Tag Archives: Menendez brothers

Menendez brothers join OJS in headlines

Sometimes I think it might be a curse to have not only been involved in both the Menendez brothers and the O.J.Simpson cases and all of their trials, but to have such extensive behind-the-scenes knowledge.

First, I saw this story:

ESPN profits off black culture, does not stand by black employees views’

which contains this paragraph:

“This incident reminds me of the dynamic between Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden during the OJ Simpson trial. The white Clark brought Darden, a black man, onto the prosecution team, yet ignored his plea to not use white supremacist Mark Fuhrman as their primary witness in the case. In the FX dramatized rendition of the case, once Fuhrman’s racist background dominates the trial, Darden angrily tells Clark, ‘You put me on this trial because you wanted a black face, but the truth is you never wanted a black voice.'”

While I think it was no secret that the Simpson prosecution wanted an African American on its team, I thought it was a micromanaging DA Gil Garcetti who assigned Darden, not Clark. Although, I have no reason to believe they weren’t on the same page with each other.

Also, I have no idea whether such an exchange between Darden and Clark even occurred. If it did, I got no wind of it during the trial, and so much fiction about the trial and its participants and behavior have swirled about since, it might just be a fabrication of someone’s imagination.

But the biggest bone I have to pick is with the writer of this article is referring to Mark Fuhrman as a white ‘supremacist’. Mr. Price and everyone who uses that misnomer needs to understand that there is no such thing. Individuals who self sort into anything called that are nothing but white racists.

That, however, is a subject  for another blog.

Then I saw this story:

Law & Order: The Real Story Behind the Menendez Brothers’ Claims of Abuse

which contains this paragraph:

“He later added that the current District Attorney in Los Angeles was desperate for a win after the Rodney King and O.J. Simpson trials, so there “were major mitigating circumstances” in the Menendez case that the average viewer may not know about.”

What seems strange is that Menendez prosecutor Deputy District Attorney David Conn gave DA Gil Garcetti that win with the convictions and life sentences of both Menendez brothers for the shotgun murders of their parents, then demoted Conn and exiled him to some nether office, but rewarded losing Simpson prosecutor Clark with with an obscenely generous bonus — only to have her turn around quit her job with the District Attorney’s Office.

It is, indeed, a crazy world.

Wrong! Wrong! And What Are They Waiting For?

An online news outlet reported in a story, A New California Law Brings Hope of An Appeal For Lyle And Erik Menendez, that the Menendez brothers 1993 trial was “first trial that was televised and America couldn’t get enough.”

That is the first “wrong” in this piece. Broadcast and still photography covered Estes v. Texas in 1965. The first state in the country to enact official court rules allowing camera coverage in its state courts, which led to camera coverage of Chandler v. Florida.

Perhaps the article writer meant that Menendez brothers trial was the first trial in California to be televised, but that would have been wrong, too. The 1992 Rodney King beating trial was not only televised (I sat in that courtroom every day, just as I did both of the later Menendez brothers trials), TV viewers couldn’t get enough of that either. Neither could they get enough if the riots in L.A. that erupted after the four police officers were acquitted, nor of the trial of men who beat trucker Reginald Denny who just happened to be driving through a riot area.

The writer also got several details of the Menendez murders wrong.

What begs the question for me, though, was that even though California passed a law several years ago that might open the door for a Menendez brothers appeal, they have yet to do so. Why not? Especially since the clock is ticking toward a deadline.

On Your Mark, Get Ready, Wrong!

When I read the news in The Hollywood Reporter that ‘Law & Order: True Crime — The Menendez Murders’ Ordered to Series at NBCI could only hope the series will be more accurate than this promo.

Here is the misinfo that is probably the most blatant:

“The siblings, who were 21 and 18 years old, respectively, at the time of the murders, were tried separately but eventually found guilty in a third trial after no verdicts were rendered in the first two because of hung juries.”

