Tag Archives: Michelle Carswell

The ‘Oddest Day’ in Trial of Odd Days

As the post, “Prelude to ‘Oddest Day’ in Trial of Odd Days,” of a few days ago alluded, here is my account of the day Simpson neighbor’s housekeeper appeared in court.

First, though, a correction. In my previous blog post, I identified Rosa Lopez as being from Colombia. She wasn’t. She was from El Salvador. I should have looked at my notes from back then. So, here are my notes from that day, none of which made it into my book:

{It was the oddest day of a trial full of odd days. It was Rosa Lopez day at the O.J. Simpson trial. It was a day that was to have been a half day of a conditional examination and it turned into a more than full day of examination and cross examination to see if she was going to be a videotaped witness. The answer at 5:10 p.m. was yes — and that night because she was going to leave for El Salvador the next day. But a flash of inspiration prompted (Judge Lance) Ito to call for the jury. It was 5:30 p.m.

“What do you suppose they are doing about now?” he asked. I was alone with him in chambers.

“Probably just going to dinner,” I said.

“Go ask (courtroom bailiff Sheriff’s Deputy) Guy Magnera to call and see how soon they can be gotten over here.”

They (jurors) filed in at 6 — very dressed down compared to their usual dapper selves — a look may of them had assumed after having been selected as jurors. But when Ito took the bench, Marcia Clark wailed about her child care problems and Ito ended up holding Rosa Lopez as a material witness to testify (out of town as a defense witness) on Monday.

“Do you think it was a ploy?” Law Clerk Michelle Carswell asked (of Marcia Clark’s plea) Ito in chambers after he’d recessed for the day.

“Sure,” he said. “They (prosecutors) needed more time to prepare for cross examination. But if they had used their heads, they would have realized I would have gone on for a couple of hours, then called it a night. I’ve bee working all day. I’m tired and want to go home. So I would have recessed after a couple of hours util Monday and made a finding that she’s (Rosa Lopez) a material witness and held her on a bod or put her in jail.”

He pointed out that hearing a couple of hours of the defense examination before recessing for the weekend would have give the prosecution an idea of what to prepare for.

What Rosa Lopez did say in court was that she had no place to stay, that she had lost her job because of the (Simpson) 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 (public information office) — and, I’m sure to other court phones as wells as the defense — and probably D.A. offices — offering jobs, places to stay, including  the offer of an unused mobile home and an offer of $1,000. We referred may of the calls to Lopez’s attorney, Carl Jones.

I related that to Ito just before court convened for the late afternoon session. In chambers was a pre-law intern. After court recessed, an L.A. Times reporter repeated to me almost verbatim what I’d told Jones. I asked her 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.}

Although it might seem strange that I didn’t take notes about Lopez’s testimony, but that is so indicative of how I focused o my job — and that wasn’t worrying about the trial, except for how the media coverage of it and media behavior affected the court. So, here’s the link to an L.A. Times story about her testimony. http://articles.latimes.com/1995-02-28/news/mn-37009_1_rosa-lopez with this headline: Housekeeper Tells of Seeing Simpson’s Car : Trial: Rosa Lopez testifies on tape without jury present after prosecutors complain. Defense reveals statement it took from her in July.


Back from the past

An unexpected and cool part of publishing a book is reconnecting with people from the past. One I had been looking for. Michelle Carswell was one of Judge Lance Ito’s law clerks during the Simpson trial. I knew Michelle had graduated Pepperdine Law School, moved to one of the Carolinas where she was practicing law, married and taken her husband’s name.
During a visit with Judge Ito last year, he told me her last name and that she was living in North Carolina. With that surely I would be able to find her. My Internet searches didn’t turn up current information, however, and I was stuck. Then, along came a message via an online business network – from Michelle.
Turns out we have a mutual acquaintance whom I had notified about the publication of Anatomy of a Trial. He told Michelle about it. She bought the book and contacted me.

“Thank goodness somebody finally wrote about some of the things Judge Ito had to face and consider,” she wrote. “The book was also incredibly well written from an academic sense about considerations specific to high profile jury cases. Amazing job.”

I sure appreciated the praise, but more importantly, I wanted the book to be objective and accurate.

“I do think the book came across balanced and not at all like you were trying to be overly defensive,” Michelle wrote in a followup email, “but rather provided valuable insights that people need in order to get a true picture of everything he had to contend with.”

I guess it will take a third party who had no direct involvement to weigh in our both Michelle’s and my objectivity, but it sure was great to hear from her.