Tag Archives: AP

Remote Trial Coverage

I read this article, “New Doc Features Black Journalists Who Covered OJ Simpson Trial,” expecting to see names of journalists I knew who covered the O.J. Simpson trial. I knew who attended it because I kept a daily list. Among the regulars were Andrea Ford, Dennis Schatzman, Janet Gilmore, Myra Ming, Bill Whitaker, and above all, photojournalist Haywood Galbreath, who was in court every day that trial was in session. Others attended from time to time as well.
While Star Jones, who is quoted in this story, did show up occasionally, although I remember her more from the Rodney King beating trial days, most of the people quoted in this story I never met or saw in the courtroom or in the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building 9th floor media center. I wondered after reading the story, why the writer, Matthew Carey, didn’t interview those who were there.
It’s a given he couldn’t have interviewed Andrea Ford or Dennis Schatzman, as both died years ago. (Schatzman, who reported for the African-American newspaper The Los Angeles Sentinel and made race the theme in his trial coverage, wrote an excellent book, The Simpson Trial in Black and White, with a white colleague, Tom Elias.) But Janet Gilmore, who reported for the Los Angeles Daily News is now and has been at UC Berkeley for more than a decade; Myra Ming, who was KTTV’s reporter/producer on the scene and went on to become a Nieman fellow, and Bill Whitaker with CBS News where he is now a 60 Minutes correspondent, shouldn’t have been hard to find.
And Haywood Galbreath, whose attendance at the Simpson trial rivals only AP reporter Linda Deutsch, to my knowledge, not only continues his photojournalism career via his H. G. Star-1 News Photos agency and published The O. J. Simpson Murder Trial: the complete photo journal of the trial of the century, he readily talks about being a black journalist covering the trial and probably has the most stark and telling stories about that experience.
At best, one or two of those Carey quoted in this article might have shown up in the courtroom once or twice during the nine months of the trial from opening statements to closing arguments and the four months of pre-trial proceedings, although I don’t recall seeing them. Otherwise, they must have covered the trial from their newsrooms, offices and other non-courtroom locations, via TV, like millions of other viewers.
In Carey’s article, former USA Today DeWayne Wickham recalled his frustration that his reporting didn’t get picked up by his own paper, which he implies in this story was racially based.
“I was a black journalist who reported a story that raised serious questions about the prosecution’s conduct of that trial, and most white folks ignored my reporting.”
Whether or not that was the case, I can’t say. What I do know, though, is that the two USA Today reporters who were consistently in the courtroom were women, so Wickham must have been covering it remotely. Plus, considering the number of African-American journalists who were assigned to onsite, i.e. courtroom, coverage, Wickham’s situation seems to have been more of an anomaly than the rule.
As I read the caption of a photograph used to illustrated Cary’s story, a bias of my own bubbled up. The picture shows Simpson getting out of a car.
Defendant O.J. Simpson arrives under the gaze of t
The caption reads: “Defendant O.J. Simpson arrives under the gaze of the media at the Santa Monica Courthouse where the first day of opening arguments. AFP/Getty Images”
This photo and caption taps into my bias in three ways of how the news media distorts and misinforms the public.
(1) The picture is of Simpson wearing civilian clothes,
(2) The caption says Simpson is arriving at the Santa Monica Courthouse,
(3) The caption says (ungrammatically) “where the first day of opening arguments.”
(1) During Simpson’s 1995 murder trial, he was in custody, locked up in the Los Angeles County Jail, where he wore orange jumpsuits from the day he was arrested on June 17, 1994, until his acquittal on Oct. 3, 1995. His lawyers brought civilian clothes to the courthouse for Simpson to change into in a locked cell there for his courtroom appearances. Never during that trial was he wearing civilian clothes while riding around in a car.
(2) The murder trial, which Carey’s story seems to be about, was held in a downtown Los Angeles courthouse, not in Santa Monica. What was held in Santa Monica was Simpson’s 1996-97 civil trial which resulted in a $33 million judgment against him. So, unsuspecting and otherwise uninformed readers of this story won’t understand the difference.
(3) Opening arguments? What the heck are opening arguments? That is a creation of the news media, something I didn’t realize until I worked for the court. Trial attorneys make opening statements. They state to a jury the facts of the case as they plan to present it and the evidence. Arguments come at the end of the trial, after the attorneys have presented their case, and argue why the jury should decide in their and their clients’ favor.
I’m disappointed that Carey, who is billed at the end of his story as editor-in-chief of nonfictionfilm.com. During the Simpson trial he worked for CNN’s LA bureau, writing on media coverage of the case didn’t know correct lingo and wasn’t aware of the damage conflating two very different trials held at different times does on his readers’/viewers’ understanding of the legal system and of those who cover it.

O.J. Pal — and Bronco Driver — A.J. Was Mum?

My People vs. O.J. Simpson on this date 20 years ago:

Cowlings subpoenaed.

Tells the Grand Jury nothing.

Friends in need, indeed.


A.J. Cowlings drove the white Bronco, with Simpson as a passenger, on the infamous slow-speed chase on the freeways of L.A., as shown in this AP photo:

Here’s the headline and a link to the NBC news account:

O.J. Simpson’s Bronco Chase: ‘Theater of the Absurd’



And So the 20-year Reminiscing, and Re-Inventing Begins

I say re-inventing because so much of what became what the public came to believe was the invention or distortion of some who covered the trial and/or perpetuated some of the myths. CBS News Legal Analyst Jack Ford, who was with NBC in 1995, which was when I met him during his time covering the trial.