There were only two Menendez brothers’ trials. The first began on July 20, 1993, and ended on January 28, 1994. Although it was a single trial, two juries were seated, one to determine the guilt or innocence of older brother Lyle, the other to judge the guilt or innocence of younger brother Erik. Both juries hung and the trial judge, Stanley Weisberg, declared a mistrial in each case. The second trial began on August 23, 1995, and ended on March 20, 1996. That trial had a single jury which found both brothers guilty and Weisberg sentenced them both to life in prison without possibility of parole.

I attended, handled media issues and interfaced with the judge on both trials.

Less offending but confusing is the sentence in The Hollywood Reporter theis “Like the Simpson trial, the Menendez brothers trial became an early hit for then-burgeoning cable channel CourtTV.” The reason it’s confusing is because it doesn’t specify which Menendez trial “became an early hit for … CourtTV.” What does that matter? CourtTV televised only the first Menendez trial. Weisberg didn’t allow a TV camera in the courtroom during the second one. Because of that ban broadcasters debated how extensively to cover it. The second Menendez trial definitely wasn’t key to CourtTV making its bones.


Forrest Gumpish Me

I felt so Gumpish yesterday.

The Milwaukee Green Sheet “Blasts from the Past” had an item from 1979 about Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini receiving “a tumultuous welcome in Tehran as he ended nearly 15 years of exile.” My children and I had just been evacuated from Tehran the month before with what we could carry in a few suitcases as the Islamic Revolution became chaotic in Iran, and my husband was still there with no indication that he was going to get out.

An interview on NPR with TV critic Eric Deggens about “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” miniseries scheduled to debut on FX last night included mention of the Rodney King-beating trial verdicts and resulting L.A. riots threw me back to all of those events.

When Rodney King was stopped by law enforcement for a malfunctioning taillight and beaten, I was city editor at the Pasadena Star News with a coverage area that included King’s hometown of Altadena. I had moved to my position as Los Angeles courts public information officer just three months before four L.A.P.D. officers stood trial for beating King. That trial was a real baptism by fire! But not nearly as hot as the subsequent riots during which I was one of the few people to keep showing up for work every day at the downtown County Courthouse.

And, of course, the accusation and subsequent trial of O.J. Simpson for murdering his ex-wife practically consumed my life for more than a year and a half in 1994 and 1995, which is now the foundation of the TV drama “The People vs. O.J. Simpson.

I have to say the Simpson case practically consumed my life, because sandwiched between court sessions, dealing with related media issues and meeting with the trial judge, Lance Ito, were the Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss case and preparations for the Menendez brothers retrial.

Feeling Gumpish comes over me at other times of the year, too, such as during the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, in which I drove a float one year and… and…

Oh, well, that’s enough for now. Sorry to get carried away.



Famous Reporter Many Never Heard Of

Accolades aplenty are rolling in for one of the best in journalism who is retiring with a 48-year career to her credit. She not only deserves all of them. She deserves more.

Yet, even though she not only wrote more stories than most journalists and her stories were no doubt read by more newspaper readers around the world than any other reporter of our times, Linda Deutsch Linda Deutsch is not a household name outside the worlds of journalism and the legal system. That’s because she worked for The Associated Press and even though AP credit appeared on her stories that newspapers published, more often than not Linda’s name didn’t.

Linda first entered my world more than two decades ago when I was a seasoned reporter-turned novice court information officer, on the job with the Los Angeles Superior Court for just three months when the Rodney King-beating trial began.

To my great fortune, Linda was tolerant and forgiving of my wet-behind-the-ears efforts to be a competent liaison between the Court and the news media. For the next decade, from Rodney King through Menendez brothers, Heidi Fleiss, O. J. Simpson and a host of other high profile trials that proliferated in the Los Angeles courts, I came to respect and even admire her objectivity, professionalism, tenacity in her reporting and for being an unparalleled champion of the First Amendment’s free press rights. After I left the court we stayed in touch and I was fortunate enough to be counted among her legions of good friends. Linda has more friends and the unique ability to make each one of us feel special than anyone I know.

