Tag Archives: Linda Deutsch

Sorry, FX, Disbelief Is Not Suspended

As I watched the first episode of FX’s “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” tonight, which I had DVOed last night, I tried to think how to process what I had seen. I had the most trouble with Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson. He just wasn’t. Not in size, not in looks and definitely not in voice.

Before I logged onto this blog to write about it, however, I decided to read a review in “Connecting” newsletter by recently retired AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch, possibly the only person save the courtroom bailiff, the trial judge and his clerk, the parties to the case, and photographer Haywood Galbreath, who spent more time in the courtroom than I did.

I’m glad I read Linda’s review before I wrote anything. So far as I’m concerned, she nailed it.

Because of that, instead of writing anything else, at least about the first episode, I’m going to provide the link to her review.  http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Connecting—February-03–2016.html?soid=1116239949582&aid=tU78hcPb9YY

Thanks, Linda!

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TV Series Promises to Perpetuate Myths

Entertainment Weekly asks the question in a web article: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story: How accurate is it?

Before it even airs, I know the answer: Not very. Why? The biggest clue is the ten-part series is based on a book that has accuracy problems.

For instance, Jeffrey Toobin’s account in The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson of a visit celebrity Larry King had with the trial judge Lance Ito is pure fiction. It was obvious to me when I read about Toobin’s description of the visit that it was hearsay.

Last year, when I attended the roast of longtime Associated Press special correspondent Linda Deutsch at which King was the keynote speaker, I realized that he was the source of Toobin’s misinformation.

How do I know Toobin’s account was wrong? Because I was present during the entirety of King’s visit with Ito, during which I took notes, and was with King from the moment he got off the elevator on the floor Ito’s courtroom was on, took him to the courtroom and the judge’s chambers and escorted him back to the elevator after the visit. At no time was I not with King and at no time was Toobin even near him, much less present during the visit.

Toobin also misreported his own visit with the judge and violated Ito’s condition when he agreed to meet Toobin, that everything said during the visit was off the record.

It will be interesting to see what else in the TV series is accurate or not. Guess I’m going to have to watch it, much as I’d rather not.

