Tag Archives: NBA

Simpson Verdict 3rd Most ‘Impactful’ TV Moment?

Here it is, nearly 20 years after the O.J. Simpson murder trial and I must say I truly was surprised by a couple of facts in this June 14, 2014 CNN story:

5 surprising facts about O.J. Simpson’s slow-speed chase.

… here are five things that might surprise you about the infamous Bronco chase.

Fast facts: O.J. Simpson

1. The Bronco chase and subsequent “not guilty” verdict are among the most memorable TV moments in the past 50 years.

The Simpson verdict was the third most “universally impactful” televised moment of the last 50 years behind the September 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to a survey by Nielsen and Sony.

Big shift in attitude toward O.J. Simpson

Simpson’s white Bronco chase came in sixth, behind the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the death of Osama bin Laden.

The survey scored each big televised event based on how many people viewed the event live, how many could recall details about where they were during the event and how many people who could remember talking about it with other people.

READ: High-profile acquittals

2. The Bronco chase dominated sports coverage on a day with major sports news.

On June 17, 1994, legendary golfer Arnold Palmer played his last round at the U.S. Open, the World Cup opened in Chicago, the Rangers celebrated winning the Stanley Cup, the Knicks played game five of the NBA finals against the Houston Rockets, and Ken Griffey Jr. tied Babe Ruth for the most home runs hit before June 30.

ESPN covered the other big sporting news, but jumped back and forth for frequent updates on the chase. NBC continued coverage of the NBA finals, but the game appeared in a small box in the corner while Tom Brokaw anchored coverage of the Bronco chase.

It just kind of blows my mind that the Simpson verdict ranks so high — just after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and Hurricane Katrina — as the most “universally impactful” televised moment in the past 50 years. What about the Supreme Court selecting the U.S. president in 2000? Or the green flashes of “Shock and Awe” as the U.S. attacked Iraq on March 19, 2003? Or the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy? Or the Aug. 8, 1974, resignation of President Richard Nixon?

Just amazing — if true.

Remember Where You Were When…?

The evening of Friday, June 17, 1994, I was winding down from a hectic work week that was dominated by the criminal case involving former football star-turned TV and movie celebrity O.J. Simpson capped by his disappearance that morning. He had failed to surrender to police at his lawyer-brokered time of 11 a.m. on charges that he had murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and a man at her condo, Ronald Goldman.

My husband and I were making a quick trip to a nearby shopping mall and thinking about grabbing a bite to eat. As always, our car radio was tuned to an all-news station. En route came a report that a car in which Simpson might be riding had been spotted on a freeway and might be trying to flee. I turned up the radio.

More reports aired. The car, a white Ford Bronco, wasn’t exactly fleeing. It was proceeding along within the speed limit — with a huge phalanx of police vehicles tooling along behind — apparently heading north from Orange County. No attempt by law enforcement to stop or corral the Bronco. Bizarre.

More reports. It looked like Simpson might be holding a gun to his head. Gawkers were flocking to the anticipated route reported by the media and crowding freeway overpasses, screaming, cheering, waving signs. Signs? People actually had time to make signs before or while rushing to a freeway overpass near them?

Forget why we had gone to the mall, I needed to find the nearest TV set — like in an anchor store home furnishing department. There, we joined other store customers and and gawked along with them — and, it turned out, a media-estimated 95 million other Americans. Television stations and networks across the country interrupted their regular programming — which included an NBA championship basketball game and coverage of international soccer’s World Cup — to broadcast the “chase.”

The rest is history, or rather what the media reported as history.

Yesterday, director of NYCityNewsService at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and former New York Daily News city editor Jere Hester, told listeners of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation‘s Q with Jian GhomeshiWhy the O.J. Simpson Bronco car chase was a game-changer“.

Something Hester said stopped me short.

“All of a sudden,” Hester said, “we were seeing him in a far different light. … this was someone who had a better than stellar reputation in the entertainment and sports world for 20-plus years and we were seeing that image transform before us.”

That image. A media-made image, for sure.

What struck me was the irony of another media-made image and how Hester formed his opinions and conclusions, not as someone who actually covered the Simpson case, although he believes he did. But as a member of the television-viewing public.

Twenty years ago, instead of being in Los Angeles and attending court proceedings in person, Hester was sitting in his New York Daily News newsroom watching events on TV. Yet, listen to this delusion:

“I came at this from a unique vantage point. For the most part, I was watching this on television, so my vantage point was seeing this through the eyes of the public.”

That, I submit, is NOT a unique vantage point. That is the same vantage point 100 million-plus other people in the U.S. and countless more in other countries had. Nothing about sitting in a newspaper newsroom makes his vantage point any more unique than Joe Blow sitting in his living room — except, perhaps, having more people around him to chew what they were viewing with.

And that has been my point and the primary reason I wrote Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson (University of Missouri Press, 2008).

What you see on TV is not the full or necessarily accurate picture, or complete or spin-free story.

