Tag Archives: media law

Closed Trials is Whose Right?

Journalists, lawyers and judges interested in Fair Trial-Free Press and media-law issues will want to follow a couple of cases in Wisconsin that are headed for that state’s Supreme Court.

High court reviewing closed Fond du Lac trials

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will review two cases from Fond du Lac County where the judge closed the trials to the public – and the defendants later claimed their Constitutional rights were violated as a result. http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/464/501/case.html


According to this story posted today on a local TV station’s website, the defendants in both cases didn’t object when  trial judge ordered that members of the public be removed from the courtroom during jury selection in their trials “without complying with a standard four-part review.”

Now both are claiming on appeal that their Constitutional right to a public trial was violated.

The state says they lost that right when they failed to object at trial.

The Court of Appeals ducked by saying the question of when the objection has to occur is “unsettled law.”

Three things about this story disturb me and should disturb everyone in this country who care about a competent, effective media and about judicial transparency.

First, is that this story fails to say whether the judge gave a reason for closing the proceedings. Were the defendants acting out? Were they in gangs whose fellow gang members were in the courtroom intimidating prospective jurors? Without knowing, this looks like a clear violation of the law as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in Press Enterprise Co. vs. Superior Court (1984) which held that “The guarantees of open public proceedings in criminal trials cover proceedings for the voir dire examination of potential jurors. Pp. 464 U. S. 505-510.” http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/464/501/case.html

Second, the story fails to explain how the defendants say their rights were violated. Were jurors selected who wouldn’t have been had members of the public — or any one individual member of the public — been sitting in the courtroom observing the selection process?

Third, and most troubling, is that the judge, Richard Nuss, closed what from what the story tells its readers should have been a public proceeding not just once, but twice.

Yet, the news media, including the TV station reporting this story, reported on the January 2009 crime and July charges against defendant Nancy Pinno http://www.fox11online.com/dpp/news/state_ap_waukesha_police_say_woman_murdered_200907141252_rev1, and on her December 2009 sentencing http://www.fox11online.com/dpp/news/crime/pinno-sentenced-for-role-in-redmer-murder.

It also reported on the appellate court’s July 2010 ruling that upheld the conviction of the other defendant, Travis Seaton. http://www.fox11online.com/dpp/news/crime/conviction-stands-in-one-punch-death-

So where was the media when the judge closed those trials?

Unfortunately, news organizations have cut their budgets — or had their budgets cut by their parent corporations — that few if any journalists are able to serve a vital function of the press (which is universally known as the media), which is to be a government and private industry watchdog and inform the public, which does have a right to know, about malfeasance and violations of the law.




L.A. County Bar hosts ‘Lessons Learned’ program

Glory be! The Los Angeles County Bar Association Criminal Justice Section is presenting a panel discussion on May 19 on “The First O. J. Simpson Trial – Its Impact on Law and Our Courts During the Last Fifteen Years.” And guess who’s not going to be there. I learned about this event from a friend a couple of days ago. Despite my many attempts, beginning in October, to get on the Bar’s radar about Anatomy of a Trial and my availability to participate in any upcoming programs, the organizers didn’t know about either the book or my availability. But, after learning about Anatomy on Friday, they said if I could get informational material to them, they would distribute it to the attendees. So that was my morning yesterday (Saturday). Developed a flier (I have done others, but wanted to target the audience, so created a new one) and emailed it to the contact person. I also put a bunch of Anatomy bookmarks in the mail to my friend, AP reporter Linda Deutsch who covered the entire 1995 trial and was added to the panel almost as an after thought, to also give to attendees.

So, while I would love to have been able to participate, at least getting the book mentioned is a good thing. Interestingly, California Lawyer notified me just a few days ago that a review of Anatomy will run in an upcoming issue.

On the LACBA panel, Linda will be joining three Simpson defense lawyers, Gerald Uelman, Carl Douglas and Barry Scheck; former deputy district attorney Andrea Ordin (who wasn’t on the Simpson case), and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Wesley.


Jay & me


Jay Leno gets a signed copy of my book, Anatomy of a Trial.

(I wonder if he’ll read it…  He’s on pages 13,108, 115, and 120.)





“Anatomy” wins recognition

Anatomy of a Trial received honorable mention by the Council for Wisconsin Writers for book-length nonfiction.


Wisconsin Poet Laureate Marilyn Taylor presented the award at a awards luncheon and ceremony on May 9 at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Here’s Wisconsin Poet Laureate Marilyn Taylor presenting me

                                                                                                                                                                                      with my Honorable Mention certificate.



Anatomy received the Kingery/Derleth Book-Length Nonfiction honorable mention while Richard Quinney of Madison won 1st place for his “Things Once Seen.” Last year’s winner in this category was Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Here on Earth” host Jean Feraca for her book, I Hear Voices: A Memoir of Love, Death and the Radio . 

Other winners this year were Ingrid Kallick of Madison whose story, “Sonia,” won 1st place in the Short Fiction category, Jeff Esterholm of Verona whose “The Return of the Norseman” received honorable mention; Pat Schmatz of Amherst Junction won 1st place in Children’s Literature for her book, Mousetraps, JoAnn Early Macken of Shorewood received honorable mention for Flip. Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move; 1st place for Fiction went to Anthony Bukoski of Superior for his novel North of the Port and honorable mentions went to Rae Madison of Madison for No One Tells Everything and David McGlynn of Appleton for The End of the Straight and Narrow. Jerry Apps of Madison won 1st place  in Outdoor Writing for Old Farm: A History, and Robert C. Willging of Rhinelander received honorable mention for On the Hunt: The History of Deer Hunting in Wisconsin. Book-length poetry 1st place went to Ron Wallace of Madison for his volume, For a Limited Time Only and Erin Hanusa of Madison received honorable mention for The House of Marriage. Susan Firer of Milwaukee won the 1st place poetry award for a group of five poems and Cathryn Cofell of Appleton received honorable mention.

