Tag Archives: Milwaukee

WAOW Doesn’t Deliver, Milwaukee Independent Does

Neither the Wausau TV station news director nor the interviewing reporter sent me the link, as they said they would, to the Simpson-parole piece they aired yesterday, so I went to their website and found:



Anyone who missed it didn’t miss much. What got me most, though, was that instead of using the photo I sent them, which they requested, they used a picture of me that I didn’t recognize.  It took a bit of poking around online, but I finally found it. It was taken by Milwaukee journalist Lee Matz and posted on his news and information site www.milwaukeeindependent.com. The same picture was included in a profile Matz published today. Here are links to the video and the text versions of the profile.



A huge thank you to Lee Matz and Milwaukee Independent.

Refreshing Perspective, Thoughtful Insight

So much is being written, rehashed, recalled, misremembered and made up these days, it was refreshing to open the Milwaukee newspaper’s opinion section today and read a column about the Simpson case and miniseries drama based on characters in the case by someone who didn’t claim to have been there, knew someone who was there, remembered exactly where they were/what they were doing  when…

James E. Causey’s “After 20 years, reassessing O.J.” led off with a quote from Simpson: “You wanna make this a black thing. Well I’m not black. I’m O.J.”

Simpson made that statement, Causey writes, “after he was arrested in 1994 in the brutal deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her companion Ronald Goldman, says a lot, not only about the case, but about black and white perceptions in America.”

Rather than dissect and regurgitate what he read and saw in the media about the case, the trial and the parties involved, Causey took the long view, examining black and white America’s reactions to the not-guilty verdicts and race relations in this country then and since, with stops at Zimmerman and in Milwaukee along the way.

Causey wrote the best thing in all that I’ve read yet about FX’s
“The People vs. O.J. Simpson” when he concluded with, “The wound of racism never heals with a Band-Aid. It takes dealing with some hard truths and honesty. This series may open up a much-needed dialogue that we need to have about race.”

What a Difference a Video Makes

After a Milwaukee jury convicted a mean, vengeful old man, John Spooner, for the fatal close-range shooting of an unarmed teenager on evidence based in part on a security camera video, Milwaukee newspaper columnist Eugene Kane pointed out what I think is obvious. The video tape made a difference.

Justice for a black teenager:  A different case, but many of the same old troubling questions


Video tape of other crimes have made a difference in the outcome of those cases, too. The Rodney King beating, for instance. Yes, the four cops were acquitted in state trial of all but one minor count in that case, but they were found guilty of violating King’s civil rights in a federal trial.

Kane’s column ends with, “(George)  Zimmerman’s acquittal revealed deep fissures in the racial gap between black and white and a confounding disconnect between the races about society’s realities. And even though folks are relieved at the Spooner verdict, they also remain acutely aware of this fact: It was a good thing a video showed exactly what happened.”

Consider how different the Zimmerman case would have been, beginning with law-enforcement’s decision as to whether or not to arrest him right after he shot Trayvon Martin, if their encounter had been captured on video tape, beginning with Zimmerman’s first sighting of Martin walking home from a convenience story.

Thanks to Kane, I’m thinking that, pervasive as they are, security cameras have a lot more benefits than drawbacks.



Does Grandchild-in-Common Create Conflict Perception?

A Milwaukee judge, in my opinion, has either a skewed view of or a blind eye to judicial rules that call for judges to avoid not only impropriety or partiality, but the appearance of impropriety or partiality.

A story headlined Judge, lawyer in John Spooner case have family ties  in the local newspaper yesterday reported that the son the judge presiding over the trial of a man, John Spooner, charged with murdering a teenage boy, Darius Simmons, is married to the defense attorney’s daughter. The son and daughter have a child, which means the judge and the defendant’s lawyer share a grandchild.

The news story says the judge, Jeffrey A. Wagner, has pictures of the child on display in his courthouse chambers and photos or online of Wagner and the lawyer, Franklyn Gimbel, who is his son’s father-in-law, socializing at a number of events.

The judge, however, sees no problem and the defense attorney, of course, doesn’t either. More surprising to me is the prosecution’s position.