Hester makes that point himself, not just in his comment about the media-made image of Simpson going into what quickly became known as that “slow-speed Bronco chase”, but in his observation about the courtroom and the proceedings during a brief visit he made to Los Angeles during the trial.

Someone who, through the media, we thought we knew.

Hester agreed that the fluff, such as Marcia Clark’s hairdos, overshadowed substance in “Simpson land.”

Although not indicting the media, he did say that being in the courtroom presented a different view than what he saw on TV.

“If you’ve ever had the experience of being at a taping of a television show … it was very much like that. You see that when you ever go through TV studio, it always looks bigger on TV than it does in person. The people look different.”

But the actual “show”? “I’m walking into what’s really kind of  an average-sized courtroom in the Los Angeles courthouse  and you’re seeing  these very familiar figures  and your first kind of instant recognition is the way that you would have when you pass a celebrity on the street and you do a double take.”

During proceedings, however, he realized the trial was not about entertainment “on any level, but that it was a search for justice.”

That said, he also realized that the “court of public opinion was going to have an effect in this case.”

And that’s where I part company with Hester. The court of public opinion had an effect on the aftermath of the case. But the trial itself, was the the prosecution’s to lose, which it did.

And that other media-made image? That of the trial judge, Lance Ito. That image fell victim to the “court of public opinion” along with what would have been a different judicial career.

Much of that is covered in Anatomy of a Trial, along with caveats and counsel for other jurists, courts and news organizations.





Barring Trial Witnesses as Spectators is SOP

Why should anyone — particularly George Zimmerman Jr.’s father who is a judge, or was before he retired — be surprised or outraged that witnesses in the trial are barred as courtroom spectators until after they have testified?

“In a statement released by Zimmerman’s family his attorney Don West ‘made it abundantly clear to the jury the limitations the rule of sequestration places upon Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman’s ability to support their son George with their presence. Our parents were in the courtroom and determined to support their son, but the State of Florida prevented them from doing so. George can count on his parents’ and his family’s unwavering and unconditional support, as he has throughout this ordeal, until he is acquitted.’

“Robert Zimmerman, Sr. had mainly stayed out of the media spotlight until recently releasing an e-book titled Florida v. Zimmerman: Uncovering the Malicious Prosecution of my Son, George, which attempts to uncover the injustice of his son’s murder trial and labels organizations like the NAACP and the NBA America’s ‘true racists.’

George Zimmerman’s Parents Barred From Courtroom, Trayvon Martin’s Family Allowed To Stay


“Zimmerman’s family was barred from the courtroom as the state claimed they may be witnesses later in the trial. Under Florida state law, Martin’s family was permitted to sit in the gallery as relatives of the alleged victim. Robert Zimmerman Jr. issued a statement to The Huffington Post on behalf of his family.

“’Mr. West made it abundantly clear to the jury the limitations the rule of sequestration places upon Mr. & Mrs. Zimmerman’s ability to support their son George with their presence. Our parents were in the courtroom & determined to support their son but the State of Florida prevented them from doing so. George can count on his parents’ & his family’s unwavering & unconditional support, as he has throughout this ordeal, until he is acquitted.’”

George Zimmerman Trial Live Updates: Testimony Continues In Trayvon Martin Shooting Case


What is surprising to me is that Zimmerman’s attorney indicates that his parents being barred is related in some way to the jury being sequestered. My understanding is that they would be barred even if the jury weren’t sequestered. And if Zimmerman’s attorney, Don West, is implying that if the jury weren’t sequestered the jurors would somehow know by media reports or otherwise that the elder Zimmermans were barred from the courtroom and why. If jurors were to learn something like that other than via on-the-record statements made in their presence in the courtroom, they would be violating the trial judge’s admonition to not read, listen to or watch any thing related to the case not presented to them in court.

While the news media have an obligation or responsibility to explain to their consumers why the Zimmermans are barred from the courtroom, I question reporting it as if it were unusual or that the Zimmermans think it’s unfair without  accurately and objectively contextualizing it.

NBA Finals Wasn’t All Simpson Trial Affected

Some people don’t remember or were too young to realize — after all, it was 19 years ago — the unprecedented disruptions and alterations to normal life this trial and events swirling around it created.

O.J. Simpson chase chased NBA Finals off NBC in some markets  http://www.newsday.com/sports/media/watchdog-1.812020/o-j-simpson-chase-chased-nba-finals-off-nbc-in-some-markets-1.5501590

Something else that happened that, to my knowledge, was unprecedented was the secretary of state asking the Simpson trial judge, Lance Ito, to suspend court proceedings on the first Tuesday in November, which was election day and he was worried that people would be glued to their TVs watching the Simpson proceedings and not go to the polls which would result in a low voter turnout.

That request is covered in the Introduction and Chapter 11 (“More Craziness”) of Anatomy of a Trial.

The book is now available in digital format from the publisher, University of Missouri Press, at http://press.umsystem.edu/product/Anatomy-of-a-Trial,1229.aspx, at Amazon.com and at Barnesandnoble.com.