Tag Archives: Ito

Jurors Dropping Like Flies

A note’s the question.
Ito tossed and turned all night.
353’s gone.


One of Ito’s big worries was that even though 12 alternate jurors were selected as back up to the primary 12 who made up the jury, Ito was concerned that at the rate regular jurors were being dismissed — this one, 353, for slipping a note to a fellow juror alerting her to what Ito was questioning them about one by one in his chambers — that he would run out of alternates which could through the case in mistrial.

Lucky Duck Strikes Out

Linda Ellerbee

Does Lucky Duck Productions.

It’s for the children.


After a career in news broadcasting with major TV networks, Ellerbee and her business partner and husband started Lucky Duck  Productions, which produced programs for children, including “Nick News” for Nickelodeon.  Her visit to the Simpson trial didn’t make it into Anatomy, but it did into my notes. She had done documentaries, or “special editions,” about “news stories so big kids can’t ignore it, such as the Gulf War, L.A. riots, Aids and Magic Johnson. We don’t raise anxiety.” She said she had tried to ignore the Simpson trial for so long. “I didn’t want to add to the noise.” But she couldn’t any longer. “We want to use it as a teaching opportunity — about the American justice system. It would be a good place to talk about the media as an illustration of reality and TV. Parents and kids could watch it together, explore it together.”

She wanted Ito to help. He could explain how the legal process worked. “I would interview you while the trial is in progress and you could explain how it works.”

Nothing would air until long after the appeal process, she promised.

Ito could get her another judge to do that, he said.

“But this would be a teaching opportunity. You’re the man,” she said. He would be the draw, the attraction that would bring in the viewers to see him. “There’s constant criticism about you being the ring master of the circus. It galls me! There is a circus out there, but it’s not in the courtroom.”

The idea of kids was tempting, I could tell. But, Ito said, “The one interview I did was to be a single, local, no advance promotion deal turned into a six-parter with a full-page ad in the Times, and it went national.”

“If you would agree to do an interview the day after the trial, I would take only a hour and a half of your time,” Ellerbee pressed. “There’s just so much misinformation, so many horrible assumptions…”

“There are three problems,” Ito said. “One, is the Canons of Judicial Ethics which prevent judges from directly or indirectly commenting on a case. Two, people advise me, the presiding and supervising judges advise me against having any media contact, which you are. I did one interview, which had nothing to do with the case, and got so much criticism, I decided to never do it again. Three, to do it right would take a lot of thought. I can’t commit time to do that. Yesterday, I turned down an offer to speak at a law school graduation. Being involved in this case takes 24 hours a day.”


Screwy Backstage Stuff

I should never have gotten started.

Looking back through my notes of 20 years ago to refresh my memory about the Rosa Lopez days in court, I started reading about some of the screwy things that went on that weren’t book worthy. Here are a couple from February 28, 1995:

“Friday, I got a phone call from Sgt. Smith. Message said media better stop trying to do interviews on 9th floor or their media passes would be pulled. I got back to the courtroom late (good thing, considering everything that happened Friday night!) ABC’s Cynthia McFadden told me that she and several other medias got into an elevator w/prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies only to have a deputy (actually, Sgt. Smith) order them out, saying they couldn’t interview in the elevator. Press folks began to get out but remained crowded at the door, trapping McFadden at the door. She says Smith grabbed her by the arm and pushed her, saying she’d better get out of the doorway. She said she couldn’t because of the people behind her, blocking her. She said Smith’s grip left red imprints on her arm and that he also poked his finger on her several times, continuing to tell her to get out of the way. She said she was frightened because of the elevator door, afraid it would close on her. She said she was so upset she didn’t know what to do, so talked to Linda Deutsch, who advised her to let me and Ito know. My feeling was it wasn’t Ito’s problem and that [Criminal Courts Supervising Judge James] Bascue should be alerted of possible complaints from the media — [Joe] Bosco reportedly went on TV — KTLA — immediately after the incident to tell about it. I told Ito as an informational item only and planned to tell Bascue. I left a phone message for him to call me, but before I heard from him, Smith called. He had gone to see Bascue (earlier in the courtroom, a deputy had asked me the names of McFadden, [Joe] McGinniss and Boscue — no doubt at the direction of Smith who can view courtroom spectators via a security camera). Smith started out saying how disappointed he was that those 3  people (he had their names on a Post-It note) would try to use their positions since they were high up in media circles to tell such a story and get away with it. I asked him to tell me what happened since all I got was his phone message. Turns out no one tried to interview anyone on the 9th floor or in the elevator, but that Smith (my guess) over reacted to a rush and crowding situation. I don’t know if he grabbed or poked McFadden, but I don’t think his hands were as squeaky clean as he tells it.”