Although the lead prosecutor in the case, Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams, raised the issue “early on”, according to the newspaper story, he’s quoted as saying his office left the decision up to the judge as to whether he should step aside so another judge could take over the case.

Other judges and a judicial ethics expert quoted in the story took a dim view of the judge’s decision.

This debate became public in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, which, in fact, was cited as having an impact on Spooner’s trial.

Spooner is a white man and the teen he shot to death (not just allegedly or accused of, but did as there is video of him doing so) is a 13-year-old African-American boy. 

“A number of potential jurors for the trial — which will determine the fate of a Milwaukee senior citizen charged with fatally shooting his 13-year-old neighbor — said Monday they might have a hard time ignoring parallels to the Zimmerman case, and the reaction to the Florida jury’s decision,” a July 15 story said.

Although some might have thought the family ties and friendship between judge and lawyer would work in favor of the defense because the judge could not possibly be objective — however subconsciously — no matter how good his intentions might be.

But yesterday the defendant, John Spooner, was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, which would shoot down such arguments, right?

Perhaps, except that given the videotape, ironically from Spooner’s own security camera mounted to surveil the sidewalk in front of his house, and the eye witness testimony by the teenager’s mother who standing on the front porch of her house which is next door to Spooner’s, that verdict would not be surprising.

Yet, to come, however, was a second phase of the trial in which Spooner’s lawyer, Gimbel, was to argue that his 76-year-old client should be declared not guilty be reason of mental disease defect.

 That phase hit a bump a few hours ago, however, when Gimbel said Spooner was “mentally unfit to continue the insanity plea portion of the trial,” according to an update on the newspaper’s website.
Because of the, at least perceived, conflict of interest, it’s hard to see how the judge can avoid criticism no matter how he rules.

FCC Should Be Fair to Public, Not Murdoch

So Rupert Murdoch wants a “fair hearing” for his application to be allowed to buy the Los Angeles Times, even though doing so would violate FCC rules barring corporations/individuals from owning more than a certain number of news outlets in any given area.

Jon Stewart Rips Rupert Murdoch For Interest In LA Times http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/29/jon-stewart-rupert-murdoch-la-times_n_2980849.html?utm_hp_ref=media

My question is, why? What’s so special about Rupert Murdoch that he should be allowed to violate the law? Or be above it? Or not have to comply with it? Or be given a path around it?

The Daily Show‘s  Jon Stewart pretty much nailed it when he pointed out that Murdoch is, “petitioning the government to circumvent the media consolidation laws that ‘were created with him in mind.’”

Stewart Torches Rupert Murdoch For Trying To Get Around Media Monopoly Laws ‘Created With Him In Mind’ http://www.mediaite.com/tv/stewart-torches-rupert-murdoch-for-trying-to-get-around-media-monopoly-laws-created-with-him-in-mind/

Murdoch’s News Corp. already owns two Los Angeles TV stations. He might argue that because L.A. has at least three other major commercial English language TV stations, owning the Los Angeles Times wouldn’t create a monopoly. And he might even hold up New York City as an example.

Murdoch owns two New York-area  TV stations and a newspaper, the New York Post. Even though the FCC granted his petition for a waiver so he could own those three news companies, one huge difference between Los Angeles and New York is that Los Angeles, for all intents and purposes, has only one major daily newspaper and that is the Times. The New York Post isn’t that city’s major daily newspaper–far from it. The New York Times is. And even though the Post, which is a shiny-object, hyped-headline tabloid, isn’t the largest daily in New York, that city has other daily newspapers — the New York Daily News and Newsday are two besides the Post and the Times.

It’s bad enough for a large metropolitan area to be served by only one daily — or any publishing frequency — newspaper, but to further shrink residents’ and workers’ options with a single company or individual owning not only that paper, but two or more other news outlets does not benefit anyone except the owner and results in a less informed populace. I know. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I live, has only one daily newspaper which is owned by the same corporation that owns one of the four major TV stations and perhaps the most popular radio station. That corporation has a decided editorial point of view and it shows.

Another factor that should be paramount to the FCC as a government agency is that the government needs the news media as much, maybe even more, than the media need the government. That is because commercial news outlets are the primary means available to the government to get important information to the public.

