Tag Archives: O.J. Simpson trial

Toobin’s Simpson Account No Exemplar of Accuracy

Terry Gross is interviewing Jeffrey Toobin on her “Fresh Air” program today about his new book American Heiress, which is about Hearst empire heiress Patty Hearst. Toobin says he was 13 when Patty Hearst was kidnapped at age 19 and a UC Berkeley sophomore by a violent rogue group self-named the Symbionese Liberation Army.

It is supremely irritating to hear Gross identify Toobin as author of the “definitive book about the O.J. Simpson trial.” That book is so filled with errors and character assassination, some based on hearsay which I point out in Anatomy of a Trial, I can only hope that Toobin did a more accurate job with his new tome.

The Simpson Trial is Like What?

OMG, what isn’t being compared to the O.J. Simpson trial these days!

One Fed official just compared the current debate about raising rates to the O.J. Simpson murder trial

“Dennis Lockhart, president of the Atlanta Federal Reserve, thinks the current debate about whether the Fed should raise rates is like the O.J. Simpson trial.”

It seemed like such a stretch, I had to read the story to find out how. Turns out the folks at Business Insider , which ran this story, don’t know.

New York Times reporter wanted to know if Lockhart “means he thinks the Fed will reach the wrong verdict, which seems about as good a guess as any.”

Or maybe Lockhart was referring to how long the nearly nine-month trial lasted, given that “the debate over whether the Fed should or should not raise interest rates…has now been raging for basically the last year.”

Maybe we’ll just have to wait for the book. Simpson’s, after he was acquitted in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her acquaintance Ronald Goldman, was If I Did it.

Remote Trial Coverage

I read this article, “New Doc Features Black Journalists Who Covered OJ Simpson Trial,” expecting to see names of journalists I knew who covered the O.J. Simpson trial. I knew who attended it because I kept a daily list. Among the regulars were Andrea Ford, Dennis Schatzman, Janet Gilmore, Myra Ming, Bill Whitaker, and above all, photojournalist Haywood Galbreath, who was in court every day that trial was in session. Others attended from time to time as well.
While Star Jones, who is quoted in this story, did show up occasionally, although I remember her more from the Rodney King beating trial days, most of the people quoted in this story I never met or saw in the courtroom or in the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building 9th floor media center. I wondered after reading the story, why the writer, Matthew Carey, didn’t interview those who were there.
It’s a given he couldn’t have interviewed Andrea Ford or Dennis Schatzman, as both died years ago. (Schatzman, who reported for the African-American newspaper The Los Angeles Sentinel and made race the theme in his trial coverage, wrote an excellent book, The Simpson Trial in Black and White, with a white colleague, Tom Elias.) But Janet Gilmore, who reported for the Los Angeles Daily News is now and has been at UC Berkeley for more than a decade; Myra Ming, who was KTTV’s reporter/producer on the scene and went on to become a Nieman fellow, and Bill Whitaker with CBS News where he is now a 60 Minutes correspondent, shouldn’t have been hard to find.
And Haywood Galbreath, whose attendance at the Simpson trial rivals only AP reporter Linda Deutsch, to my knowledge, not only continues his photojournalism career via his H. G. Star-1 News Photos agency and published The O. J. Simpson Murder Trial: the complete photo journal of the trial of the century, he readily talks about being a black journalist covering the trial and probably has the most stark and telling stories about that experience.
At best, one or two of those Carey quoted in this article might have shown up in the courtroom once or twice during the nine months of the trial from opening statements to closing arguments and the four months of pre-trial proceedings, although I don’t recall seeing them. Otherwise, they must have covered the trial from their newsrooms, offices and other non-courtroom locations, via TV, like millions of other viewers.
In Carey’s article, former USA Today DeWayne Wickham recalled his frustration that his reporting didn’t get picked up by his own paper, which he implies in this story was racially based.
“I was a black journalist who reported a story that raised serious questions about the prosecution’s conduct of that trial, and most white folks ignored my reporting.”
Whether or not that was the case, I can’t say. What I do know, though, is that the two USA Today reporters who were consistently in the courtroom were women, so Wickham must have been covering it remotely. Plus, considering the number of African-American journalists who were assigned to onsite, i.e. courtroom, coverage, Wickham’s situation seems to have been more of an anomaly than the rule.
As I read the caption of a photograph used to illustrated Cary’s story, a bias of my own bubbled up. The picture shows Simpson getting out of a car.
Defendant O.J. Simpson arrives under the gaze of t
The caption reads: “Defendant O.J. Simpson arrives under the gaze of the media at the Santa Monica Courthouse where the first day of opening arguments. AFP/Getty Images”
This photo and caption taps into my bias in three ways of how the news media distorts and misinforms the public.
(1) The picture is of Simpson wearing civilian clothes,
(2) The caption says Simpson is arriving at the Santa Monica Courthouse,
(3) The caption says (ungrammatically) “where the first day of opening arguments.”
(1) During Simpson’s 1995 murder trial, he was in custody, locked up in the Los Angeles County Jail, where he wore orange jumpsuits from the day he was arrested on June 17, 1994, until his acquittal on Oct. 3, 1995. His lawyers brought civilian clothes to the courthouse for Simpson to change into in a locked cell there for his courtroom appearances. Never during that trial was he wearing civilian clothes while riding around in a car.
(2) The murder trial, which Carey’s story seems to be about, was held in a downtown Los Angeles courthouse, not in Santa Monica. What was held in Santa Monica was Simpson’s 1996-97 civil trial which resulted in a $33 million judgment against him. So, unsuspecting and otherwise uninformed readers of this story won’t understand the difference.
(3) Opening arguments? What the heck are opening arguments? That is a creation of the news media, something I didn’t realize until I worked for the court. Trial attorneys make opening statements. They state to a jury the facts of the case as they plan to present it and the evidence. Arguments come at the end of the trial, after the attorneys have presented their case, and argue why the jury should decide in their and their clients’ favor.
I’m disappointed that Carey, who is billed at the end of his story as editor-in-chief of nonfictionfilm.com. During the Simpson trial he worked for CNN’s LA bureau, writing on media coverage of the case didn’t know correct lingo and wasn’t aware of the damage conflating two very different trials held at different times does on his readers’/viewers’ understanding of the legal system and of those who cover it.