“Also on Friday, the first day Rosa Lopez was in court, she testified that she had no place to stay, that she had lost her job because of the case and was planning to leave L.A. for El Salvador. Her and Cochran’s sob story prompted dozens of phone calls to our office — and I’m sure to other court phones, as well as to the defense and probably the D.A. offices — offering jobs, places to stay, including the offer of an unused mobile home and an offer of $1,000. We referred many of the calls to Rosa’s attorney, Carl Jones. I related that to him just before court convened for the late afternoon session. At the end of the last session, [L.A. Times reporter] Andrea Ford stopped me, asking about almost verbatim what I’d told Jones — and what I’d told Ito’s law intern. I asked Ford where she heard that. She said she wasn’t telling. I said, “If you aren’t telling, I’m not telling,” and I walked away. (I was interested in knowing if the intern had told her.)”

And that was just one afternoon of days and weeks and months of screwy stuff happening.

Maybe Ito Should Have Been More Direct

Time gets marked a lot.

By more pieces, great and small.

Those hourglasses.


Ito placed hourglasses from his collection he kept in his chambers on his bench as a hint to the lawyers to move things along. He also bought large school-type clocks on all four walls of the courtroom for their benefit. I must admit, I sat in the back of the courtroom wishing he would tell them out loud, only the words in my head were, “sit down and shut up”.

Jury Visits Crime Scene, Defendant’s Home Haiku

Jury took a trip

By motorcading through town.

A crime scene visit.


This event was one of, if not the, most elaborately planned and surreal situations of the Simpson trial.

Here’s the description in Anatomy of a Trial of the lead up to and day of the jury’s crime-scene visit:

“The trip included quick stops at the apartment complex where Ronald Goldman had lived and Mezzaluna Restaurant, when he worked, then tours of the Bundy Drive condominium crime scene and Simpson’s Rockingham Avenue home two miles away.

“Ito oversaw the meticulous details of the trip, from police escorts and traffic blockades along the route to restriction of airspace to pool reporters’ cell phone use to unfurling curtain barricades and providing umbrellas and wide-brimmed hats at each stop to shield jurors from cameras.

“The entourage, which included police motorcycles, a bus with darkened windows for the jurors, and vans for court staff, the prosecution and defense teams, and the media, created almost as much of a spectacle as had Simpson’s slow-speed Bronco chase along the Los Angeles freeway system before his surrender and arrest nearly eight months earlier. Police blocked the Harbor  and Santa Monica freeway ramps between downtown at the courthouse, where the session convened , and Brentwood fifteen miles to the west.

“The media rented rooms with street-facing windows and stationed equipment vehicles along the route. Screaming, sign-waving mobs lined the curbs, stood on rooftops, hung out of windows, crowded overpasses, and posed for photographs as the caravan passed in the background. Kids on roller blades and skateboards raced alongside on streets and behind the bizarre parade.”

And it was all professionally and well documented photographically by pool photojournalist Haywood Galbreath.



Tiffs of Note

With several days between haiku — without scrolling through the transcript, I don’t know if court wasn’t in session for a couple of weeks or what — I’ll fill in with some notes I made during that time that didn’t make it into the book.

