Tag Archives: High-Profile trials

OJS pops up in unexpected places

John Kerry Compares Trump To OJ Simpson For Ditching Paris Climate Accord

Kerry: ”…Trump saying he’d renegotiate the Paris accord is ‘like OJ Simpson saying he’s gonna go out’ and ‘find the real killer.'”

http://dailycaller.com/2017/06/04/john-kerry-compares-trump-to-oj-simpson-for-ditching-paris-climate-accord/

Comparing Tiger Woods to OJ Simpson is offensive

“The only thing in my view that links Woods and Simpson, apart from being high-profile athletes, is the colour of their skin. I don’t think we would, for example, compare Lance Armstrong to a killer.”

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2017/05/31/comparing-tiger-woods-to-oj-simpson-is-offensive.html

No Cameras, No Phones: You Can’t Watch Bill Cosby’s High-Profile Trial

My friend Linda Deutsch, on today’s NPR Weekend Edition, talked about  media coverage of Bill Cosby’s trial in Philly — no cameras, cell phones, recording devices, internet access — and the Simpson trial 22 years ago.

http://www.npr.org/2017/06/04/531444438/no-cameras-no-phones-you-cant-watch-bill-cosbys-high-profile-trial

Everyone should read “Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson” for a clear picture of the impact media coverage had on the judiciary and the public. It makes the best case for courtroom camera coverage.

A great summer sale of $7.99 just went into effect on Amazon —   www.amazon.com/dp/0826218229?m=A1UT13HVUXZL25&ref_=v_sp_widget_detail_page — Or order directly from me for a signed copy.

Wrong! Wrong! And What Are They Waiting For?

An online news outlet reported in a story, A New California Law Brings Hope of An Appeal For Lyle And Erik Menendez, that the Menendez brothers 1993 trial was “first trial that was televised and America couldn’t get enough.”

That is the first “wrong” in this piece. Broadcast and still photography covered Estes v. Texas in 1965. The first state in the country to enact official court rules allowing camera coverage in its state courts, which led to camera coverage of Chandler v. Florida.

Perhaps the article writer meant that Menendez brothers trial was the first trial in California to be televised, but that would have been wrong, too. The 1992 Rodney King beating trial was not only televised (I sat in that courtroom every day, just as I did both of the later Menendez brothers trials), TV viewers couldn’t get enough of that either. Neither could they get enough if the riots in L.A. that erupted after the four police officers were acquitted, nor of the trial of men who beat trucker Reginald Denny who just happened to be driving through a riot area.

The writer also got several details of the Menendez murders wrong.

What begs the question for me, though, was that even though California passed a law several years ago that might open the door for a Menendez brothers appeal, they have yet to do so. Why not? Especially since the clock is ticking toward a deadline.

On Your Mark, Get Ready, Wrong!

When I read the news in The Hollywood Reporter that ‘Law & Order: True Crime — The Menendez Murders’ Ordered to Series at NBCI could only hope the series will be more accurate than this promo.

Here is the misinfo that is probably the most blatant:

“The siblings, who were 21 and 18 years old, respectively, at the time of the murders, were tried separately but eventually found guilty in a third trial after no verdicts were rendered in the first two because of hung juries.”

There were only two Menendez brothers’ trials. The first began on July 20, 1993, and ended on January 28, 1994. Although it was a single trial, two juries were seated, one to determine the guilt or innocence of older brother Lyle, the other to judge the guilt or innocence of younger brother Erik. Both juries hung and the trial judge, Stanley Weisberg, declared a mistrial in each case. The second trial began on August 23, 1995, and ended on March 20, 1996. That trial had a single jury which found both brothers guilty and Weisberg sentenced them both to life in prison without possibility of parole.

I attended, handled media issues and interfaced with the judge on both trials.

Less offending but confusing is the sentence in The Hollywood Reporter theis “Like the Simpson trial, the Menendez brothers trial became an early hit for then-burgeoning cable channel CourtTV.” The reason it’s confusing is because it doesn’t specify which Menendez trial “became an early hit for … CourtTV.” What does that matter? CourtTV televised only the first Menendez trial. Weisberg didn’t allow a TV camera in the courtroom during the second one. Because of that ban broadcasters debated how extensively to cover it. The second Menendez trial definitely wasn’t key to CourtTV making its bones.

