Tag Archives: media circus

No Courtroom Cameras, No Court TV

Its stock declining.
No cameras in the courtroom.
Court TV bankrupt?
With states across the country tailoring their courtroom camera coverage rules based on the erroneous belief that cameras in the Simpson trial had turned that case into a “media circus”, Court TV was worried about its viability, given that its entire reason for existing depended on camera coverage of court proceedings.
I say “erroneous belief” because it was cameras outside the courtroom and outside the courthouse that created the circus. Simpson was no more of a circus that countless high-profile trials that did not have courtroom camera coverage, such as the 2005 Michael Jackson child-molestation trial in Santa Barbara County and the 2004 Scott Peterson murder trial in Redwood City, California.

Sideshows Spawned by Simpson “Media Circus”

This story, How the O.J. Simpson trial paved the way for all things Kardashianpublished a few days ago, raises an interesting point:

Would any of the Kardashians have made it big, or even have made it small, were it not for their patriarch, Robert, who was a confidante of O.J. Simpson and a member of his defense team?

I remember Kris at the trial in one of the more bizarre events during court proceedings — and there were a lot! Here’s how I recounted it in “Anatomy of a Trial”:

“Another day of a strange star alignment occurred less than a week before the trial ended. On September 27, [Judge Lance] Ito had given the two courtroom seats he held in reserve for his use, generally for visiting judge, his parents, or other relatives, to songwriter David Foster, whom he knew, and Foster’s wife. The wife had previously been married to former Olympian [Bruce] Jenner. And there in court that same day was Jenner with his current wife [Kris], who was the ex-wife of Simpson attorney Robert Kardashian. The Jenners sat with former baseball star [Steve] Garvey and his wife, who, months earlier, had been a prosecution witness.”

While it’s unknown if the Simpson trial was the Kardashians’ soda fountain counter stool [a la Lana Turner], the Zap2it writer, Sarah Huggins, of the above referenced article did correctly label the spectacle attendant to the trial, although probably not as she intended. That label was “media circus.”  While there certainly was a media circus surrounding the the trial, hard as they tried to make viewers and readers believe the trial itself was a circus, all the circus antics were outside the courtroom — including the demeaning little joke defense attorney Robert Shapiro pulled on Deputy District Attorney Chris Darden, which occurred in the back hallway behind the courtroom.

As the two lawyers were coming out of Ito’s chambers, Shapiro pointed to Darden’s necktie and appeared to ask him something about it. When Darden looked down at his tie, Shapiro brought his finger up and chucked Darden sharply under his chin. Shapiro smirked and said something I didn’t hear, but Darden looked humiliated.

Birth of the “Media Circus” Debated

My Facebook Friend, and longtime actual friend, Linda Deutsch, posted this on the other day:

“Judge Lance Ito was a question on tonight’s Jeopardy. Some stories live forever!”

That prompted this comment from FB Friend (also longtime actual friend) Scott Shulman:

“The answer is…he pioneered the terminology, ‘Media Circus’.”

Having been on the high-profile court scene since the run-up to the 1992 Rodney King beating trial, I begged to differ with my wonderful friend Scott as I recall that trial also being called a media circus.

Since Linda Deutsch’s high-profile trial experience goes back to the 1970 Charles Manson case (she’s been with The Associated Press for more than 47 years), I asked her if that court scene was called a media circus. Linda reached back to the 1930s and the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder case, which was dubbed “The Trial of the Century.” No verdict yet on whether it was referred to as a media circus.

The Lindbergh trial was indeed called “The Trial of the Century” (as were other trials of the 20th Century), as cited in Hearst newspapers reporter and best-selling author Adela Rogers St. Johns’ autobiography “The Honeycomb.”  http://www.amazon.com/The-Honeycomb-Adela-Rogers-Johns/dp/0451063503. It might have been a circus, but I doubt if it was called a media circus, as the word media wasn’t ubiquitous in those pre-TV days like it is now.

NY Courts Chief Says Stream All Trials

New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, like his predecessor Judith Kaye, gives a firm thumbs up for allowing camera coverage of court proceedings in his state.

But New York doesn’t permit courtroom camera coverage, except in isolated and pilot-project situations.  So what’s the hold up?

Here’s what Lippman is quoted as saying in the Poughkeepsie Journal. http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20130212/OPINION01/302120009/Cameras-courtroom-You-bet

“Like others before him, Lippman said he believes some lawmakers and lawyers have been reluctant to allow cameras in the courtroom ever since the O.J. Simpson trial, deemed an out-of-control media circus by many.

Lippman’s sage advice? ‘Let’s get over it.’”

Well, where have I heard that before!

Another judge said pretty much the same thing six years ago when he permitted camera access to court proceedings of Hollywood record producer Phil Spector’s murder case.

Here’s what I wrote in my book, “Anatomy of a Trial”:

“We have to get by [the Simpson] case,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler said in announcing his decision to allow camera coverage of Spector’s trial. “There’s going to come a time that it will be commonplace to televise trials. If it had not been for Simpson, we’d be there now.” http://www.anatomyofatrial.com/

What’s head-shaking is that we aren’t there yet. The courts, and the New York legislature, seem to be stuck in 1995.

And, as I keep pointing out and as evidence shows, any “media circus” associated with high-profile trials occur outside the courtroom, not inside.

Technological advancements in the past 15-plus years since Simpson have made the possibility even more unlikely. But judges and lawmakers don’t seem to get it.

Although I understand some judges might want as little public scrutiny as possible when they’re on the bench, but legislators? What’s their hangup?




Pistorius Creates S. Africa’s O.J. Moment?

When I read in The Telegraph that the downtown of South Africa’s administrative capital of Pretoria “was brought to a virtual standstill as legions of satellite trucks and emblem-emblazoned radio cars descended on the red-brick courthouse for what was billed as ‘South Africa’s OJ Simpson moment'”   during South African Olympian hero Oscar Pistorius’s court appearance on charges he murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I cringed. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/southafrica/9873170/Oscar-Pistorius-a-single-charge-read-out-and-the-world-famous-Blade-Runner-crumpled.html

That Pretoria, the South African judiciary and the world would be subjected to a comparable spectacle is bad enough. But court magistrate Desmond Nair’s indication that cameras would be barred from proceedings, was truly consternating.

Read my book! I wanted to scream. Please read “Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson”! I devoted an entire chapter to cameras, photographers and camera crews that covered the 1995 Simpson trial.  http://www.anatomyofatrial.com  The book also addresses the pros and cons of courtroom-camera coverage.

The crucial point, as I point out in “Anatomy”, is just where exactly the “media circus” is taking place.  A secondary consideration is whether courtroom-camera coverage helps mitigate or actually exacerbates a circus atmosphere — which, as astute observers of courtroom proceedings, both with and without camera coverage, know does not occur inside the courtroom.