Tag Archives: Christopher Darden

Interesting Question, What’s the Answer?

O.J. Simpson pal raises a question that I don’t recall being raised in court during Simpson’s 1995 murder trial, or even being battered around behind the scenes. The question is, “…what would Mark Fuhrman have to know before he placed the glove at Simpson’s (house).?’

My first thought when I read that in a Huffington Post article was if that question had occurred to Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark or her assistant Christopher Darden either before, during or after the trial that ended in Simpson’s acquittal. If so, why didn’t that question make it into the trial? If not, why not?

Guess we’ll never know.

Sloppiness Does Miniseries Credibility Damage

Although I took exception with the FX miniseries People vs. O.J. Simpson perpetuation of the mischaracterization of Simpson trial judge, Lance Ito, the creators and cast of the drama got a lot right.

Sarah Paulson absolutely nailed it as Marcia Clark, Sterling K. Brown was certainly a believable Christopher Darden. and Joseph Siravo was credible as Fred Goldman. The rest of the cast, except for Kenneth Choi’s voice in his role as Ito, might as well have been playing characters in some unrelated production.

The story line and conflict, also, are fairly accurate so far as what happened in the courtroom. I don’t know about what went on in any private conversations, except those in Ito’s chambers at which I was present. What bugs me, aside from the misrepresentation of Ito, is so much that wasn’t accurate out of sheer sloppiness that was easily avoidable.

It’s unlikely that I’ll hit everything here, but I can at least offer some examples. A couple of observations I made in previous posts on this blog.

One was early on in a scene in which Marcia Clark was standing on the balcony outside the District Attorney’s office in the Criminal Courts Building. That balcony was only a few floors up, probably the third of fourth floor. The District Attorney’s Office was, and still is, on the 18th floor, one floor from the top of the building.

Another was a completely fabricated meeting Ito purportedly had in his chambers with former movie producer-turned author Dominick Dunne. In that scene Ito is depicted pulling open a desk drawer, taking out an autographed picture TV personality Arsenio Hall had sent the judge and showing it to Dunne as if Ito thought it was some terrific get or coveted souvenir.

Rather than just sloppy, that scene had to be a deliberate fantasy. That’s because the miniseries was based on a book published by CNN commentator and writer Jeffery Toobin. Rather than Dunne, it was Toobin to whom Ito showed a photo of Hall. Toobin didn’t forget about that meeting or just misremembered that it was Dunne to whom Ito showed the picture. Toobin wrote about it in his book — sort of.

Here is my account, taken from my notes taken that day and an audio journal entry recorded that evening:

“Like many of his colleagues, Toobin clambered to meet Ito. Ito said no.

‘He’s a month behind the time,’ Ito said in reply to one request in mid-September of 1994. ‘He’s too late.’[i]

But Toobin persisted.[ii]

‘Just a few minutes with the judge,’ he pleaded on another occasion. ‘Just to say hello, to introduce myself and, as a lawyer, shake the judge’s hand.’

In February Ito finally relented, but said to bring him in at the end of the lunch break so he could limit his time with him. As I escorted Toobin to Ito’s chambers, I delivered my spiel that everything, once he crossed the threshold, was off the record. As usual, all manner of files, documents, mementos and other paraphernalia cluttered Ito’s chambers. As Toobin observed the surroundings, Ito showed him what he thought was an example of how crazily things had gotten with public interest in the trial. It was a note television personality Arsenio Hall had sent him in which he compared Ito’s job to President Bill Clinton’s, saying that Clinton has the second hardest job and that Ito had the hardest.[iii] With a shake of his head, Ito said he found it strange that people, even celebrities, apparently wanting to be part of or to somehow relate personally with the trial, would send the court notes and photographs and souvenirs.

‘You would think these people would have something better to do,’ he said.[iv]

But that’s not how Toobin told it. Nearly a year after the trial, Toobin hit the talk-show circuit to promote his book.[v] In recounting his meeting with Ito, he said the judge wanted to meet him and had ‘summoned’ him for a visit in chambers. Toobin’s tale was not only unethical because he violated the off-the-record condition, he reshaped it, apparently to support his characterization of Ito as behaving like ‘just another celebrity-crazed resident of Los Angeles’ and having ‘starry eyes.’[vi] Ito’s point in showing Toobin the Arsenio Hall note was to underscore how obsessed people had become with the trial. But that obviously wasn’t Toobin’s impression or his memory of how the incident played out.”

