her q&A session of that appearance. But I’ve decided to save my time, money and breath. Trying to say anything would be futile and upset me more than anyone else, and certainly not Clark.

Even though I feel a bit of closure with this decision, I will continue to promote and sell Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson, post comments and observations on this blog, and post status updates on my “Anatomy of a Trial by Jerrianne Hayslett” Facebook page.

My experience with that trial, the Los Angeles courts, the media that covered them and all the characters who were part of them, will always be part of me.

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“Anatomy” Should Be on This List

Of all the books published about the Simpson murder trial, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson should be at the top of the list.  Understanding the media coverage or that case and the effect that had on public perception, the parties to the case and the judiciary does more to explain the outcome and reaction than any other book written.

However, it’s not even mentioned in online site Bustle‘s April 5, 2016, piece, “13 Books About The O.J. Simpson Trial To Read If ‘American Crime Story’ Piqued Your Interest” by Jefferson Grubbs.

If you agree, or even if you don’t, and want to give him a piece of your mind, you can tweet him at @MrScreenAddict.

 

Scenes from Fantasyland

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…

  1. that was long after the trial was underway, meaning, Dunne had been sitting in his assigned courtroom seat for weeks by that time,
  2. 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.
  3. 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”.

Kardashian-Jenner Ex a One-Time Show

I’m trying to square this as reported in People magazine:

Kris Jenner still recalls sitting in the courtroom during the trial of O.J. Simpson, hanging on every word, still grieving the loss of her best friend, Nicole Brown Simpson.”

According to my records and memory, Kris Jenner made it into the courtroom a grand total of once, and that was Sept. 27, 1995, a full 15 months after Nicole Brown was murdered and more than nine months after the trial’s opening statements.

That’s right, more than nine months after the trial’s opening statements. That means, while she was indeed pregnant–very pregnant according to my memory of her that day–as the People piece points out, she became so after the trial began. That should be neither here nor there, except that almost every mention of her in connection with the trial includes a reference to her being pregnant.

What merits noting is that she was not a frequent courtroom attendee. Here’s my account in Anatomy of a Trial of the only day in my records that Kris and her husband at that time, Bruce Jenner, came to the Simpson trial:

“Another day of a strange star alignment occurred less than a week before the trial ended. On September 27, Ito had given the two courtroom seats he held in reserve for his use, generally for visiting judges, his parents or other relatives, to a songwriter, David Foster, he knew and Foster’s wife. The wife had previously been married to former Olympian Jenner. And there in court that same day was Jenner with his current wife, who was the ex-wife of Simpson attorney Robert Kardashian.[i] The Jenners sat with former baseball star Garvey and his wife, who, months earlier, had been a prosecution witness.

            “While the media didn’t miss a chance to report on celebrity comings and goings, their accounts were silent on the non-stars he met with, often sacrificing lunch or a couple minutes of down time to do so.”

[i].  Author’s notes, Author’s journal, September 27, 1995.

Media-Created Persona

“It is tempting to assume he (U.S. District Judge Richard Berman) is a Patriots fan,” Alan Fredregill of Sioux City wrote in his Sept. 13, 2015, letter to the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, in which he asserted that the “Deflategate” was blinded by the celebrity of Tom Brady. “It also looks like he, just like Judge Ito at O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, was star-struck by Brady’s celebrity status.”

If Mr. Fredregill has truly bought the media-created persona that O.J. Simpson judge, Lance Ito, was too dazzled by the celebrity of Simpson at his trial 20 years ago to be objective or preside appropriately over that trial, then Fredregill will understand why many consumers of today’s media believe that all Iowans are hayseed rubes who can’t find their way out of a cornfield.

Fredregill and all who have swallowed the media-spewed star-struck Ito image need to read Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson available from Amazon in hard copy and as an ebook.

Sunday Letters: Another judge caves to celebrity