Tag Archives: media

The End is Near

Final phase arrives.

Skeptics said it never would.

Closing arguments.


After more than a year of the Simpson case dominating the media and, consequently, my life, it seemed impossible that the trial might actually be coming to an end. Yet, closing arguments always led to jury deliberations and verdict. Of course, that didn’t necessarily mean the end of the case. My mind whirled ahead to a retrial, should the jury hang, which many, particularly many in the news media, would be the situation, if, in fact, jurors failed to convict.

I ignored my dueling emotions: Wanting more than anything for it to be over, yet dreading the gaping hole yawn in my work-a-day world. And, truth be told, missing all of the media folks with whom I had daily interaction.

Another Day, Another Juror Gone

More juror issues.

Media want to know why.

One more bites the dust.


By the time the trial was over, the entire jury panel had been replaced by alternates. Not one original juror remained when it came to deliberation/verdict day.

Who Gets the Seats Takes the Day

Court’s back in session 20 years ago, so here’s my haiku about the issue of that day:

Seating takes the stage.

Victims’ kin don’t have enough.

Marcia Clark lobbies.


Here’s what I wrote in Anatomy of a Trial about the court proceeding that day:

“The lawyers also took up court time wrangling over the number of courtroom seats each side could get. Initially, the defense wanted twenty-eight and the prosecution slightly fewer in a courtroom with sixty-two seats. Ito initially allocated six for the defense and ten for the prosecution. That represented five for each victim’s family. But Clark lobbied for more.

“‘I think that there is no one of greater importance who has a greater right to have a presence in this courtroom than the family of the victims,’ she argued. ‘The media then is occupying more that two times what the prosecution and the defense are occupying, and that seems way out of balance.’

“Ito finally settled on seven seats for each family, but added the same conditions he set for the media; everyone must be in his or her seat before court convened, no one could enter while court was in session, any assigned seat not occupied when court convened would be reassigned for the day, and any seat not occupied by the party it was assigned to for two days in a row would be permanently lost.”


Words That Bit Back

 Jackals run in packs.

For Ito, a metaphor.

The press corps amass.


I’m a few days late in posting this, but the relates to Simpson trial judge Lance Ito referring to members of the media as jackals, which was emblematic of the deteriorating regard he and the media held for each other.


Larry King Gets the Message

This is a day late, but please allow for a little vacation time — a few days at Mackinac Island.  Here’s the haiku I wrote twenty years ago yesterday:

Larry King Live show

To harp on press restrictions.

Ito sets him straight.


Judge Ito declines Larry King’s invitation to be on his show with journalists who are critical of restrictions he has imposed, but he sends King a message saying that he has bent over backwards to give the media everything they have asked for.

How Wrong He Was!

People vs. Simpson haiku of 20 years ago today:

Lance Ito was picked.

For trial of the century.

“Press will lose interest.”


(Explainer: Trial judge, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito, was convinced media interest in the case would wane as the case proceeds.)

Are Bradley Trial Media Excluded or Not?

Regardless of anyone’s opinion of Bradley Manning and his actions, if ever a trial should be public and allowed full media coverage it was this one.

270 media denied access to Manning trial, stenographers step in

“With no official transcript available to the public, the stenographers are being paid for their work not by the military court but by private donations.
The unusual arrangement is the work of activists with the Freedom of the Press Foundation who accuse US military authorities of making life difficult for media outlets trying to cover the proceedings.”  http://www.thestandard.com.hk/breaking_news_detail.asp?id=37221&icid=a&d_str=

Of the stories on this topic that I’ve read, it’s not clear exactly what the setup and situation is for news organizations that want to cover the trial.

The story above says 270 of 350 news organizations that have requested access to the trial have been denied. That means 150 have been granted access. That’s a lot of media access.

But what exactly is that access? This story goes on to say that the judge presiding over the trial is allowing stenographers the media have hired to create a trial transcript because the court won’t release the official one publicly “to follow the trial in a room reserved for the media, with a closed circuit video feed of the proceedings.”

So what’s the scoop? Are the 150 members of the media who have been granted court access allowed to be in the courtroom? Or are they relegated to an auxiliary  room with a closed from from the courtroom?

Then there is this story that further muddles the picture, at least for me.

Bradley Manning Judge Sidesteps Media Access Request


This story says, “But the stenographers have been forced to rely on loaned press passes from other media organizations, because the Military District of Washington’s media desk has declined to grant them credentials of their own.”

That is followed by this:

“The number of reporters attending the trial dwindled from 70 to around 20 just two days after it began, meaning there is ample room for the stenographers.”

I am confused.

I do know that 150 members of the media is a lot to have courtroom access. The most media seats of any high-profile trial I handled media logistics for was 48 in the 1996-97 O.J. Simpson civil wrongful death trial in Santa Monica, California. In that case, the media decided among themselves who would sit in those seats — leaving me to arbitrate any disputes. Those who didn’t get into the courtroom could watch the proceedings via a closed video feed in an auxiliary room.

With the approval and support of the judges, I also oversaw the media’s courtroom seating. Any seat that was assigned to a news organization or individual member of the media and went unoccupied for two days would be reassigned to another news organization on the waiting list for a courtroom seat.

So I’m not too sure what the problem is with media access to the Bradley trial.



‘Arguments’ Differ from ‘Statements’

A reporter on National Public Radio yesterday talked about opening arguments in the Bradley Manning trial.

Reporting like that is an example of what drives judges nuts about media coverage of the courts and court proceedings.

