Tag Archives: Nicole Brown

Simpson Documentarian Honors Two Most Deserving

In accepting the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for O.J.: Made in America at tonight’s Academy Awards ceremony, documentary maker Ezra Edelman saluted the two people he said deserved most to be honored, Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown. Although they were the victims of the brutal murders that launched arguably the most notorious criminal trial in the country’s history, their names got and have continued to get lost in the hoopla and the fame and success so many have realized as a result.

I found that moving and long overdue.

Touching and laudatory as Edelman’s recognition of those two people whose lives were cut so short, I must say, I was surprised, though. The documentary featured the man so notoriously accused of murdering them and spent little time on Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown.

We take a look back at the 'trial of the century' 20 years later

I’ve been pretty cynical and critical of the many books, films, TV shows and other attempts exploit and capitalize from the terrible tragedy, I feel great gratitude for Ezra Edelman and his acceptance of his award on behalf of Ron and Nicole, and hope their families were pleased.

 

Lange Exemplifies Cops’ Incompetence?

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of ESPN’s multi-part documentary is that Simpson fatigue hasn’t shut me down. Or maybe it has, partially. I am watching the production, albeit slowly. Parts 4 and 5 to go. I’ve recorded them, but haven’t gotten around to viewing them yet.

I’ve found what I have seen well done and revealing, so far as some L.A. police officers’ relationship with Simpson and their fan-club-esque groupie-ism is concerned.

Nowhere is that more unwittingly exemplified than Detective Tom Lange’s narrative at the opening of Part 3 in which he describes the crime scene when police first arrived and their course of action.

In describing Nicole Brown whose body was lying just outside the front door of her Bundy Drive home in Brentwood, Lange referred to her as O.J. Simpson’s “estranged wife” and said police had to notify her next of kin, “who was O.J. Simpson.”

Lange was wrong on both counts. Nicole Brown was not Simpson’s estranged wife. She and Simpson had been divorced for two years. As a result, he was not her next of kin. Her parents were.

But if the cops had their facts straight, they would have had no excuse to contact Simpson. They would have notified her actual next of kin and would have had no reason to go to Simpson’s house on Rockingham Drive and tell him his former wife had been murdered–unless they wanted to check him out as a possible suspect, which they obviously didn’t.

If that is any indication, then Simpson’s defense attorneys’ claims of police incompetence appear to have some substance.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Loser

Former Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark, with guns blazing, is rising from the ashes of her humiliating defeat with the 1995 acquittal of O.J. Simpson in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Clark’s resurgence is due, in part, to a wave of sympathetic publicity with a recent airing of an FX multi-part melodrama.

She has narrowed the focus of her shotgun spray of blame that riddled her 20-year-old multi-million-dollar co-written post-trial memoir and taken aim on just the trial judge.

Although never camera or reporter-notebook shy in the years since penning that memoir, Clark is capitalizing on her newfound fame by targeting Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, who retired last year, with a revisionist trial  history extraordinaire.

The first fabrication that hit my radar was an interview a few weeks ago in which Clark claimed that Ito was the one who came up with the idea for Simpson to try on the so-called bloody gloves that led to defense attorney Johnnie Cochran’s now-infamous line, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Despite being in the courtroom and behind the scenes every day, meeting with Ito daily–sometime several times a day, keeping up with the media coverage and reading, hearing and writing a lot about the case in the years since, I had never heard anything about Ito coming up with the idea to have Simpson try on the gloves.

Rather than rely solely on my memory, although I would have  had to be deep in the clutches of dementia to have forgotten something that significant, I checked with a reporter who attended every day of the trial and probably had the best access to all of the lawyers in that case, and, eventually to Simpson himself.

“I never heard any such thing and think it’s an effort to rewrite history,” the reporter said.

I also checked with one of Ito’s law interns who worked in his chambers and was privy to every aspect of the case. Like the reporter, the law intern knew about or had heard anything like Clark’s assertion.