In no way can I do her justice in this or even a year’s worth of blog posts. But I do offer a link to a Huffington Post piece that does a good job of capturing Linda the journalist, mentor and friend.

Even though I’ve heard many, many of her stories, both in private conversations with her and at conferences where she was a featured speaker, I’m right behind the writer of this piece, Judy Farah, in line to get a copy of Linda’s published memoirs.

Write on, Linda!

When Existing Misinformation Isn’t Enough, Make More Up

It’s bad enough that misinformation and misperception continues to swirl after nearly 20 years about the O.J. Simpson trial and the presiding judge, Lance Ito. But when some yokel comes blowing onto the scene who neither attended nor knows anything about the trial and participants, except what he apparently fabricates in his own reality, it’s more than maddening.

Enter one Don McNay, who bills himself as “Guardian & Conservator for Injured People. Best Selling Author. Award winning Settlement Planner” and somehow won a berth on the Huffington Post. The gimmick for his March 4, 2014, blog post was “How Judge Lance Ito and OJ Simpson Ruined the Legal System”.

McNay’s major beef is that the judge allowed camera coverage of the trial. Whether or not Ito should have allowed cameras, or indeed whether any judge should ever allow cameras in any courtroom, is a matter that has been hotly debated for nearly two decades in the Simpson case, and for a good decade longer than that in general.

McNay might think Ito doing so was a bad idea, and I’m not about to get into that fray here — I covered that in detail in “Anatomy of a Trial”. As the saying goes, he’s entitled to his opinion, but he’s not entitled to his own facts.

The first blatant nonfact in McNay’s blog post is, “Ito went on The Tonight Show and other entertainment programs like a small-time comic trying to work his way to Vegas.”

I can state categorically and unequivocally that Ito neither went on The Tonight Show — not before, not during and not after the trial — nor did he go on any other entertainment programs.

Neither did he grant any interviews — not during and not after the trial. And unlike just about every other person involved in or associated with that case, neither did he write a book or capitalize in any way from presiding over that case.

So where does McNay get off saying such a thing? It’s called exploitation. Demonize and falsely accuse someone who either can’t or won’t defend himself in order to make a name for and/or puff up his own self.

You don’t have to read too far into McNay’s blog post before tripping over another whopper.

“After the (1954 Sam ) Sheppard trials, televisions were basically banned from the courtroom until Judge Ito made his horrible decision.”

That sentence is a three-fer.

(1) Dr. Sam Sheppard had only one trial in 1954. His retrial was in 1966.

(2) Televisions in the courtroom were never the issue. Cameras were. Both still (or print) and television cameras.

(3) Assuming McNay meant television cameras, cameras were not banned from courtrooms from the 1954 Sam Sheppard trial until the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial. Florida pioneered with permitting courtroom camera coverage in the 1970s. California began permitting cameras on a trial basis in 1980 and made a permanent state court rule change in 1984, allowing cameras in its courtrooms, contingent on several factors.

Many, many courtroom proceedings included camera coverage during those years, including the 1992 Rodney King beating trial and the 1993 Menendez brothers trial.

Worse than McNay’s ignorance or willful disregard for factual accuracy, and the Huffington Post giving the guy a forum is his premise that the U.S. judicial system is so weak and ineffectual, that one judge and one trial could ruin it.




A Judicial Career From Beginning to End

News that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy is retiring was a bit jarring. His is one of the few judicial careers I saw from start to finish.

Little did I anticipate when he was a “baby” judge back in 1993 how he would soar to the pinnacle of the Court’s leadership.

And little did I know the assist he would give my publishing success, albeit indirectly.

As this Metropolitan News-Enterprise story says, McCoy was appointed to the bench by then-California Gov. Pete Wilson after a 17-year career with a law firm, then serving on Matthew Fong’s staff during Fong’s tenure with the State Board of Equalization.

