Tag Archives: Charles Manson

From Famous to Infamous

With the retirement of two icons of the 1995  O.J. Simpson trial — one a household name, the other not quite as famous — the tables seem to have turned, so far as mention in the news and on social media is concerned.

Ito, Linda and me . 7.29.2013

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito is closing the door to his courthouse chambers for the last time and on his 25-years as a Superior Court jurist. It’s hard to find much about Ito’s retirement or much of anything else associated with him in online searches. The “Lance Ito” Google News Alert emails that land in my inbox these days link to the same old snarky cracks and critiques by armchair parrots who have no direct, first-hand knowledge about the trial or the judge.

In June of last year (yes, 2014 is now last year) the Los Angeles Times did its obligatory “where are they now” piece observing the 20th anniversary of the Nicole Brown/Ronald Goldman murders, which led to the notorious ’95 Simpson trial.

Judge Lance Ito, still on the Los Angeles Superior Court bench has presided over some 500 trials since the Simpson case made him famous,” the Times Staff Writer reported. “He long ago took his name plate off his courtroom door because it kept getting stolen. He is not standing for reelection this year and will retire in 2015 with few plans other than to learn to play guitar.”

One place his name still routinely appears, though, is the world of crossword puzzles. The blessing or curse of having and three-letter name.

While Linda Deutsch’s name might not be in a crossword puzzle, as either a clue or an answer, news accounts have proliferated for days about her retirement after 48 years with The Associated Press. She’s being interviewed on numerous television and radio programs, and accolades, praise and congratulations flooded Facebook when she told her Friends she was hanging it up with the AP to work on a memoir of her astounding high-profile-trial coverage going back to Charles Manson in 1970.

Deutsch covered almost every day of the Simpson trial — I know, because not only was I there, I kept track of all the media representatives who were there. As pool reporter for the rest of the news media during the trial, she became the most identifiable face and voice reporting on the courtroom proceedings.

The intersection of the retirements of these two icons, both of whom I greatly admire and respect, is to me, ironic.

Deutsch, one of the most experienced, accomplished, objective, straight-shooting reporters of legal cases and court proceedings, became one of Ito’s staunchest defenders both at conferences, in interviews and in my book, “Anatomy of a Trial.”

When I said in an email to Ito the other day that it was hard to think of him as retired, ever the wit, his rejoinder was, “Well, since Linda Deutsch is no longer around to chronicle my trials and travails I decided to pack it in.”

I never read an error or misrepresentation in Deutsch’s reports, but her accounts were an exception during the media saturation of the Simpson trial.

The coda of media reports failing to get it right is reflected in the June 2014 L.A. Times 20-year update, O.J. Simpson case figures found fame, but not all of it welcomed, with it’s assertion that, “He long ago took his name plate off his courtroom door because it kept getting stolen.”

My understanding is that Ito didn’t take his name plate off his courtroom door because it kept getting stolen. He couldn’t take it off because it did keep getting stolen (by souvenir seekers, no doubt). After the court facilities folks replaced it and it was swiped, yet again, for the umpteenth time, he told them to not bother replacing it again.

Best wishes to both reporter Deutsch and jurist Ito as they start on the next chapters in their storied lives.

Linda Deutsch: Retires from The AP to Write Memoir

Passing the torch.

Changing of the guard.

End of an era.

All of those cliches could be said about the news that Linda Deutsch is hanging it up after a 48-year career with The Associated Press. But none them fit. One reason is because no phrase, label or accolade has been created that could come close to Linda and the stupendous body of work she amassed in her nearly give decades as a court beat/legal affairs reporter at the AP. Another is that cliches are trite and Linda isn’t.

Linda’s prowess as the doyenne of celebrity and notorious trials was well established — starting with the 1970 Charles Manson murder trial — when she became known to me. She was one of the media minions covering the 1992 Rodney King-beating trial, which was my baptism by fire as the greener than green new Los Angeles county courts public information officer.

 One of three photographs of Linda that grace my office — right beside one of me with Jay Leno when I gave him a copy of my book, Anatomy of a Trial. This is an 8-1/2 x 11-inch  collage of some of the more notorious trials she covered, which she sent to me with the inscription, “To Jerrianne–who made it all easier. You’re a great pal. Linda Deutsch.” Another photo is of Linda and me with our friend, famed author, movie producer and TV host Dominick Dunne, who has since passed, at a Las Vegas restaurant following a court proceeding in the Simpson robbery trial, which resulted in a sentence of up to 33 years.

I quickly came to know and respect her professionalism, just-the-facts reportage, and accuracy through that and a host of other cases that paraded through the L.A. courts, not the least of which was the 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial.

She not only was a straight-shooter with me and her readers, she worked to keep judges honest, particularly when they closed proceedings to the public.  Her tenacity and passion for freedom of the press and the people’s right to know is reflected in the many mentions of her in Anatomy, such as this one: “She was also frequently the first, and often the only one, to leap to her feet in a courtroom to object when she believed a judge was about to wrongfully close proceedings to the public.”

The few stories I could tell about Linda would barely fill a thimble of her lifetime of experiences in the court/judicial/legal world. I, along with her legions of friends and colleagues, have been urging her for years to write a book.

It looks like she’s about to do that. “I consider it less a retirement than a transition to a new phase of my career — writing a memoir of my life and trials. And who knows what else will follow? In one way or another, I will continue to pursue my twin passions: journalism and justice,” she posted on Facebook.

‘Yay, Linda! I can’t wait to read it. But why couldn’t you wait just two more years and make it an even 50?

Bottom line, though, Linda is irreplaceable. She is among the last of the, not just truly great, but true journalists. Please, won’t someone rise up and again make journalism the watchdog and be the objective eyes and ears the public so desperately needs!