Remote Trial Coverage

I read this article, “New Doc Features Black Journalists Who Covered OJ Simpson Trial,” expecting to see names of journalists I knew who covered the O.J. Simpson trial. I knew who attended it because I kept a daily list. Among the regulars were Andrea Ford, Dennis Schatzman, Janet Gilmore, Myra Ming, Bill Whitaker, and above all, photojournalist Haywood Galbreath, who was in court every day that trial was in session. Others attended from time to time as well.
While Star Jones, who is quoted in this story, did show up occasionally, although I remember her more from the Rodney King beating trial days, most of the people quoted in this story I never met or saw in the courtroom or in the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building 9th floor media center. I wondered after reading the story, why the writer, Matthew Carey, didn’t interview those who were there.
It’s a given he couldn’t have interviewed Andrea Ford or Dennis Schatzman, as both died years ago. (Schatzman, who reported for the African-American newspaper The Los Angeles Sentinel and made race the theme in his trial coverage, wrote an excellent book, The Simpson Trial in Black and White, with a white colleague, Tom Elias.) But Janet Gilmore, who reported for the Los Angeles Daily News is now and has been at UC Berkeley for more than a decade; Myra Ming, who was KTTV’s reporter/producer on the scene and went on to become a Nieman fellow, and Bill Whitaker with CBS News where he is now a 60 Minutes correspondent, shouldn’t have been hard to find.
And Haywood Galbreath, whose attendance at the Simpson trial rivals only AP reporter Linda Deutsch, to my knowledge, not only continues his photojournalism career via his H. G. Star-1 News Photos agency and published The O. J. Simpson Murder Trial: the complete photo journal of the trial of the century, he readily talks about being a black journalist covering the trial and probably has the most stark and telling stories about that experience.
At best, one or two of those Carey quoted in this article might have shown up in the courtroom once or twice during the nine months of the trial from opening statements to closing arguments and the four months of pre-trial proceedings, although I don’t recall seeing them. Otherwise, they must have covered the trial from their newsrooms, offices and other non-courtroom locations, via TV, like millions of other viewers.
In Carey’s article, former USA Today DeWayne Wickham recalled his frustration that his reporting didn’t get picked up by his own paper, which he implies in this story was racially based.
“I was a black journalist who reported a story that raised serious questions about the prosecution’s conduct of that trial, and most white folks ignored my reporting.”
Whether or not that was the case, I can’t say. What I do know, though, is that the two USA Today reporters who were consistently in the courtroom were women, so Wickham must have been covering it remotely. Plus, considering the number of African-American journalists who were assigned to onsite, i.e. courtroom, coverage, Wickham’s situation seems to have been more of an anomaly than the rule.
As I read the caption of a photograph used to illustrated Cary’s story, a bias of my own bubbled up. The picture shows Simpson getting out of a car.
Defendant O.J. Simpson arrives under the gaze of t
The caption reads: “Defendant O.J. Simpson arrives under the gaze of the media at the Santa Monica Courthouse where the first day of opening arguments. AFP/Getty Images”
This photo and caption taps into my bias in three ways of how the news media distorts and misinforms the public.
(1) The picture is of Simpson wearing civilian clothes,
(2) The caption says Simpson is arriving at the Santa Monica Courthouse,
(3) The caption says (ungrammatically) “where the first day of opening arguments.”
(1) During Simpson’s 1995 murder trial, he was in custody, locked up in the Los Angeles County Jail, where he wore orange jumpsuits from the day he was arrested on June 17, 1994, until his acquittal on Oct. 3, 1995. His lawyers brought civilian clothes to the courthouse for Simpson to change into in a locked cell there for his courtroom appearances. Never during that trial was he wearing civilian clothes while riding around in a car.
(2) The murder trial, which Carey’s story seems to be about, was held in a downtown Los Angeles courthouse, not in Santa Monica. What was held in Santa Monica was Simpson’s 1996-97 civil trial which resulted in a $33 million judgment against him. So, unsuspecting and otherwise uninformed readers of this story won’t understand the difference.
(3) Opening arguments? What the heck are opening arguments? That is a creation of the news media, something I didn’t realize until I worked for the court. Trial attorneys make opening statements. They state to a jury the facts of the case as they plan to present it and the evidence. Arguments come at the end of the trial, after the attorneys have presented their case, and argue why the jury should decide in their and their clients’ favor.
I’m disappointed that Carey, who is billed at the end of his story as editor-in-chief of nonfictionfilm.com. During the Simpson trial he worked for CNN’s LA bureau, writing on media coverage of the case didn’t know correct lingo and wasn’t aware of the damage conflating two very different trials held at different times does on his readers’/viewers’ understanding of the legal system and of those who cover it.

Morrison Captures How It Really Was

It’s O.J. Simpson trial 20th anniversary verdict eve. I’m about as far removed from the Los Angeles Superior Court, high-profile trials and news-media frenzies as I can imagine and still be on the North American continent. I’m ensconced in a hotel room at Dulles International Airport in Virginia on the eve of my husband’s high school reunion. We had dinner this evening with my husband’s best friend since they were both in third grade and his wife and sister. Not once during the entire evening was that 20-year-old trial, the name of the defendant or my book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson mentioned.

Afterwards, back in our hotel room, I logged onto the Internet, and saw a Simpson Google News Alert email in my inbox. The link was to a piece by Patt Morrison, who was a Los Angeles Times columnist when I knew her in Los Angeles. Upon reading what she wrote yesterday, I had to blog about it.

Patt’s piece, published on SCPR’s “Off-Ramp” site, is about the best, most accurate recall I’ve seen or heard about how that court case was was and the media’s chagrin at their behavior in covering it. (In my opinion, there were some standout exceptions, such as the AP’s Linda Deutsch and CBS Radio’s David Dow).