Although I remember McCoy at his enrobing ceremony — an event at which new judges are officially presented with their black robe and presented to the court — which is amazing, given that I attended all of those twice-yearly ceremonies during my nearly 12 years with the court and each ceremony included half-a-dozen or more new judges, he really popped onto my radar when he started a program soon after he became a new judge.

The program, which McCoy called “One-to-One”, was a one-man show. He sought out and invited at-risk youth, one at a time, to his courtroom, preferably accompanied by a parent, to show them in dramatic fashion what it was like to be a defendant in the criminal court system. The visit included a tour of lockup, with McCoy describing rather graphically where the kid would sit in the tiny space that contain only one short bench a toilet, and a chat in McCoy’s chambers. McCoy always gave the teen his business card and an invitation to call him any time. He also encouraged them to write to him and promised he would reply.

When I sat in on one of the sessions and talked with McCoy later when the program had been in place for several months, he pulled open a desk drawer and showed me files full of letters his young guests had sent him. He had, he said, replied to each and even had an ongoing correspondence with a few.

What I found amazing about McCoy embarking on such an undertaking was that (1) as a brand new judge, he had a pretty full plate trying to learn the ropes — and there were many, and (2) his background was in administrative and civil law and there he was presiding over a criminal courtroom. So his learning curve was doubly steep.

One thing that set him apart from the norm, to my thinking, was instead of focusing inwardly, i.e. I’ve got such a tough row to hoe here, he looked outward for some adjunct way in which what he was doing could benefit others.

That characteristic was captured in a book, Judicial Outreach on a Shoestring, written by another Los Angeles Superior Court judge, Richard Fruin, and published in 1999 by the American Bar Association.

“There must be a way, Judge McCoy thought, as he watched the daily parade of criminal defendants coming through his court, to make these sad cases useful in some way,” Fruin wrote about McCoy and his “One-to-One” program.

After paying his dues by serving in a criminal court — new judges are often initially assigned to either criminal or juvenile courts as most judges consider them the least desirable,so don’t often volunteer for them, and it gets judges like McCoy who have no criminal or juvenile experience up to speed quickly in those areas of the law and court procedures — McCoy moved on to the civil courts.

I had a number of encounters with McCoy during his civil-court years, including his assignment as one of the first judges assigned to serve in a newly created complex litigation court. While there he sought my assistance in interfacing with the news media on a tobacco-litigation case with a $3 billion jury verdict for punitive damages.

Then came the 2002 publication of his book, Why Didn’t I Think of That. He gave me a signed copy with a generous inscription.

I left the court shortly after McCoy’s book came out, moved to Wisconsin and began to consult in court-media relations, which included serving as faculty with the National Center for Courts and Media at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada.

People kept urging me to write a book about my experiences as an information officer with the largest trial court in the country that had seen such high-profile trials as the Rodney King beating, the Menendez brothers, Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss and, of course, O.J. Simpson, among others.

I finally called McCoy for guidance about how to go about getting a book published. He put me in touch with his literary agent. From the agent, I learned how to prepare a proposal. He, however, was unable to find a buyer. The primary problem, he said, was I was just offering old news and a string of anecdotes. Publishers, he said, wanted books to “say something,” offer insight or conclusions, and/or present something new.

After a few years and being deep in consulting, which included working with courts, lawyers and journalists in other countries, I saw the negative effects media coverage of the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial and the miss-perceptions of that trial and participants were having on court-media relations all over the world.

Shedding light on that and proposing a better way for courts and the media to interact was the book I decided to do. That book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned, sold. Here’s the link to my Anatomy of a Trial websitehttp://www.anatomyofatrial.com/

My thanks to McCoy for opening the door to his agent and for that agent helping me understand important ingredients a book must have to sell.

McCoy went on to be elected by his fellow bench officers — some 500 of them — to serve as the court’s assistant presiding judge for 2007 and 2008, then president judge for 2009 and 2010.

That was during a time when he needed all the creative thinking he could muster to keep the court afloat in the midst of the most draconian budget cuts in its history, thanks to the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

He not only navigated the court with distinction, he received a Person of the Year award for 2008, a recognition Los Angeles legal newspaper, The Metropolitan News-Enterprise, bestows annually.