“Uughh,” the law intern, who is now a practicing attorney with her own firm, wrote in reply to my question. “I was there that day and I have no memory of the gloves idea coming from Judge Ito. As usual he had the job of ruling on their asinine ideas. She [Clark] continues to disappoint as a female attorney role model. She really has no moral compass.”

I’m pretty sure I know about the ethics of a judge presiding over a criminal case suggesting to lawyers on either side how they should present evidence. For confirmation, I contacted a judge who sat on the LA court bench during years I worked there, and who has since retired and is currently a private judge.

Such a comment would be very inappropriate for a judge to make, the retired judge said. “Even if it takes the form of ‘why don’t you’ do this or that, it would look like the judge was trying to assist that side. That is clearly unethical.”

To have done so without defense attorneys present would constitute ex parte communication, which is, without a doubt, judicial misconduct.

Given the scrutiny that trial, the judge and the parties got, it’s a sure bet that any such suggestion would have been found out and the judge would have been subject to reprimand, at the very least. Plus, Ito was absolutely assiduous to make sure he did everything completely by the books to prevent a mistrial or be overturned on appeal, should Simpson be convicted.

In other words, Clark pulled that little gem of finger pointing from some orifice other than her mouth.

In another interview, this time on Late Night with Seth Meyers, she said she had never had a judge be so openly sexist as Judge Ito was.  Judge Ito is many things, but sexist isn’t one of them, to which, I dare say, females in his personal and professional life, will attest.

Clark is quoted in Monday’s New York Daily News describing Ito as “unprofessional” and criticized him for allowing the trial to be “turned into a circus” because he allowed it to be televised and for “his infatuation with the media.”

Ho boy.

First, at one point in a hearing on whether to allow cameras, Clark advocated for televising the trial.

“Allowing cameras to remain in the courtroom would give the public the opportunity to see what the evidence actually is and to hear the truth,” she told Ito during a November 7, 1994, hearing on whether or not to televise the trial. “The best way to refute unfounded rumors and wild speculative theories is to permit everyone to see and hear the evidence that is presented in court. … No matter how thorough and fair reporters are, their coverage cannot equal the evidence of witnessing a trial first hand.”

Second, although plenty of antics went on nonstop outside the courtroom and around the courthouse, there was no circus in the courtroom — plenty of video footage exists and the trial transcript proves that. However, Clark herself was one of the clowns Ito struggled to keep reined in.

Attorneys’ conduct so egregious, including that of Clark — in spades — that Ito, after repeatedly fining them, finally resorted to issuing a court order spelling out what they could and could not do — down to “no eye rolling.” I included the entire text of that order on pages 136-137 in my book, Anatomy of a Trial. Even then, he continued to have to fine them and threaten to hold them in contempt because they refused to behave. The amount in fines Ito levied against the Simpson trial attorneys — on both sides — exceeded that of any criminal trial in the state’s history at that time.

So far as being “infatuated with the media” is concerned, disappointment or even contempt for many of them would be more accurate as he witnessed their excesses and making him the brunt of their exaggerations and misrepresentations.

In that Daily News interview, Clark said, “He sits down for a six-part interview in the middle of the trial about his life. Who does this?”

What Clark is misremembering is (1)  Ito didn’t sit down for a six-part interview and (2) an interview he did do wasn’t in the middle of the trial.

Months before the Jan. 23, 1995, opening statements, a TV reporter asked to interview Ito in connection with the opening of an L.A. museum exhibit of the World War II Heart Mountain Japanese internment camp in Wyoming, which is where a man and woman who married and became Ito’s parents met. After long consideration and conferring with a number of people, he finally decided to do it, but only with the assurance that the subject would not be the Simpson case but would focus only on the exhibit and the issue of Japanese internment. He also insisted on several other conditions, including that the station not promote the interview in advance and would air it only once and that would be during an 11 p.m. newscast.

