Tag Archives: Cecil Mills

Just Between Us — and “60 Minutes”

A Mike Wallace call.

Ito-off-the-record talk?

That will not happen.

This haiku was born from an extraordinary conversation I had with Ty Kim, who called on behalf of “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace. I gave it a mention on page 25 in Anatomy of a Trial.  Here, from my notes, is more about Kim’s phone call and my conversation with then-Criminal Courts Supervising Judge Cecil Mills.

Kim: We haven’t done a piece on the Simpson case and we’re looking for an intelligent way to put some of this [media] coverage into perspective.

I sought Mills’ counsel on “how to proceed,” is what I wrote in my notes.

Me to Mills:  They say there would be no specific deadline for when the piece would run; they would air it when things appear to spin out of control and the standard of reporting is questionable.

They are offering a venue to speak to their audience for 45 minutes. It would not be about the substance of the case or what would affect the outcome (of the trial), but on how the fair-trial process might be affected by coverage of this case. They said:

“Someone has to put these inaccurate reports into some kind of perspective. If we can come up with a way, would you be open to any kind of dialogue? Over the years, extraordinary interviews have been negotiated. Ii’s our opinion that it would be of some value to inform the public and to discuss the saturation of coverage.

“I know we’ve been shocked by it since the case began. “60 Minutes” can be the voice of reason.”

Mills deferred to me, I wrote in my notes, but he wanted to know if our conversations with Kim and/or Wallace or anyone else at “60 Minutes” would be off the record, and if doing something with “60 Minutes” would serve some purpose … that it would offer a venue to make a statement about coverage that goes beyond the courtroom and how it affects the fair-trial process.  Would it discuss the way journalists cover stories? Could we (Mills, Ito and me) talk with Wallace to change the flow of reportage in the future?

Kim had said to me: Mike’s concern is for a fair trial. He’s looking for a window of opportunity to discuss in an academic way the perspective on how coverage has spun out of control. Judge Mills and Judge Ito have a unique viewpoint that would help the public understand how far things have spun out of control. We want to be a platform for perspective while other chase for scraps with shock value. We would move forward in as thoughtful a way as possible on how affected fair trials are, how coverage of this case could affect how trials are conducted across the U.S.  How that would unfold as the Simpson case was handled and address the flow of information that escapes before the trial begins.

Oh, how I wanted to believe! If the interview went as Kim outlined or described, it would be such a boon to clear up all the misreporting, misinformation, distortion and misperception. But my gut won out. I’d seen way too many “60 Minutes” and other “just between us” interviews [can you say Connie Chung and Kathleen Gingrich?]

Here’s how that went down:

“In a taped interview with Mrs. Kathleen Gingrich, 68, Chung asked Mrs. Gingrich what her boy, Newt, has said about President Clinton.

The question led to the following exchange:

Mom Gingrich: “Nothing, and I can’t tell you what he said about Hillary.”

Chung: “You can’t.”

Mom Gingrich: “I can’t.”

Chung: “Why don’t you just whisper it to me, just between you and me.”

Mom Gingrich: (In a loud whisper) “She’s a bitch. About the only thing he ever said about her.”  http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1995-01-05/news/9501050148_1_men-and-shaper-mom-gingrich-newtie

And Chung worked for the same TV network that broadcast “60 Minutes.”

The risk was just too great.

And

But it turns out that Ms. Chung was fibbing when she said “just between you and me.”

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A Mystery Within A Murder Mystery

Here’s my People vs. Simpson haiku of 20 years ago today.

Mist’ry envelope

Will the public ever know?

Curiosity

8/12/94

A manila envelope, thought to contain either the murder weapon or a knife similar to it that surfaced during the preliminary hearing, is subject of great speculation during pretrial proceedings.

The envelope first appeared at the preliminary hearing when the case was still in the municipal court.

(At the time, procedures for felony cases were for the defendant to appear before  a municipal court judge and enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty. Then a preliminary hearing is held at which a municipal court judge determines if the prosecutors have enough evidence to take the case to trial. If the judge says the prosecution does have sufficient evidence, the defendant is bound over for trial. The next step is for the defendant to again enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty at a superior court appearance. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case is assigned to a trial judge and pretrial proceedings are held, if needed, in preparation for trial.)

At Simpson’s preliminary hearing, one of the most bizarre things happened that I’ve ever seen in court. The supervising judge of the superior court’s criminal division, Cecil Mills, walked into the municipal courtroom through the public entrance (not via the private door near the bench that judges use to enter and leave a courtroom) while court was in session. He crossed the courtroom and went up to the municipal court preliminary judge, Kathleen Kennedy-Powell, who was presiding at the hearing, and handed her a sealed manila envelope.

What made that event bizarre was that I’d never seen a judge do what Cecil Mills did. First, if a judge had something s/he wanted to get to another judge, he would have someone–a clerk, a bailiff or some other staff person–deliver it. S/He wouldn’t have do so personally. Second, the delivering judge would have come into the courtroom through the judge’s door from the judges’ back hallway, not entered via the public entrance. Third, s/he would have given the envelope/package or whatever to the courtroom bailiff, not approached the judge directly while court was in session and the judge was on the bench.

Judge Kennedy-Powell, saying the envelope contained evidence provided by the defense, instructed both sides in the case to give her written reports on how they though she should deal with it. The next time I saw it was in Judge Lance Ito’s chambers when the case was in superior court. The envelope was still sealed, and Ito said he was turning it over to retired superior court Judge Delbert Wong, whom Ito had selected to be a special master to maintain custody of the envelope.

The contents of envelope was never revealed in court, although it was widely speculated to be a knife and receipt of purchase from a Los Angeles cutlery store.