Birth of the “Media Circus” Debated

My Facebook Friend, and longtime actual friend, Linda Deutsch, posted this on the other day:

“Judge Lance Ito was a question on tonight’s Jeopardy. Some stories live forever!”

That prompted this comment from FB Friend (also longtime actual friend) Scott Shulman:

“The answer is…he pioneered the terminology, ‘Media Circus’.”

Having been on the high-profile court scene since the run-up to the 1992 Rodney King beating trial, I begged to differ with my wonderful friend Scott as I recall that trial also being called a media circus.

Since Linda Deutsch’s high-profile trial experience goes back to the 1970 Charles Manson case (she’s been with The Associated Press for more than 47 years), I asked her if that court scene was called a media circus. Linda reached back to the 1930s and the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder case, which was dubbed “The Trial of the Century.” No verdict yet on whether it was referred to as a media circus.

The Lindbergh trial was indeed called “The Trial of the Century” (as were other trials of the 20th Century), as cited in Hearst newspapers reporter and best-selling author Adela Rogers St. Johns’ autobiography “The Honeycomb.”  http://www.amazon.com/The-Honeycomb-Adela-Rogers-Johns/dp/0451063503. It might have been a circus, but I doubt if it was called a media circus, as the word media wasn’t ubiquitous in those pre-TV days like it is now.

The Book Author Who Didn’t Dies

Reading this morning that Fatal Vision and The Selling of the President 1968 author Joe McGinniss died, I repressed the urge to say, another one bites the dust.

Joe’s death follows that of a number of notables from the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial–fellow authors Dominick Dunne and Joseph Bosco; defense attorneys Robert Kardashian and Johnnie Cochran; newspaper reporters Andrea Ford, Dennis Schatzman and Robin Clark (killed in an automobile collision late in the trial), at least one juror, Tracy Kennedy–although McGinniss ended up shucking the chance to profit from it after investing daily attendance at court proceedings for more than a year.

In Anatomy of a Trial (published in 2009 by University of Missouri Press), Joe makes his entrance at my office in the Los Angeles County Courthouse within days of Joe Bosco. Here are a couple of excerpts that spotlight the rivalry and contempt among writers of various stripes who intended to cover the trial:

Bosco, author of Blood Will Tell, about a DNA-based court case in New Orleans, arrived in my office in late August 1994 full of hand wringing and teeth gnashing over the news that he might not get a courtroom seat in the Simpson case. …

With his graying mane flopping over a forehead festooned with bushy eyebrows, he hrumphed at newspaper reporters, who were “at the bottom of the food chain,” getting seats over himself, Joseph Bosco, who had paid his reporting dues and graduated to the fine art of writing books. He spewed indignation that Fatal Vision author Joseph McGinniss, whom Bosco called a hack, was going to get a seat and Bosco might not. The very idea was unthinkable to any rational human being who had the slightest modicum of intelligence or literary knowledge. …

Joe McGinniss was the yin to Bosco’s yang. Quiet, unpretentious and anything but flamboyant, McGinniss washed in to my office not long after Bosco with the advent of Southern California’s rainy season. Intent on learning the terrain and players, he seemed oblivious to his dripping jacket and rivulets of water running off strings of his gray hair and into his eyes. He announced sometime into the trial that he wasn’t talking to anyone or doing any research. His book would be from the jury’s point of view and based entirely on what occurred in the courtroom.

Although Bosco beat McGinniss to Los Angeles, McGinniss had the upper hand. Within days after Ito got the Simpson case, McGinniss wrote to him requesting a seat. Ito agreed, then told me. It was a done deal. Ito would not go back on his word, even though in hindsight after learning the ultimate fate of the book McGinniss said he was going to write, he might have decided otherwise. At the end of the trial McGinniss ditched his book project and reportedly took off for Europe to cover international soccer.

Veteran reporter, Linda Deutsch, who is in her 47th year with The Associated Press as its renowned legal affairs reporter whose coverage goes back to the 1970 Charles Manson mass murder trial, was outraged than any book author got a media seat at the trial. Here’s what I wrote in Anatomy about her reaction:

While hers was a cult of professionalism as opposed to the cult of personality that imbued so much of the nouveau journalism that was emerging in the mid-1990s, Deutsch could express righteous indignation with the best of them. An example is when the Simpson trial seating plan included seats allocated to people who were writing books.

“That’s unconscionable,” she fumed, puffing up her five-foot-tall frame, her cloud of champagne-colored hair fairly shivering. “They’re just in it for the money. They won’t be reporting anything to anyone until their books come out months after the trial.”

And Joe McGinniss’s didn’t come out at all, and never will.

While we all know none of us will get out of this life alive, the departure is a bit unnerving when one among the Simpson-trial ranks, which, as Deutsch observed at the memorial gathering for Robin Clark, who was about 40 years old, that Joe McGinniss held at his rented Beverly Hills house following Clark’s shocking and untimely death in August of 1995, had become family.

Veteran Courtroom News Reporter Winds Up in Cellar

AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch usually reports the news. On Friday, she made the news. Deutsch, whose court beat has put her in more high-profile trial courtrooms–going back to the 1970-71 Charles Manson spectacle–than just about any news reporter in U.S. history, got the attention of Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke when she did a BBC interview in a hotel-casino restaurant’s wine cellar.

Norm tells how that came about here: http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/norm-clarke/obama-wynn-catch-flak-being-oscar

True to Deutsch’s style, she wasn’t in Vegas to play, although she has been known to do that on occasion. No, she was on the job, covering the latest O.J. Simpson courtroom drama in which he is trying for a new trial on robbery and kidnap charges in Vegas that resulted in a conviction and a prison sentence of up to 33 years..