Although scenes in the courthouse and trial courtroom appeared to be shot in the actual building and courtroom, Ito’s chambers during the trial were not. In fact, Toobin could have made sure the chambers were a close, if not exact, replication of that office, since he had been in that office. Why he didn’t is a mystery, but it was just all wrong.

Again, despite the courtroom looking like an actual Criminal Courts Building courtroom, the clock and the lack of them, were wrong. The clock in Ito’s courtroom was the basic vanilla style clock found in most schools and other public buildings of that era, similar to this: 

I say “lack of them”, because in the early days of the proceedings, Ito ordered several more clocks that looked like this and put them on the courtroom walls as a hint to habitually tardy lawyers on the case that court began at 9 a.m. When that didn’t work, he started bringing hourglasses from a collection he had in his chambers into the courtroom, which of course made headlines.

Another inaccuracy was Judge Ito banging a gavel when he called a recess. That never happened. Ito didn’t use a gavel in his courtroom. He didn’t even have a gavel on the bench.

And what was that with Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson shaving in jail. Shaving, with a safety razor. A safety razor, which gives a pretty close shave. Then he shows up in court with had to be at least a two-day stubble on his face.

The make up of the jury on verdict day was nowhere close to the real jury. The real consisted of ten women and two men. The TV show has at least four men. Racially, the real jury was nine blacks, two whites and one Hispanic. The TV jury that could be seen on camera included four whites.

Further, when the trial judge dismissed the jurors post verdict, he addressed them as ladies and gentlemen of the jury and alternates. At that point in the trial, there were no alternates. The twelve alternates that began with the twelve regular jurors had become regular jurors during the course of the trial as one-by-one, the regular jurors were all dismissed.

Trivial errors or inaccuracies that few people would know to notice or care about. But if the miniseries producers didn’t care enough to get those kind of details right, how can they have credibility about anything else?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i].  Author’s notes, September 19, 1994.

 [ii] Id., January 25, February 3, 1995.

[iii]Id, February 3, 1995.

[iv]Id, February 8, 1995.

[v].   Jeffrey Toobin, “Today,” September 10, 1996, http://www.radicalmedia.com/work/today/trans/1996/sep/960910.txt; Francis X. Archibald, “Toobin critiques O. J. Simpson trial,” The State (Columbia, SC), September 29, 1996.

[vi].   Jeffrey Toobin, The Run of His Life (New York: Random House, 1996), 229

What They and I Didn’t Know

In a recent Law Newz website post, O.J. Simpson Prosecutor Says Non-Black Writers for New Series Clearly Don’t Understand Race, former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney makes a case for what I didn’t understand during that trial more that 20 years ago, but have a better understanding of now. Here’s an observation about the FX miniseries:

“I think you have a production done, I’ll say this, basically non-black writers, non-black producers then you want to take this iconic trial with these black lawyers and talk about race, I don’t see how you talk about race without including the people that are most affected by it.”

I wouldn’t have appreciated or even understood back in 1995 what Christopher Darden meant had I heard it back then.

I did hear someone back then say something similar to that and, while I went to bat for him, I didn’t really understand. Photojournalist Haywood Galbreath, who was the only photographer who was in the courtroom taking pictures every day of the trial. I describe my encounter with him in Anatomy of a Trial:

“He represented some two-hundred black-owned newspapers across the country, he said, who were fed up with the distortions of the white media. Exhibit A, a Time magazine cover with Simpson’s mug shot which had been altered, giving him a darker, more sinister look.”

With more life experience, I have a much better idea of what Galbreath was saying and totally agree with Darden’s observation about the making of FX’s “People vs. O.J. Simpson.”

Counsel, Present Your Case Without Baiting

Baiting is forbade.

Each did it to the other.

Neufeld v. Darden.

6/21/95

Simpson judge, Lance Ito, issued two of his many sanctions against defense attorney Peter J. Neufeld and deputy district attorney Christopher Darden for engaging in what Ito had warned both against — both orally and in writer — and that is to not bait each other.