Here’s a quote from this account by L.A. Times columnist Patt Morrison: “And, as with a really bad hangover, when it was all over, we were more than a little mortified about how overboard we’d gone. And we promised ourselves that we would never, ever, go that wild and crazy again. Because there would never be a case like this one, ever again. Until, of course, the next one.”

Patt not only captured the trial and the media’s chagrin accurately, she’s right that their chagrin lasted — until the next high-profile trial came along. I urge readers of this blog to read Patt’s piece. Here’s a direct link, in case you missed the embedded link. Good job, Patt.   http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2015/10/01/44661/patt-morrison-on-oj/

Fallen Reporter Brings Warring Factions Together

We all were at war,

Then gathered in Clark’s honor.

Became family.

8/8/95

Author Joe McGinniss hosted a gathering to honor and memorialize Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Robin Clark a few days after he was killed in a car crash. The memorial was held at a house in Beverly Hills McGinniss was renting while he attended the Simpson trial. (Even though McGinniss occupied one of the highly coveted courtroom media seats, and had presented a letter from a publisher who had contracted with McGinniss to write a book about the trial, he never did.) The gathering included not only the trial press corps, but members of the defense and prosecution teams and Simpson’s sister and brother-in-law, Shirley and Bennie Baker. Although the trial judge, Lance Ito, was also invited, he declined and asked me to represent him.

Here’s a short excerpt from Anatomy of a Trial about that remarkable evening:

“People hugged and mingled and talked quietly after arriving. I couldn’t help but think that no one would ever have known that some of these people were on opposite sides in a double-murder trial. McGinniss talked about some of the conversations he had had with Clark, including one about the difficulty Clark had reconciling himself with his father, an educated man who became a derelict and hung out on street corners with ne’er-do-wells.

“’Recently,’ McGinniss said, ‘Robin had started writing about his father and gave me the few first pages for an assessment. After reading them, I told him to keep going.’

“But, of course, the rest of the story died with Robin in the car crash.

“McGinniss invited anyone else who want to speak to do so.

“AP reporter Deutsch stepped forward. After relating several anecdotes about Clark, she surveyed the group. While most of the people present were strangers at the beginning of the Simpson case, she observed, ‘Like it or not, we have become a family.’

“But that was a brief and rare moment of unity in an otherwise distinctly dysfunctional ‘family,’ rife with bickering, rivalry, contempt, envy and disparate philosophies, perspectives and goals.”

The Mystery is Solved!

No, not the mystery of “Did he do it?” That was settled long ago, at least in the minds of everyone who had an opinion.

This mystery was, where did Jeffery Toobin come up with his tale of what happened in Simpson trial judge Lance Ito’s chambers when TV talk show celebrity Larry King visited during the trial?

Larry King revealed the answer himself last night at a Los Angeles Society of Professional Journalists’ super-duper, fantastic Linda Deutsch Roast. Deutsch rested her 48-year career in January as The Associated Press’s star reporter for high-profile and notorious trials since the 1969 Manson Family spectacles. Last night, journalists and media lawyers from far and wide gathered to honor and poke fun at this super-scribe and maven of courtroom dramas.

King blew in and out of last night’s soiree long enough to regale the 200 or so (my uneducated guesstimate) attendees with anecdotes and jokes, mostly about himself. (A reporter sitting next to me summed up King’s performance succinctly with his observation that, “I thought this was supposed to be about Linda.”)

One tale King told was about his visit with the judge during a break in the trial. Except for a few embellishments, such as getting a FAX signed “Lance” (he didn’t know anyone named Lance he told the Roast audience, and weren’t people named Lance gay?) inviting him to visit, King related almost word for word what Toobin wrote about that visit in his book, which Toobin promoted by calling Ito a “La-La-Land judge.”

“He had all his press clippings there,” King said last night. “He was so proud of them and he went on and on about them. Finally, I said, ‘Don’t you have to get back to the trial?’ And he said, ‘I’m the judge.’” King told about going into the courtroom where Simpson greeted him. Then saying he didn’t want to appear to favor one side over the other, King went to the prosecutors’ table and spoke to them.