Jennifer Heup of Shawano won 1st place for her essay “Observations of an Ameteur Astronomer” in the new category of CWW Essay Award for Young Writers , and Ellen Bley of Wales received honorable mention for her essay, “Both.”

Here are all of the winners and honorees following the luncheon and awards program.



End of a great tour

The good news is, I’ll be returning to L.A.  Some places I spoke said they could have listened for another hour and could I come back.

USC  journalism students I talked to this morning were attentive and asked great questions. Today’s journalism students are our hope for the future. Our democracy depends on a vigorous press, a watchdog and a champion for the public’s right to know. The young people I met today, at UCLA and Cal State Fullerton last week will lead the way!

Great interview yesterday with Kevin Ross for his Boss Ross radio program. He agrees, “Anatomy of a Trial” is a great candidate for Media Law classes. Now to find a way to get on Media Law university professors’ radar.

“Anatomy” promotion has become a one-person band.


L.A. Doings — Leno, “The Soloist” and More

Getting my book “Anatomy of a Trial” on people’s radar is taking some doing — sort of like walking around the world — one step at a time.

One step out here in Los Angeles got a pleasant boost when an NBC staffer I met after one of my presentations at my alma mater, California State University, Fullerton, on Monday asked if we (hubby’s here with me) planned to go to Jay Leno’s show. We thought that would be fun, we said. She could arrange it, she said. I told her I had sent Leno a signed copy of my book — in which he’s mentioned — a couple of months ago in appreciation for his generousity during the Simpson murder trial. He had performed a private show — monologue, band, the works — for the jurors after learning that we had to scrap the idea of having the jurors, who were sequestered, attend his show in Burbank because his production crew couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be shown on TV. (California prohibits photographing and televising jurors.)

When the NBC staffer emailed me about the date and time she had arranged for us to attend the show, she said that after the taping we could meet Leno and give him a copy of my book.

The news yesterday that Leno had checked himself into the hospital because he wasn’t feeling well was certainly disturbing enough and we were wishing the best for him. This morning’s news that he’s OK and will be back at work was doubly good. He’s not seriously ill, number one. But it means our visit scheduled for Tuesday (28th) is still on. Tune in. Who knows, a camera sweep of the audience my catch our happy Cheesehead faces!

So the trip so far has included three presentations to university journalism media law classes — about 300 students and a number of faculty, and speaking to half-a-dozen service clubs and a journalism class at UCLA. I’ll do a couple more talks — a USC jounalism class and another service club — and do a radio interview before winging home to South Milwaukee next Thursday.

We’re also taking time for a little fun. In addition to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno next Tuesday, we’re hitting the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA on Sunday. I couldn’t cough up the $1,000 display book fee for “Anatomy” so we’re wearing our “Anatomy” tshirts and taking a supply of “Anatomy” bookmarks to give anyone we strike up a conversation with and attending a panel discussion on the “Packaging Fear: The Art of Persuasion” that includes former Cal State Fullerton jounalism professor, Nancy Snow, who is now on faculty at Syracuse University. It’ll be great to see her again. A friend here is hosting a small book-signing party Sunday evening. We’re hanging out with our son, Chapen, at a shoot of a TV program he’s working on as editor, and going to his kickball game on Monday night.

A highlight, though, was yesterday. We took the subway — yes, Los Angeles has a subway! — from where we’re staying in Hollywood Hills, to the Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown — catty-cornered, in fact, from the County Courthouse where I worked for more than a decade. I watched this fantastic Frank Gehrey creation go up — with its unique stainless steel tulip petal-shaped facades — mystified over where in the world the auditoruim would be located. (Turns out that’s literally a concrete box that was plopped own in the space provided in the middle of the structure.) Despite numerous trips to L.A. after we moved to South Milwaukee seven years ago, I had never toured the WD Concert Hall.

While on our guided tour yesterday, which consisted of four of us — Hib, me, a screenwriter who lives in Palos Verdes and our guide — our guide suddenly whispered, “Oh, do you know who that is?” We were outside in a gardened courtyard viewing a tulip petal-shaped projection and three people were approaching from the opposite direction. We said, no.

“It’s the soloist!” she said. “Nathaniel Ayres. The movie about him opens tomorrow night.”

Next thing we knew, she spoke to the man. She was so smooth, so low key. Then the four of us fell into conversation with him and his two companions, who turned out to be relatives visiting from Ohio. “He wanted to show us his city,” the woman, who was his sister-in-law, said.

The movie, “The Soloist,” is about Ayres, a classically trained musician who, because of mental illness, ended up homeless in Los Angeles where a Los Angeles Times columnist encountered him and began to write about him.

Ayres is no longer homeless. He’s living in an apartment, he said, with a leaky faucet. He told us about meeting Jamie Foxx who plays him in the movie, his reaction when he attended the premier (he wore a blindfold he said, which enabled him to focus on the music and other audio, and, he said, “it absorbed my tears.” Although he didn’t say specifically, it was obvious that the tears were of joy.

So a beneficial trip so far. Most gratifying is the reaction of the journalism students who were assigned “Anatomy of a Trial” as required reading and said it was a fascinating book, and members of service clubs where I’ve spoken who said they wished to program could have been longer.