As described on page 25 of Anatomy of a Trial the station violated every condition, including buying full-page newspaper ads and splitting the interview into six parts, which aired in six consecutive broadcasts.

Then there was this in a June 14, 2016,   Chicago Tribune article:

“Clark said that while she was generally pleased with the FX series, it failed to capture how Ito was ‘entranced by his media moment’ and ‘the steady stream of celebrities coming in and out of chambers’ during the trial. Sometimes the celebs Ito had invited backstage demanded to meet her, too, she said.

“‘I’m actually trying a lawsuit … I don’t need to meet Jimmy Dean,” she said of one encounter with the crooner-turned-sausage king. “I mean, I love your sausage, sir!'”

Did celebrities show up at the trial? Yes, as more and more it became the place to be seen. Many were, themselves, members of the media. And yes, some did meet Ito in his chambers, although I would hardly describe it as a “steady stream.” And one, which became a disastrous fiasco, was entirely my doing,  which I have rued every since.

But Jesus, Jimmy Dean? I saw neither of them. Neither did I hear or know of any who even asked, much less demanded to meet Clark. I don’t know of any who thought she was worth their while. So maybe her bruised ego is prompting her to make such a claim now.

“This is disgusting,” the reporter I talked to about Clark’s glove claim said. “She is trying to sell her books and somehow find absolution for her inept performance 22 years ago. To attack Ito is beyond the pale.”

What does Ito have to say about all of this?

Nothing. Which is what he said during, and has continued to say since, the trial. At least not publicly, which is why Clark thinks she can say whatever she wants without consequence. Given that Ito has consistently refrained from speaking out against his critics, Clark can be pretty sure he won’t now.

While Clark and her ilk have capitalized on their fame from the trial over and over and in many forms and formats, Ito hasn’t. He hasn’t written a book or gone on the rubber-chicken circuit or hauled in huge speaking fees like Clark has and is continuing to do.

I’m pretty sure he won’t speak up this time either. Clark probably isn’t worth his while.

 

Few Surprises in ESPN Simpson Documentary

I’m more interested in watching the ESPN-produced documentary, “O.J.: Made in America”, which debuted last night, than I was the FX melodrama series aired earlier this year, primarily because it is a documentary.

Granted, documentaries can be skewed to favor a point of view or even “prove” something that isn’t, but at least documentaries are composed of actual footage and interviews with real people.

While the first part, carried on ABC last night, contained few surprises for me, I was surprised at what Dave Nemetz, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, in “‘O.J.: Made in America’: 8 Things We Learned From Part 1“, said he learned that he didn’t know.

The one thing I didn’t know about was Simpson’s father’s sexual orientation. In fact, I don’t ever recall any mention of his father.

But the rest? That Simpson was a living legend in L.A., that he didn’t want to get political and could talk himself out of trouble, was almost a bust in the NFL, his breakthrough role in TV ads, his mediocre acting ability–at least, in his roles as an actor–and his early encounters Nicole Brown was pretty much common knowledge to those who (1) are old enough to remember, (2) lived in L.A. and (3) paid attention to sports. Maybe Nemetz benefited from none of that.

One thing I did learn that Nemitz didn’t mention was how far back former LAPD officer Ron Shipp and Simpson’s relationship goes. Back to Shipp’s school years. I had thought it was much more recent–dating from when Simpson lived in his house in Brentwood.

While my knowledge of last night’s Part I was based on being old enough and exposed to sports enough and living in L.A., it will be interesting to see what I learn from Part II, which airs Tuesday night, as it focuses on my direct, first-hand knowledge of Simpson’s 1994-95 murder trial and many of the issues that swirled around that.

Stay tuned.