Entertaining stuff. Except it never happened. I know, because I was there.

I can’t attest to the FAX signed “Lance”, but here’s what I do know, which I wrote about in Anatomy of a Trial:

“King’s assistant, Ellen Beard, called to say he was going to be in L.A. and still wanted to interview Ito or have him on his show, I knew the judge would decline. But … I thought he might consider thanking King in person for understanding his position and accommodating his requests, not just once, but twice.  First was when Ito declined to participate in a show about media complaints of restrictions in the case. King read Ito’s written statement on air, with no edits or omissions, about all he had done to accommodate the media. The second occasion was when King was the only TV talk or magazine show host who, at Ito’s request, delayed interviewing Nicole Brown Simpson’s self-described best friend Faye Resnick when her “tell-all” book came out on the eve of jury selection. So I offered to see if Ito would be willing to at least say hello to King.”

It was definitely a good intention that went south, which I included in my book “to illustrate how an event is seen, perceived, remembered and retold, particularly when hearsay forms the foundation.”

Here is how the entire visit went down:

“I accompanied King and his entourage of producer, staff assistant and college-student daughter, Chaia, from the elevator lobby through another courtroom, Department 105, and down the back hallway toward Ito’s chambers.

But instead of going in, King stood in the back doorway to the courtroom and waved to the press corps in the spectator seats.

With the help of Deputy Sheriff John Castro, who had accompanied us from the elevator, we finally steered everyone into Ito’s chambers. There, we waited for twenty minutes while court remained in session with King fidgeting impatiently, saying several times that his time was limited. When Ito took a break, rather than “rambling on about the case,” though, he spent most of the time listening to King name drop, boast about dating the defense team’s jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, and compare Ito’s modest chambers and small courtroom to the grandiose federal courthouse and judges’ accommodations in Miami. As Ito turned his attention to Chaia and asked about her education, King, started beckoning to the defense lawyers who had gathered in the chambers’ doorway to come in.

The lawyers flooded in with King glad-handing and back-slapping them like old friends. Instead, Toobin portrays King as being concerned about Ito’s time and quotes King directly when he writes in his book that King asks Ito, “‘Don’t you have to get back to court?’” Although I was standing directly behind the sofa where King was seated, I not only didn’t hear King utter those words, that didn’t even seem to be on his mind. In fact, Ito seemed to have slipped from his mind entirely as he continued to laugh and joke with the lawyers while Ito donned and snapped up his robe. Neither did the entourage follow Ito “through the rear door into the well of the courtroom,” as Toobin relates. Both Ito and I were trapped behind the gaggle of lawyers, King and King’s entourage as they squeezed through the cramped passage behind the clerk’s chair. Peering past their heads, I watched with horror as the lockup door opened, the bailiff escort Simpson into the courtroom and Cochran start to steer King toward the defendant to greet him. My repeated, “Please don’t do that,” finally got Cochran’s attention. Later Cochran told me I needn’t have worried, he would never have let them shake hands.

King, with his group following, proceeded into the courtroom well where King greeted the prosecution team. Then King’s daughter, who had followed him into the courtroom, drew a raised eyebrow and a “you don’t want to go in there!” from Simpson and a laugh from the spectators when she turned to leave and, with the help of her famous father, tried to pull open the wrong door—the one that led into the courtroom’s inmate lockup area.”

As I note on my website at www.anatomyofatrial.com, “…New Yorker writer/CNN legal analyst Jeffry Toobin shows why courts don’t–and shouldn’t–permit hearsay testimony. Pages 65-67”

Listening to King last night reminded me of how horrified I felt when I learned that that a TV series-in-the-making that is being promoted harder and more furiously than the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing debacle is based on Toobin’s book.

Yep, my suggestion that Ito thank King in person was indeed a good intention that went south – a direction it continues to sink to to this 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.