On the day of the prosecution’s opening statements, in addition to noting that an alternate juror leaned into range of the TV camera in the courtroom, here are a few other gems:

  • The New York Post upset that when the Brown family members (Nicole Brown Simpson’s family) greeted Ms. Simpson (O.J. Simpson’s mother) and kissed her on the cheek, the cameras were off. Only reporters in the courtroom could see — those not in the courtroom were locked out from that scene.
  • (Criminal Courts Supervising Judge James) Bascue upset — media had blacked CCB (Criminal Courts Building) main entrance. (Court administrator) John Iverson asked who had directed LAPD officers to have Simpson (trial) participants go in one entrance — all others in other entrance.
  • Ito asked me to call Daily Journal editor re: her letter protesting getting 1/4 seat (meaning that newspaper had to share  one courtroom seat with three other news organizations).
  • Power struggle between CTV (Court TV) and RTNA (Radio Television News Association of Southern California) re: delay signal. (Agreement — 7 seconds)

And here are my notes about the hearing concerning the alternate juror leaning into the TV camera shot:

  • Ito says he’s cutting video feed of coverage
  • Defense: it’s unfair for TV viewers to see the prosecutor’s opening statements, but not the defense, therefore please air the defense’s opening statements
  •  Prosecutor (MC) (meaning Marcia Clark): we’re not playing to the world, (we’re) playing to the jury
  • Ito: unusual situation. I’m not aware of any other court that’s been placed in this position. I’m disappointed and concerned about the electronic media. On one hand, my credibility as a judge is at stake for (the media) to not comply with my orders. On the other hand, (there’s) the position of your client

It was an interesting time …

Rising Above Ridicule

Ads draw press comments.

Toyoto’s interview coup.

Graffiti contest.


Ito decides to judge the comments press folks scrawled on L.A. Times’ Channel 2 interview full-page ads that were pasted on the media center walls. He also awards prizes along with .


Double-Booking Lawyer Calls Judge a Liar

He’s due in two courts.

Cross-country fight for Neufeld.

Judges’ tug of war.


This was the day the murder trial in New York in which Peter J. Neufeld was defense council was to begin. Neufeld was there, but not without a bit of spleen-letting and courtroom drama. Here’s an excerpt from my book:

“Things turned nasty in [Harold] Rothwax’s courtroom on November 28 when Neufeld said he never promised Rothwax he would be available for a December 1 trial date. According to news accounts, Rothwax accused Neufeld of misrepresenting the facts. That prompted Neufeld to call Rothwax ‘shameful.’ Rothwax then ordered Neufeld out of the courtroom. Neufeld refused to leave. Rothwax charged that all Neufeld cared about was making his fame and fortune in the Simpson trial. Neufeld, in essence, then called Rothwax a liar. Rothwax retaliated by threatening to hold Neufeld in contempt and said if the lawyer wasn’t in his courtroom on December 1 ready to start trial, he would have him jailed. … The impasse finally cracked when Ito granted a defense request to delay the DNA hearing until January 5.”

So Easy to Find Fault — When You’re Not Driving

U.S. judge opines,

Ito’s losing court control.

Monday morning jock.


A federal judge delivers a speech covered by the press in which he criticizes Judge Ito’s handling of the Simpson case.

The U.S. District Court judge, Edward Rafeedie committed a gross violation of judicial ethics by criticizing another judge with an active case in progress. But, since he was a federal judge and had a life appointment, he knew he was safe in doing so. I describe this on Page 143 of my book.


DN Got It Legit, So Who Stole It?

Questionnaire is sought.

Can the media have it?

Daily News can’t wait.


Judge Ito had agreed to give the press a copy of the juror questionnaire after all the prospective jurors had completed theirs and turned them in, but the Daily News of Los Angeles publishes a stolen copy a day early.

How did Ito know it was stolen? He followed the chain of custody and pinned down exactly when the total number came up one questionnaire short. The only way it could have disappeared was for someone to have deliberately taken it.

“Ito was vexed by the missing questionnaire, which the Daily News of Los Angeles published the day after it disappeared,” I wrote in Anatomy. “But he eventually decided against trying to hold the newspaper accountable, except for banning Daily News reporters from the courtroom during jury selection. ‘There are too many other things occupying my time now,’ he said after days of wrangling with Daily News editors and legal counsel, ‘otherwise I would love to fight.'”