 

 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/oj-made-america-part-1-901650

What was Wrong with the Gloves Scenario

Tierney Brickner, writing for E! (I can’t duplicate the actual logo on my computer), did me the great favor of posting side-by-side footage of last night’s scene in the American Crime Story miniseries about the OJ Simpson trial of Cuba Gooding Jr.courtroom scene in which he re-enacted  Simpson trying on the gloves that were found at the scene of Nicole Brown’s and Ronald Goldman’s murders and behind Simpson’s house and that of the actual trial.

When I watched the drama last night, the trying-on effort seemed pretty much as I remembered it. The side-by-side footage confirmed it. Here’s the link so you can check it out: http://www.eonline.com/news/749108/just-how-accurate-was-the-infamous-glove-scene-from-the-people-v-o-j-simpson-watch-chilling-side-by-side-comparison

Some things going on in the background during the gloves demonstration and elsewhere in the series, however, that weren’t accurate, such as:

  1. People in the spectator seats standing up to get a better view of Simpson trying to pull on the gloves.
  2. People in the courtroom being ordered by the bailiff to stand when trial judge entered the courtroom.
  3. People in the spectator seats not rising when the jurors entered the courtroom.
  4. People standing and milling around when the jury was in the courtroom.
  5. The trial judge, Lance Ito, banging his gavel when he declared court to be in recess.

From my vantage point in the back of the courtroom where I had a full view of the courtroom, I saw no one stand to get a better view of the glove demo. I also know that if anyone had done so, one of the sheriff’s deputies stationed there would have immediately instructed them to sit down or to leave.

The judge’s instruction to his bailiff was to directive people in the courtroom to remain seated when he took the bench, so at no time did the bailiff order spectators to rise when Ito entered.

The judge’s instruction to his bailiff was for everyone in the courtroom to rise when the jurors entered the courtroom and to remain standing until they were seated in the jury box.

No one ever stood or moved about the courtroom when court was in session.

Ito didn’t bang or even rap a gavel at any time during the trial, whether declaring court in recess or for any other reason. How do I know?Although Ito had a couple of ceremonial and souvenir gavels in his chambers, he  didn’t keep or use a gavel on the bench.

All of that might seem inconsequential  or like who-cares minutia, but it’s important to me because much of it plays into the media-created misperception that he ran a  loosey-goosey courtroom.

Despite what people think they know about Ito’s courtroom management, he ran a tighter courtroom, with rules of what was allowed and what wasn’t allowed posted on the courtroom door and on the rows of spectator seats, than many other judges. Plus, he issued court orders several times during the trial addressing disruptive conduct, primarily by members of the media, and had a number of them removed from the courtroom for failing to observe those orders.

One thing that was apparently very wrong with the miniseries drama was that Deputy District Attorney Christopher Darden went rogue in having Simpson try on the gloves. Marcia Clark has in interviews and writing said that Darden didn’t go it alone in the Simpson glove demo, that she was on board with it. That, however, I don’t know first hand.

High Profile Doesn’t Include Victims

What makes a trial high profile? Why do so many people become obsessed with some trials and not others? Among the obvious answers can include celebrity, money, glamour, sex, racial issues, unusual and/or heinous aspects of the crime, and others.

All of that and more has been the topics of many court-media conferences and workshops I’ve attended and participated in and court-media courses and workshops I’ve conducted.

It occurred to me as I watched episode 3 of the FX dramatization of the 1995 Simpson trial that almost never are the victims in a case the reason a trial becomes one of great media interest. With rare exception, those who lost their lives or suffered because of the crimes the defendants are charged with committing become invisible in media coverage of trials.

Why is that, I wondered. My thought is it’s because the victims are not why large numbers of people are captivated by or even particularly interested in trials — and the media know that.

So what the media deliver is what they do know will result in high TV ratings and print circulation and that is sensationalism, whether generated by celebrity, or whatever.

To their credit, the Goldman and Brown families have crusaded to keep Ronald and Nicole in the public eye and consciousness. The families a many crime victims, despite tireless efforts, have not been as successful.

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.”