 

Beyond Larry King’s Freudian Slip

The anecdote in the opening paragraph of The Atlantic’s June 16, 2016, O.J.: Made in America Is Vital Storytelling review…

Buried in the fourth part of O.J.: Made in America, ESPN Films’s masterful eight-hour documentary about the O.J. Simpson murder case, is a telling little Freudian slip from the then-CNN host Larry King, whose network had turned news coverage of the trial into an unprecedented 24/7 marathon. He had just met with Lance Ito, the presiding judge in the trial, and King was asked by a news crew if he wanted Ito to appear on Larry King Live. “Sure, we’d love to have him after the show is over. After the trial is over,” he said, catching himself. “It is like a show.”

…might have happened.  I don’t know. But I do know it doesn’t tell the whole story. Whoever the news crew was apparently didn’t know that King had asked for Ito to be on his show before King met him during the trial. The saga of how that meeting came about is documented on pages 65-67 of my book Anatomy of a Trial, for which I’m pretty much to blame.

Learning that King planned to be in L.A. and wanted to attend the trial, I suggested to Ito that he might meet with him to thank him. King’s was the only news broadcast or talk show that granted Ito’s request to delay by one day interviewing Faye Resnick about her rush-to-print tell-all “diary”. King also read the entire statement from Ito on a show he had asked the judge to appear on with members of the media who were unhappy about his courtroom rules and restrictions.

The rest of The Atlantic review about the ESPN documentary seemed OK to me, but then I’ve only gotten through Part 3, so far. So this blog post is based on second-hand information, since I haven’t watched Part 4, which contains the scene described in The Atlantic review’s opening ‘graph.

DA Criticizes Clark, But Gave Her Bonus

Gil Garcetti, who served as Los Angeles County District Attorney from 1992-2000 and oversaw the charging and prosecution of O.J. Simpson for the murders of Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman, said in an interview last week that he didn’t pick Marcia Clark to prosecute Simpson and, in fact, didn’t even want her to do so.

Clark, Garcetti said, made mistakes, ignored the prosecution’s jury consultant’s advice and that the case suffered from being tried downtown instead of in Santa Monica which was the jurisdiction where the murders were committed.

I found Garcetti’s assertions surprising and, frankly, rather specious.

First, Garcetti was THE District Attorney. He was the boss, the head of the District Attorney’s Office. So if he didn’t pick Marcia Clark to prosecute Simpson, who did? If he didn’t want her, why didn’t he tell her no, if she said she wanted the job?

Second, if she made mistakes, didn’t Garcetti bear at least some responsibility? He was head of the office. The trial was nearly 10 months long. If he saw his deputy make mistakes or didn’t agree with her strategy in this most visible trial in the world and whose outcome would reflect on him and his office, and could possibly affect his re-election in 1996, shouldn’t he have spoken to her, stopped her or possibly replaced her?

Third, is Garcetti blaming Marcia Clark for the case being tried downtown instead of Santa Monica? Garcetti’s the one who filed the charges downtown and did so in June of 1994. There was wide speculation, both in the media and privately, that in doing so the D.A. had made a big mistake.

I don’t know why Clark didn’t listen to her jury consultant, but it was obvious to me that she didn’t. What I don’t understand is why Garcetti is now criticizing her for that. Whether or not he was micromanaging the trial, which was alleged often during those nearly 10 months, surely he had an eye on things enough to realize that she wasn’t using the expertise of the consultant his office had hired and was paying for (with taxpayer money). Did he have such a complete hands-off policy that he provided no oversight or direction.

And if Clark did do such a lousy job, why did he give her a nearly $15,000 bonus right after the case was over — a move that angered a large number of Clark’s fellow deputy district attorneys.

Maybe he intended the bonus to be an incentive to do better, given how poorly she performed.

His treatment of a deputy D.A. who had a solid record of wins and successfully prosecuted Lyle and Erik Menendez in the retrial in which they were charged with murdering their parents (and are now serving life sentences), seems to have been proof that Garcetti didn’t reward great performance. Instead of giving Menendez prosecutor David Conn a bonus, Garcetti demoted him from the downtown major crimes unit to an outlying office in Norwalk.

Or did someone else, not the man who was supposed to be in charge of the entire Los Angeles County district attorney operation, give or approve giving Clark a bonus and exile one of his best prosecutors of heinous criminals (Menendez brothers, cocaine dealing TV star Dan Haggerty, serial killer Bill Bradford and Cotton Club murderers) to the suburban city of Norwalk?

I really do find Garcetti’s criticism of Clark wanting.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

It’s true that Marcia Clark got a lot of grief during the Simpson trial, much of it ridiculous, so far as I was concerned. Her hairdo, her attire, shade of her lipstick. Even though I thought all the coverage of her appearance was vapid non-news didn’t mean I had a favorable opinion of her or felt sorry for her.

She struck me as arrogant, haughty, overly confident and inappropriately flirtatious toward defense attorney Johnnie Cochran — when she wasn’t fighting with him.