The MetNews story announcing McCoy’s retirement said he thought it would be more appropriate to discuss his future plans after he’s officially retired, which will be the end of this month.

Suffice it to say that whatever he chooses to do, it will be with an eye on how it might benefit others.

Best wishes Tim McCoy.

Do You Remember Where You Were?

I sure do remember where I was when this happened.

VIDEO: 19th anniversary of the OJ Simpson white Bronco low-speed chase (archival photos)  http://www.scpr.org/news/2013/06/17/37767/video-19th-anniversary-of-the-oj-simpson-white-bro/


As the Los Angeles Superior Court information officer and media liaison with Rodney King-beating and Menendez brothers trials under my belt, I was soon to learn what a real media tsunami was.

What Difference Do Cameras Make?

“Is it really the trial of the century if only a few can see it?”

That is the question raised by a Boston Herald story about the James “Whitey” Bulger-trial camera ban. “Massive media contingent not daunted by camera ban”  http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/06/massive_media_contingent_not_daunted_by_camera_ban

My question is, would the Bulger case be the trial of the century — or a trial of the century, given that a good half-dozen trials held in the 20th Century were called the trial of the century — if cameras were not banned?

In my experience with dozens of trials of significant media interest, including a few that might fall into “the trial of the century” bailiwick, cameras access might affect how news organizations cover a trial, but not necessarily whether they will cover it or the level of public interest in it.

That was my conclusion in one of the most popular stories published in the National Center for State Courts The Court Manager was my 1997 “What A Difference A Lens Makes,” which contrasts media coverage and public interest in two cases that had two trials each; one with cameras and one without. http://www.anatomyofatrial.com/pages/images/Difference1_000.jpghttp://www.anatomyofatrial.com/pages/images/Difference2_000.jpg

The 1995 O.J. Simpson criminal trial, involving the murders of Simpson ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman, had camera coverage. The subsequent wrongful death civil trial didn’t. The 1993 Menendez brothers parricide trial had camera coverage, the 1996 retrial did not.

My belief is bolstered when I name several high-profile trials at presentations I do about high-profile trials and ask the people attending which of those trials had camera coverage. Most get at least one wrong.

My list generally includes:

  • Martha Stewart insider trading
  • Rodney King beating
  • Scott Peterson murder
  • Michael Jackson child molestation
  • Heidi Fleiss pandering
  • Menendez brothers parricide (yes and no)
  • William Kennedy Smith rape
  • Casey Anthony murder

So whether or not the Bulger trial rises (or sinks, depending on one’s point of view) to a “trial of the century” level will depend far more on how the media cover it than on whether their cameras can record or air it to the public.

The Great Leap from Iran to O.J. Simpson

I wrote an essay about a former life — an Air Force wife with my family in Tehran, Iran, in 1978-79.

The essay was about memories the movie “Argo” evoked of our being in that country in the early stages of the Islamic Revolution and being evacuated with little more than the clothes we wore.

The essay is scheduled to air on Milwaukee’s public radio station, WUWM 89-7 FM, Saturday, Feb. 23, at 3 p.m. and again the next day– Sunday, Feb. 24– at the same time, on the station’s “Lake Effect” program. It will also be streamed online at www.wuwm.com (click on the red “Listen” button).

That experience triggered an epiphany that led me into the world of journalism in which I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for more than 12 years before segueing to Los Angeles Superior Court when I spent another decade as court information officer and media liaison.

Those years were replete with high-profile trials, the first, the Rodney King-beating trial, opening two months after I joined the court. That was followed by the Menendez brothers I & II (the first ending in hung juries), Heidi Fleiss, O.J.Simpson and many more not quite as notorious.

Who would have ever thought that being evacuated from revolution-ruptured Iran would have led to me writing a book about the impact media coverage of a has-been star athlete’s trial on murder charges! Maybe I’ll come up with an essay about that.