Here’s his “in the beginning” take in an AP piece published earlier this month:

“At the beginning we knew it was a big story,” says Ford, “but I don’t think any of us anticipated how the public would be so invested in it.”


That was the thinking of many in Los Angeles, where I worked as the L.A. courts’ media liaison.

“(Simpson trial judge Lance) Ito was caught off guard by the initial surge of media attention,” I wrote in my book Anatomy of a Trial. “He felt certain it would quickly recede and possibly even disappear. ‘They won’t hang around long,’ he said. ‘Jury selection and maybe opening statements, then they’ll leave and won’t be back until the verdict.’”

From Ford’s observation, Ito’s comment and my expectations, we were all caught off guard.

“Vanity Fair” Catches up with Simpson Trial Cast

Vanity Fair’s “Where Are They Now: The O.J. Simpson Cast” update of some of the players in the notorious 1995 O.J. Simpson trial in L.A. graces the magazine’s issue next month.

June 12, 2014, marks the 20th anniversary of the murder of Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman, which Simpson was charged with committing.

The VF promo includes 16 photos of icons of that case, including Kato, Nicole’s Akita dog, and the white Bronco Simpson’s friend drove in his televised freeway-gawking slow-speed chase.

Not among the photos are lots of actual people who had a daily courtroom presence from the day Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito got the case in August 1994 until the Oct. 3, 1995, verdict that made Simpson a free man. One of those people was AP reporter Linda Deutsch. Another was me.

A few days ago, I started re-reading my book, Anatomy of a Trial, as a refresher for my book club, which selected it this month. It is, by far, not the first time I’ve re-read the book, which was published in 2009, but it has been quite a while.

Amazing! popped into my head before I had even gotten through the Introduction. Amazing all that went on. Amazing that we all survived. Amazing that those murders were almost 20 years ago.

I also realized how relevant the book is, despite the trial taking place 19 years ago and the book being published five years ago. I still urge every judge facing a high profile trial, every lawyer participating in such a trial and every journalist who might cover one to read it. It’s still available in hard copy and e-format from the publisher, University of Missouri Press, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

In addition to the book website, Anatomy of a Trial also has a Facebook page


Caution Needed In Propagating Claims

Longtime Associated Press reporter Linda Deutsch, who has covered trials of the famous and infamous for decades, posted the following on Facebook:

“I am distressed over the way the Internet swallows and regurgitates any scurrilous posting about O.J. Simpson when it is clearly not true. The AP checks out every one of these reports (mostly from the National Enquirer) and they are invariably bogus. The latest is a claim he has brain cancer and wants President Obama to release him. First of all, Obama has no such powers over a state prisoner. Secondly,the prison says he’s not ill. It reflects badly on all media when some feel they have the right to make up stories to harm someone.”

I am culpable in attributing these claims to Simpson, in addition to tabloids such as the National Enquirer. I need to be more responsible and less regurgitive. Thank you for the flag, Linda.

Here’s the link to a story in The Washington Post.

“Persistently bizarre rumors of OJ Simpson’s fatal brain cancer and subsequent plea for a presidential pardon are–surprise!–completely false …”

Lunch with OJS Trial Icons — and More

Conversation over ribs, yellow tail tuna and quiche on Monday focused little on the events of 18-19 years ago and a lot on what’s in the future. Looks bright for all! It was a great relief to be assured that Lance Ito does not plan to become a Texan.

Ito, Linda and me . 7.29.2013

Leaving Taix French Restaurant in Echo Park after lunch with AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito.

I haven’t lived in the Los Angeles area for more than a decade, so when Eric Garcetti stopped by our table to greet his acquaintance, Lance Ito, I was slow to recognize him as the newly elected mayor of Los Angeles and son of Gil Garcetti, who coincidently, or maybe ironically, was Los Angeles County District Attorney during the Simpson murder trial era.

Ito and Deutsch might have known who the man with the new mayor was, although they didn’t indicate that they did when Garcetti introduced him simply as Shaun Donovan. But I didn’t. I thought he might be on Garcetti’s staff when Linda, whom Ito introduced as being with the Associated Press, asked Garcetti a question. The impression I got when Donovan, eyeing Deutsch, touched the mayor’s arm and indicated that they should go, was that he felt wary about Garcetti answering, impromptu, a reporter’s question.

Although Donovan might have just been on a tight schedule, I might also have been right about the man’s caution. I was wrong, however, in thinking he might be a mayoral aid. He was the Shaun Donovan who is United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

It’s Baaaaacccck! The Specter of Michael Jackson

AP Special Correspondent and doyenne of high-profile-trial reporters Linda Deutsch shared a link to her story about yet another Michael Jackson lawsuit in the Los Angeles courts along with this question:

“Ready for another Jackson trial?”


My reply:

How many remember the first — Chandler vs. Jackson — in 1993? Well, it no doubt wasnt’ the first Jackson court fracas and it didn’t even go to trial — settled pretrial, but not without a media melee outside the Santa Monica courthouse at a pretrial hearing that more than rivaled the Rodney King-beating trial up the freeway in Simi Valley the previous year. Family members must be pros by now.