My sole knowledge of her was from my courtroom vantage point. What I saw each day was a woman for whom the trial judge had agreed to start court a half-hour later than he wanted to because of her child-care situation, who, as I wrote in Anatomy of a Trial, “habitually arrived later than the agreed-upon later time. And her late entrances, at times with an entire courtroom full of people—and, indeed, the entire television-viewing world—sitting and waiting, were just that. Entrances.

“Rather than trying to be unobtrusive or quiet, she would shove the courtroom door open and prance in and down the tiled aisle with the clack of her spike-heeled pumps reverberating loudly in the otherwise silent surroundings. She would push through the little swinging gates in the rail and leave them flapping behind her as she crossed the courtroom well with the eyes of spectators, defendant, fellow attorneys, bailiffs, clerk, court reporter, judge and jurors following until she finally arrived, with no hint of apology in her body language, at her place at the counsel table, barely an arm’s reach from the jury box.”

I also thought she misjudged the jury.

I had no direct communication with her and knew only what was reported about her, which might have been no more accurate than representations many members of the media made about the trial judge, Lance Ito. That said, it was my understanding that Clark believed she had connected with the jurors and that they thought the prosecution was presenting a convincing cased against Simpson.

In my book, I described my perception of the jury’s reaction to her:

“The African-American women sitting in the jury seats no doubt understood child-care problems, but more likely from a different perspective than an affluent attorney. I detected a growing disdain among the jurors for Clark’s chronic tardiness—in itself a sign of disrespect for not only for them but for the entire court and its business—the haughty demeanor she projected, and inexplicable schizophrenic alternating hostility and flirtatious posturing toward defense attorney Cochran. The black female jurors’ body language included arms crossed over chests, heads lowered with chins tucked into necks and an almost imperceptible drawing back into their seats. Certainly, none of that was lost on arguably one of the defense team’s most perceptive and incisive members in the courtroom.”

An article I read recently, made me reconsider my perception. Was what I had seen as haughtiness really her way of dealing with the stupid media stories about her appearance. Was what I saw as her nose in the air really her holding her head high to show that she was above the mindless coverage and focusing on the serious business of prosecuting a man accused of committing a double murder.

Might what seemed to me to be vamping into the courtroom, unapologetic to anyone about anything have been her way of dealing with feeling self-conscious and trying to ignore the media’s superficial tripe?

In the article, “‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’ star Sarah Paulson: It’s ‘mind-boggling’ that nobody rallied around Marcia Clark“, Paulson, who plays Clark in the miniseries is quoted as saying, “She was collectively abandoned by her people. She didn’t really have a lot of support from either other female attorneys or just women in general — and that, I think, is a great shame,” she continued. “I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know how she got up in the morning.”

Whether or not that was the case, I don’t know. But taking into consideration the ridiculous media coverage of her along with the marital and child-custody conflict going on in her personal life, which I don’t think was exaggerated in the miniseries, has made me rethink my assumption about her demeanor during the trial. How would I have acted entering a courtroom to face, not only the need to make my case, my responsibility to the people of the state I was representing, the murder victims’ families and the very people who were critiquing my clothing and hair  as if that were important news, or news at all? I wonder.

Choi Gets Ito

Kenneth Choi as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito in The People vs. O.J. Simpson miniseries is totally unbelievable to me, unless I close my eyes.

Except for the black hair, rimless glasses and facial hair, Choi looks no more like Ito than I, a Caucasian, brown-haired woman, do.

But Choi does capture Ito’s voice. He also either researched something other than the popular media-created image of Ito — maybe he read my book! — or managed to otherwise understand the no-win situation that crashed down on Ito well enough to develop a fairly accurate sense of what the judge was up against in the Simpson trial.

I learned that from a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter.

“According to the actor, though Ito has received a lot of criticism for the O.J. Simpson case, he has tried to stay impartial. ‘I can’t criticize or be judgmental of the person I’m playing,’ he said. ‘I have to do my best to understand him and what he does. I personally think he had the weight of the world on his shoulders as this sort of ringmaster in this circus played out on such a huge scale.’

“Though Choi admitted that the pressure on Ito ‘absolutely’ affected some of his decisions, he also pointed out that Ito was known to be a ‘very good, very smart, very fair’ judge.

“Asked whether or not he thinks that Ito’s decision about the Mark Fuhrman tapes affected the verdict, Choi answered, ‘I don’t know that it affected the outcome.’

“‘The jury heard the two snippets from the tapes, and I think that was enough,’ he explained. ‘The damage was done.'”

I do know this: Choi did not come to his conclusions by talking to Ito.