During my years with the Los Angeles courts, an ongoing challenge was to get information to people. The information more often than not concerned programs that benefited court users — or would if they knew about them, hours of operation, jury service, and so much more. At the time, a number of news organizations were available.

Add to Murdoch’s request for a “fair hearing”, is the odorous trail he has strewn across the landscape, particularly in the UK where one of the newspapers he owned there shut down with the editor under suspicion of the unethical, if not illegal — that’s yet to be determined — hacking of private citizens’ and public figures’ email and telephones.

Why in the world would the FCC give special preference to someone with that kind of track record? That agency should to what it was created to do, serve the people. Not clear the way for an already megla-billionaire to further enrich himself at the expense of Southern Californian’s access to a variety and diversity of news sources–unless the commissioners’ have bought into that SCOTUS distortion that in this country money is speech. If so, that money/speech is becoming decidedly obscene. 


Remembering Rodney King

Anatomy of a Trial got mentioned in the credits of my essay yesterday about my encounters with Rodney King. Yay!

The Rodney King-beating trial was my first lollapalooza of a trial. It started a bare three months after I joined the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1991 and predated the O.J. Simpson trial by three years.

My first ‘encounter’ with Rodney King, though, was nearly a year before his case hit the courtroom.

My recent essay aired on “Lake Effect” on Milwaukee’s public radio station, WUWM 89.7 FM and is archived at


Give a listen! Thanks.

We Got Our FIXX

The Rotary Club of Mitchell Field presentation and signing went well. Some Rotarians brought guests, specifically because of the program topic – me talking about “Anatomy of a Trial.” From their attention, questions and feedback, they weren’t disappointed. Son-in-law Tom offered an observation, which I thought illuminating. He recalled a trip he made from Milwaukee to L.A. to see my daughter (and his intended at the time), during which I took them in for a short visit with Judge Ito. Tom recounted how surprised he was that here this judge was immersed in what by that time was universally being described as the ‘trial of the century’ and a courtroom full of media, celebrities, ‘dream-team’ lawyers and enough ‘issues’ to drive the most unflappable of judges nuts. Yet, after introductions and his invitation for his guests to have a seat, rather than talk about what was going on with him or the swirl around the trial, he asked Tom and Carrianne what was going on back in Wisconsin and how the weather was there. “He was just such a regular guy, not at all what I expected,” Tom told his fellow Rotarians. Describing his experience was a nice enhancement to the program. I understood the attendance was about a third more than average.


The same couldn’t be said of crowd — or lack of — at the FIXX Coffee House a few days later. Customers were few – FIXX proprietor Shari Franz had said Saturday mornings between 9 and 11 usually saw about 100. Two factors were at play, though. One was the weather. A blizzard had blown through the day before, depositing more than a foot of snow, and more snow was in the forecast. The other was the season. Surely, a number of FIXX regulars were using the last Saturday morning before Christmas to do last-minute shopping and other holiday-related preparations – especially with the potential of getting around later being hampered by even more snow.


But we had a great time anyway. First was just the ambience of the place. It’s dominated by a conversation pit of comfy broad-shouldered sofas with a large low coffee table laden with magazines, catalogs and board games in the center. A basket of toys for kids sits next to the coffee table. A dozen or so tiled-top tables line one side of the restaurant, each surrounded by spindle-back white oak (I’m guessing) chairs, and many with games like cribbage or checkers awaiting players. A few more tables – the small round tall kind typical at bars – dot the front part of the dining room. A piano with books and an alabaster (or faux) bust of Beethoven on top sits against one wall. Small displays of hand-made jewelry, silver book marks, stained-glass sun catchers, business cards and photographs by a local photographer and stacks of books fill every corner and flat surface. Notices of coming attractions are tacked above the coffee condiments sideboard; musicians Ellie and Jerry Quint, guitarist Keith Hampton. The Celtic folk band, the Garlic Mustard Pickers,” have played there.


We met a professor of education at a local college whom we plan to hook up with our online education development expert daughter. We had a couple of suggestions for Shari about spreading the word about happenings at the FIXX. We ended our morning with a great chicken salad wrap and butter-rum flavored coffee before heading out into the snow to finish up our Christmas errand running.