Fallen Reporter Brings Warring Factions Together

We all were at war,

Then gathered in Clark’s honor.

Became family.


Author Joe McGinniss hosted a gathering to honor and memorialize Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Robin Clark a few days after he was killed in a car crash. The memorial was held at a house in Beverly Hills McGinniss was renting while he attended the Simpson trial. (Even though McGinniss occupied one of the highly coveted courtroom media seats, and had presented a letter from a publisher who had contracted with McGinniss to write a book about the trial, he never did.) The gathering included not only the trial press corps, but members of the defense and prosecution teams and Simpson’s sister and brother-in-law, Shirley and Bennie Baker. Although the trial judge, Lance Ito, was also invited, he declined and asked me to represent him.

Here’s a short excerpt from Anatomy of a Trial about that remarkable evening:

“People hugged and mingled and talked quietly after arriving. I couldn’t help but think that no one would ever have known that some of these people were on opposite sides in a double-murder trial. McGinniss talked about some of the conversations he had had with Clark, including one about the difficulty Clark had reconciling himself with his father, an educated man who became a derelict and hung out on street corners with ne’er-do-wells.

“’Recently,’ McGinniss said, ‘Robin had started writing about his father and gave me the few first pages for an assessment. After reading them, I told him to keep going.’

“But, of course, the rest of the story died with Robin in the car crash.

“McGinniss invited anyone else who want to speak to do so.

“AP reporter Deutsch stepped forward. After relating several anecdotes about Clark, she surveyed the group. While most of the people present were strangers at the beginning of the Simpson case, she observed, ‘Like it or not, we have become a family.’

“But that was a brief and rare moment of unity in an otherwise distinctly dysfunctional ‘family,’ rife with bickering, rivalry, contempt, envy and disparate philosophies, perspectives and goals.”

No, Mr. Ryan, That Didn’t Happen. Neither Did That.

It’s no surprise to me that the director of a TV-drama-series about the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial that’s set to air next year “didn’t know half the stuff (that occurred). I’m like, ‘That happened? That happened?’” Ryan Murphy is quoted as saying in a USA Today story.

That’s because the book it’s based on contains “stuff” that didn’t happen.

I guess that’s why it’s a drama. Sort of the difference between nonfiction, which is what Anatomy of a Trial is, and a novel,

Frustrating for me and others who know is that dramas such as this upcoming TV series will not serve the public good, but will only perpetuate the misinformation, misperception and distortions that occurred both during and following the trial.