Judges contend and my advice, both as the Los Angeles courts media liaison and as a court-media consultant, is that members of the media need to know what they’re talking about when they report news.

The NPR reporter committed an all-too common mistake. Trials do not have opening arguments. Attorneys representing litigants in a trial present opening statements. That process involves telling — or stating to — jurors (or the judge, if it’s a bench trial) what they will present in the testimony phase of the trial.

After the testimony phase, the lawyers then present their closing arguments. That process involves telling jurors (or judge) why, based on the evidence presented, they must arrive at a verdict in favor of their client and/or against their opponent’s client.

Judges, as the AP’s 46-year veteran reporter of high-profile and celebrity trials Linda Deutsch says, are process oriented. The accuracy, correct application and context of words is critical in their world. While most members of the public don’t understand and couldn’t care less about the difference between arguments and statements in court trials, members of the media who cover court cases should.

Borrowing from the adage that ‘the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,’ the best way to winning the respect and confidence of a judge is through accurate, fair, objective, non-sensationalized and knowledgeable reporting of legal issues and proceedings. Don’t believe me? Just ask Linda Deutsch.

Canada’s Courts-Camera Coverage Catch Up

Canada in the past has been behind the times regarding media access to the courts, or lack thereof, and constraints under which they labor, according to U.S. standards.

For instance, members of the media can be prohibited from publishing or airing trial-court proceedings under certain circumstances. One provision is cited in the Canadian Judicial Council’s publication,  The Canadian Justice System and the Media, @ http://www.cjc-ccm.gc.ca/cmslib/general/news_pub_other_cjsm_en.pdf. as follows:

“In criminal trials, judges have the discretion not to impose certain bans if they are sought by the Crown, but have no choice if the defendant makes the request. Reporters are entitled to remain in the courtroom and can take notes for future use.”

But according to news today, at least one of the provinces might be coming into the 21st Century.

Here is the opening of a Vancouver Sun news story @ http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Cameras+courtroom+will+increase+accountability/8113521/story.html#ixzz2NvzoiihZ

“B.C.’s highest court is set today to begin a pilot video-streaming project that underscores how the province’s judiciary needs to enter the modern age.

If all goes well, the B.C. Court of Appeal will live-stream the arguments in an assisted-suicide case.

It’s about time.”

No kidding.

Canadian court officials have been hashing around with the trial courts-camera issue for years, sometimes citing the 1995 Simpson criminal trial in Los Angeles for keeping them out. So, it is refreshing to see some positive movement in that arena with our neighbors to the north.

Now, if our U.S. Supreme Court would just catch up with Canada’s.

According to the Vancouver Sun story, “the Supreme Court of Canada, has been before the lens since 1997.”


Journalists “Need to Know”

One of the biggest complaints judges have about people with the media who cover the courts is they don’t know the rules, or as one judge once told me, “They don’t know what they’re doing.”

It’s also one of the biggest problems for the media. The reason not knowing the rules is a problem FOR the media is because it limits their access.

That wasn’t always necessarily the case — and still isn’t in very rare instances.

Back in the day when reporters had “beats” they had the time and opportunity to not only learn the rules but to get to know judges and court staff and vice-versa.

So they not only learned the process, they knew who to ask if they had questions about it.

These days reporters generally no longer specialize. They and other with the news media, such as TV producers and camera crews, are frequently sent to cover proceedings at courthouses they’ve never been in before. They don’t know where courtrooms, clerks’ offices or those things are located. They don’t know the function of the people who work there. They don’t know where files and documents are located or if, just by glancing at a file, any of the documents in it are sealed.

That causes consternation and disruption, not just for judges, but for staff.

It also causes frustration for the media who are facing deadlines and need access and information fast.

One reporter who has become a rarity in today’s media, AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch, provides an insight on this situation.

Judges, Deutsch says, are process oriented. They focus on making sure everything is done correctly and according to Hoyle, all neat and orderly.

People in the news business, Deutsch explains, are results oriented. They focus on getting the story and how that’s done can sometimes be messy.

Deutsch, who is a 45-year-veteran of covering the courts for The Associated Press, used to impart her wisdom and pearls of  advice at education and training courses for judges and journalists at the National Center for the Courts and Media where she and I served as faculty. The demise of that function of the center a few years ago left few institutional avenues for improving judge-journalist mutual understanding and instructive interaction.

Other resources for journalists do exist. One is the Digital Media Law Project at http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/guides-and-resources.

Others are offered through courts systems, such as the Kansas courts information office and University of Kansas faculty “Law School for Journalists” program.

Court information officers have an association, the Conference of Court Public Information Officers (CCPIO), that has developed a number of resources such as a report on new media’s impact on the judiciary (updated last year), which can be found at http://www.ccpio.org.

A list of members and their contact information is included on that site.  http://ccpio.org/about/members/ Unfortunately, the largest court in the country, the Los Angeles Superior Court, has no representative in that organization, and doesn’t even list one on its own website. I’m not sure if anyone has been named/selected to replace the last person to hold that position left more than two years ago after being accused of leaking information to the online celebrity scandal sheet, TMZ.  http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/19/local/la-me-allan-parachini-20101119  An acting information officer, Mary Hearn, has been holding down the fort ever since.

In the absence of other assistance, the Digital Media Law Project lists an impressive array of resources that are worth checking out, and can be done quickly from anywhere and at any time — even on the way to cover something at a court a reporter or camera crew has never been in before.