Well, Of Course, It Didn’t Fit!

They gloated a lot.

Like rubbing salt in the wound.

The glove didn’t fit.

6/15/95

“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” was a line made famous from O. J. Simpson defense attorney Johnnie Cochran’s closing arguments near the trial’s conclusion. The reference, of course, was to Deputy Defense Attorney Christopher Darden’s ploy during the prosecution’s case  to have Simpson try on a glove police had found at the scene of Nicole Brown’s and Ronald Goldman’s murders. It was–and still is–called the “bloody glove” in that trial’s parlance.

Here, in a Wikipedia article, is the story of how the bloody glove worked its way into the trial and, according to some opinions, was the linchpin of Simpson’s acquittal:

“On June 15, 1995, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran goaded assistant prosecutor Christopher Darden into asking Simpson to put on the leather glove that was found at the scene of the crime. The prosecution had earlier decided against asking Simpson to try on the gloves because (according to prosecutors) the glove had been soaked in blood from Simpson, Brown and Goldman,[19] and frozen and unfrozen several times.

“The leather glove seemed too tight for Simpson to put on easily, especially over gloves he wore underneath.[10]

image

“[Gerald] Uelmen came up with and Cochran repeated a quip he had used several times in relation to other points in his closing arguments, ‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit’. On June 22, 1995, Darden told Judge Lance Ito of his concerns that Simpson ‘has arthritis and we looked at the medication he takes and some of it is anti-inflammatory and we are told he has not taken the stuff for a day and it caused swelling in the joints and inflammation in his hands’. The prosecution also stated their belief that the glove shrank from having been soaked in blood and later testing.[10] A photo was presented during the trial showing Simpson wearing the same type of glove that was found at the crime scene.”

A couple of years ago, news reports surfaced saying Darden was alleging that the defense had tampered with the glove, specifically, tearing the glove lining.

To me, Darden’s claim is a double down on what I perceive to be extreme incompetence.

I was in the courtroom the day of the glove fiasco and couldn’t believe what I saw.

Of course, he can’t get the glove on, is what I thought.

(1)  The glove was leather. When dries after it’s wet — whether from water or blood — it shrinks and stiffens.

(2)  Darden had Simpson put on latex gloves and try to pull the shrunken, stiffened glove over a latex glove. Just try to slip anything over latex.

Another cause of my incredulity was that Darden would have had Simpson try on the glove without knowing himself if it would fit.  I’d never attended law school, but I’d heard for year that a lawyer should never ask a question s/he doesn’t know the answer to.

Then for Darden to admit years later that he had not inspected the glove before he had Simpson try it on . Seems to me that would have been pro forma.

Old Names in the News — Must be the 20th Anniversary

We’ve already seen news that 20 years after the media Klieg lights turned O.J. Simpson trial participants and some in their own ranks into stars, that the trial judge, Lance Ito, and doyenne of high-profile trial reporters, Linda Deutsch, are retiring — Ito after 27 years on the bench, 25 as a Superior Court judge,  Getty Images/AP

Deutsch after 50 years in journalism, 48 with The Associated PressMurder Trial Continues For Phil SpectorPool/Getty Images

Next up is former part-time Simpson defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, Alan Dershowitz, gestures during his press conference in Kiev on April 11, 2011. Ukraine's ex-president Leonid Kuchma hired Alan Dershowitz, a star US lawyer, who worked on the O.J. Simpson trial to act as an advisor in his defence against charges over the murder of a reporter. AFP PHOTO/GENYA SAVILOV (Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images) GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

who’s angrily denying allegations of inappropriate and illegal behavior. Prominent Lawyer Alan Dershowitz Denies Underage Sex Claims

And 2nd-in-command prosecutor on the case, Christopher Darden, Christopher-Dardenwho says in  this interview after keeping a relatively low profile over the past couple of decades that he’s angry, too, or in his words, he’s “Now ‘Pissed Off’ Over the Outcome of the Trial.” Now?

“.

 

Dream Team Doesn’t Like New DDA

The daily haiku continue.

New prosecutor;

The defense wants to recuse.

Christopher Darden.

11/16/94