Ferguson Shootings: Fox and Fuhrman Finger Obama

This might be ‘consider the source’ twice over. It’s from Mark Fuhrman via Fox TV:

Fox’s Mark Fuhrman Blames Obama Admin For Police Shootings In Ferguson

As I’ve written previously, it’s a slap in the face of African Americans for Fox to call on Fuhrman in any racially sensitive story. But Fox does this repeatedly. For those not familiar with Fuhrman’s past:

During the 1995 murder trial of O.J. Simpson, the defense produced a tape of Fuhrman, who collected evidence in the case, using the word n*****more than 40 times over a 10 year period. The person who made the tape said Fuhrman used the slur “in a very casual ordinary pattern of speech. It was nothing extraordinary. It was just conversation.” During the O.J. Simpson trial, a number of other witnesses testified that Fuhrman was a racist. Fuhrman, who testified during the trial that he had not used a racial slur in the past 10 years, pled no contest to perjury charges and was sentenced to three years of probation.”

Read more at http://www.newshounds.us/fox_s_mark_fuhrman_blames_obama_admin_for_police_shootings_in_ferguson_031215#M6j7v2M0Fbm70RRF.99

Mark Fuhrman reminds me of the movie “Gremlins” except I don’t know if he was cute when he hatched.

Twinkle, Twinkle

No wonder the skies over L.A. were dark at night in 1995. All the stars were shining inside the Criminal Courts Building.

More stars come to court.

Another chambers meeting.

Barbara Walters.



 Lesser stars appear.

Margolick and McFadden.

Questions are the same.


Barbara Walters needs no identification here. David Margolick reported for the New York Times at the time of the Simpson trial and Cynthia McFadden, although a veteran television journalist by the time the Simpson trial broke out, was a relatively new reporter with ABC in 1995. She has since risen in the TV news business to her current position of NBC’s senior legal and investigative correspondent.

Darden’s Opinion, Relevant or Not

Regardless of his performance in the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial, some might find former Los Angeles County prosecutor Christopher Darden’s views about the Zimmerman case interesting. CNN’s Piers Morgan apparently did. Darden’s opinion pretty much boils down to, the case is race based and Zimmerman has the upper hand.

Former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden on the Zimmerman trial: “It’s a race case without question”


What interests me more than Darden’s opinion is that someone whose 15 minutes of fame was such an embarrassment remains relevant coming up on 20 years later. What accounts for that? A good publicist?

I Wonder if They’ll Call

I wondered today if I should be sitting by the phone awaiting a call.
What about?
To be invited to serve as an adviser or consultant on a movie being touted to “take viewers behind the scenes of ‘The Trial of the Century,’ driven by the nonstop plot of a courtroom thriller and presenting the story of the trial as it has never been told,” a Los Angeles Times story, quoting a publicity statement, said.

O.J. Simpson trial and ‘Shogun’ to become Fox movie events


Behind the scenes of 1995 Simpson murder trial? No one had a more “behind the scenes” view or role that I did — save, the judge, Lance Ito, and his courtroom staff. That, in fact, is what my book Anatomy of a Trial is all about. That and the often-erroneous perception people — and particularly members of the judiciary around the world — had, and still have, of that trial. So, I would be the perfect consultant.

The movie, with working title “The Run of His Life: “The People v. O.J. Simpson”, is reported to be based on a book of that name by CNN legal correspondent,author, and New Yorker magazine contributor Jeffrey Toobin.

A clue to my opinion of Toobin’s book, or at least a part of it, can be found on pages 65-67 of my book and is presaged on the home page of my website @ http://www.anatomyofatrial.com.

Another omen that might be a predictor of the movie’s accuracy is that the courtroom artist’s rendering that accompanied the L.A. Times story was done in Nov. 1996 and was of the 1996 trial, according to the illustration caption.

Simpson’s criminal trial, The People vs  Orenthal James Simpson, ended on October 3, 1995, with not guilty verdicts.

It seemed rather strange to me that the Times chose a sketch from a trial other than the one the movie is to be based on. There were hundreds of sketches done of the ’95 criminal trial.

Also in the spirit of accuracy, the 1996 trial, which actually was the 1996–97 trial, with the jury rendering its verdict on Feb. 4, 1997. I had an insightful behind-the-scenes role — and daily seat in the courtroom — in that trial, too.