Tag Archives: Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson

It Wasn’t Just Her Hair

A story headlined The Female Gaze: Marcia Clark in ‘People v. O.J.’ faces sexism in the courts and in the media which was published in Daily Titan, the student newspaper of my alma mater, California State University, Fullerton, perpetuated at least one media generated People vs. Simpson misperception involving Marcia Clark’s hairdos.

I had to respond, so here’s what I wrote:

As L.A. Superior Court’s director of public information & media liaison during the 1990s, and was present in the courtroom every day of Simpson’s murder trial, I feel compelled to address some points in this article.

Regarding “As soon as she entered the courtroom, all eyes were on her hair.”, that is not true.

As noted in this article, Marcia Clark had two young sons who needed childcare on weekdays. Clark asked Simpson trial judge, Lance Ito, for trial proceedings to begin later than the court’s regular start time of 8:30 a.m. so she could take her boys to childcare herself, rather than have someone else do so. Ito accommodated her request by taking care of other court matters at 8:30 and scheduling trial proceedings to begin at 9 a.m. For whatever reason, however, Clark was chronically late, sometimes by half-an-hour or more. Indeed, all eyes were on her when she entered the courtroom, but not because of her hair. In fact, one morning after she had assured Ito she would be there for a specific matter, she wasn’t. He delayed and finally, with an apology to the jury, said court would remain in session with everyone seated and wait for Clark to arrive. We did, in uncomfortable silence, for many minutes. I didn’t keep track of exactly how long, but it is reflected in the court transcript. Here is my account of Clark’s morning arrival routine as described in my book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson http://www.anatomyofatrial….

“And her [Clark’s] 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, a bare arm’s reach from the jury box.”

Clark’s hair was an issue, not for trial participants, but for the news media and, I suspect, for District Attorney spokeswoman Suzanne Childs. Childs was much about appearance. Here’s another short excerpt from Anatomy of a Trial:

“Pulling me aside one day, Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti’s director of communications, Suzanne Childs, said that since the whole world was watching and forming an impression of the court and judge, she thought we should change out the florescent bulbs in the ceiling that were standard—and cast a rather harsh light—throughout the Criminal Courts Building and put in pink-tinted ones. Those, she asserted, would give the courtroom and everyone in it a softer look.”

I thanked Childs, but thought about the public outcry if the chronically underfunded court spent money on special lighting just for the sake of appearance when the media reported on it, which they would have.

It makes sense to me that Childs suggested that Clark change her hairdo, but I think it backfired. Had Clark not permed her hair in the midst of the trial, no one—either with the media or in the courtroom—would have even remarked about her hair, much less made it headline news.

MarciaClarkImage result for Marcia Clark's hairdos

I agree with this article’s assessment that unfair scrutiny is embedded in American culture, and is magnified and exacerbated by the media. I did a presentation years after the Simpson trial about how differently female attorneys in death penalty cases have been depicted in the news.

I was not immune. As you can see from my description above of Clark’s courtroom entrances I mentioned her clicking spike heels and what might be interpreted as “haughty” demeanor” (although in retrospect, she might have just felt self conscious).

And as a Cal State Fullerton alum who majored in communications/journalism, I learned from the best. –Jerrianne Hayslett

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Where a Precious Few Are Now

In an apparent attempt to hitch a ride on Sunday’s Academy Awards in which ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America is nominated in the “Best Documentary Feature category, comes this brief on where five of the host of O.J. Simpson murder trial principals are now. I can’t think of any other justification for this little story.

Interestingly, the entry for the Simpson trial judge, Lance Ito, says he “became the most famous judge in the world, but then stayed out of the limelight. He retired in 2015.”

Omitted from that blurb is that during the 20 years between the end of the Simpson trial in 1995 and Ito’s retirement in  2015, he was one of the very few Los Angeles Superior Court judges to continue to allow camera coverage of proceedings in his courtroom. That in the face of judges and collective judiciaries in California, in the rest of the U.S. and in other countries that cited and continue to cite Ito allowing camera coverage of the Simpson trial for an almost universal camera ban in their jurisdictions.

 

Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson tells why Ito allowed cameras in both the Simpson trial and other court proceedings, and the fear and trepidation that kept his judicial colleagues from following suit.

Say It Isn’t So, Cuba!

That was my first reaction when I saw this story. Then, when I read that this American Horror Show “would focus on the O.J. Simpson trial as told in the book ‘The Run of His Life: The People V. O.J. Simpson‘ by Jeffrey Toobin” I could only hope that it won’t include the misinformation in that book about an event that Toobin reported as if he were present, when he wasn’t. I know because I was, and have often said is a good example of why courts don’t–and shouldn’t–permit hearsay testimony.  That is covered in pages 65-67 of my book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J.Simpson.

oj simpson

Wrong Books to Jog O. J. Memories

I am cut to the quick!

Here is a column in a Nebraska newspaper, the Grand Island Independent jumping on the “Oscar Pistorius case is O. J. deja vu-No it isn’t!” bandwagon and recommends two books as memory refreshers. http://www.kearneyhub.com/news/opinion/south-african-murder-trial-looks-a-lot-like-o-j/article_fcfe4252-7f70-11e2-a491-0019bb2963f4.html

Neither is Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O. J. Simpson. How could that be? Could the columnist, George Ayoub, possibly not know about Anatomy?

Not only do I feel slighted, one book Ayoub did recommend is a work of fiction! Although the author of that book, Dominick Dunne, was a dear friend (I still mourn his death of three-and-a-half years ago) and a popping good writer, sowing fiction into such a high-profile trial that was already and continues to be so fraught with media warp and trivial pursuits, was almost a crime itself. It was also a betrayal of his being given full-time courtroom access to the trial.

Dunne wasn’t the only author who defaulted on his stated purpose for wanting that access and covering the trial. Even though his book was fiction, something he readily acknowledged when his book was published long after the trial was over, at least he wrote one. Fatal Vision author Joe McGinniss didn’t.

After occupying a full-time courtroom seat for the duration of the trial that a serious journalist or journalists (because seats were so scarce, many members of the media had to share a seat with fellow journalists) could have used to report to the public on the trial, McGinniss took off for Europe to write about soccer. He said it was impossible to write the book he wanted to — from the perspective of a juror who was sequestered and had no access to any information a sequestered juror didn’t have access to.

Well, duh! He sat in the courtroom and listened to debates over the admissibility of evidence and much more. He lunched and socialized with his fellow media-types.

Not only is  my Anatomy of a Trial a behind-the-scenes expose, it covers the  disingenuousness of the likes of Joe McGinniss. Not living up to the terms of getting a courtroom seat is just one of losses dealt the public who followed that trial or trusted the news media to inform them about and help them understand the workings of the judicial system.