Tag Archives: Rodney King

Wrong! Wrong! And What Are They Waiting For?

An online news outlet reported in a story, A New California Law Brings Hope of An Appeal For Lyle And Erik Menendez, that the Menendez brothers 1993 trial was “first trial that was televised and America couldn’t get enough.”

That is the first “wrong” in this piece. Broadcast and still photography covered Estes v. Texas in 1965. The first state in the country to enact official court rules allowing camera coverage in its state courts, which led to camera coverage of Chandler v. Florida.

Perhaps the article writer meant that Menendez brothers trial was the first trial in California to be televised, but that would have been wrong, too. The 1992 Rodney King beating trial was not only televised (I sat in that courtroom every day, just as I did both of the later Menendez brothers trials), TV viewers couldn’t get enough of that either. Neither could they get enough if the riots in L.A. that erupted after the four police officers were acquitted, nor of the trial of men who beat trucker Reginald Denny who just happened to be driving through a riot area.

The writer also got several details of the Menendez murders wrong.

What begs the question for me, though, was that even though California passed a law several years ago that might open the door for a Menendez brothers appeal, they have yet to do so. Why not? Especially since the clock is ticking toward a deadline.

Forrest Gumpish Me

I felt so Gumpish yesterday.

The Milwaukee Green Sheet “Blasts from the Past” had an item from 1979 about Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini receiving “a tumultuous welcome in Tehran as he ended nearly 15 years of exile.” My children and I had just been evacuated from Tehran the month before with what we could carry in a few suitcases as the Islamic Revolution became chaotic in Iran, and my husband was still there with no indication that he was going to get out.

An interview on NPR with TV critic Eric Deggens about “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” miniseries scheduled to debut on FX last night included mention of the Rodney King-beating trial verdicts and resulting L.A. riots threw me back to all of those events.

When Rodney King was stopped by law enforcement for a malfunctioning taillight and beaten, I was city editor at the Pasadena Star News with a coverage area that included King’s hometown of Altadena. I had moved to my position as Los Angeles courts public information officer just three months before four L.A.P.D. officers stood trial for beating King. That trial was a real baptism by fire! But not nearly as hot as the subsequent riots during which I was one of the few people to keep showing up for work every day at the downtown County Courthouse.

And, of course, the accusation and subsequent trial of O.J. Simpson for murdering his ex-wife practically consumed my life for more than a year and a half in 1994 and 1995, which is now the foundation of the TV drama “The People vs. O.J. Simpson.

I have to say the Simpson case practically consumed my life, because sandwiched between court sessions, dealing with related media issues and meeting with the trial judge, Lance Ito, were the Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss case and preparations for the Menendez brothers retrial.

Feeling Gumpish comes over me at other times of the year, too, such as during the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, in which I drove a float one year and… and…

Oh, well, that’s enough for now. Sorry to get carried away.

 

 

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.

Like OJ, MJ is News that Never Dies

Just like O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson is a news evergreen, meaning that he is always good for a headline, even now, five years after Jackson died.

Today’s headline actually first became big news more than 20 years ago. The case was Chandler vs. Jackson and got no further than a pretrial hearing in 1993 in Santa Monica, California. By comparison, the media swarm that smothered the courthouse and surroundings made the Rodney King-beating trial the year before look like a moonscape. The lawyers representing plaintiff, a minor male, and defendant Michael Jackson, settled without going to trial. The $40 million settlement, according to the quacking ducks of the day, was hush money. So here’s today’s headline:

Report: Michael Jackson paid $200M in hush money to alleged molestation victims

According to this story, Chandler was one of 20 Jackson accusers “hush money” went to.

Here’s the story. You can read it for yourself.

I, BTW, had no opinion, in fact, no interest in Jackson or who he did what with, but I sure was glad that 1993 civil lawsuit was settled, hush money or no. After surviving the Rodney King-beating trial, there was no way I wanted to drown in the deluge of media that would be sure to swamp Santa Monica to cover a Michael Jackson-molestation trial.

Little did I know that a marathon of a notorious trial that became known as The People vs. Orenthal James Simpson was waiting in the wings.

Our Mutual Appreciation Society

Below is a comment photojournalist Haywood Galbreath posted on my “Anatomy of a Trial” by Jerrianne Hayslett Facebook page in response to the link I posted to yesterday’s “Anatomy of a Trial blog post.

Haywood first crossed my path during the Reginald Denny-beating trial (referred to by some in the media and the court as son of Rodney King-beating trial) two years after I became the Los Angeles Superior Court’s first ever director of public information. Haywood was nothing like I had ever encountered.

I mention that encounter in Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson, and describe how he became the only photographer to have daily courtroom access to photograph the O.J. Simpson  trial, how he got to be the only pool photographer on the Simpson jury crime-scene visit, as well as some of the challenges and confrontations we weathered.

“I would like to thank Ms. Jerrianne Hayslett, for acknowledging me in her “Anatomy of a Trial blog”. She may not have completely understood my passion and what was behind my passion. She was however understanding and became an ally. When all is said and done no matter what the situation.

“If the people in your life do not completely understand but are understanding. Then you have been blessed more than you understand or know until time does what time does. That is brings about wisdom and understanding in you! I will be eternally grateful to her and what she did for the Black Press of America and me.”

Haywood taught me a lot, some of which took a while to understand and appreciate. I thank him for that and for his generous comment above. Haywood remains a friend and continues his successful career in photojournalism and other media.

Famous Reporter Many Never Heard Of

Accolades aplenty are rolling in for one of the best in journalism who is retiring with a 48-year career to her credit. She not only deserves all of them. She deserves more.

Yet, even though she not only wrote more stories than most journalists and her stories were no doubt read by more newspaper readers around the world than any other reporter of our times, Linda Deutsch Linda Deutsch is not a household name outside the worlds of journalism and the legal system. That’s because she worked for The Associated Press and even though AP credit appeared on her stories that newspapers published, more often than not Linda’s name didn’t.

Linda first entered my world more than two decades ago when I was a seasoned reporter-turned novice court information officer, on the job with the Los Angeles Superior Court for just three months when the Rodney King-beating trial began.

To my great fortune, Linda was tolerant and forgiving of my wet-behind-the-ears efforts to be a competent liaison between the Court and the news media. For the next decade, from Rodney King through Menendez brothers, Heidi Fleiss, O. J. Simpson and a host of other high profile trials that proliferated in the Los Angeles courts, I came to respect and even admire her objectivity, professionalism, tenacity in her reporting and for being an unparalleled champion of the First Amendment’s free press rights. After I left the court we stayed in touch and I was fortunate enough to be counted among her legions of good friends. Linda has more friends and the unique ability to make each one of us feel special than anyone I know.

In no way can I do her justice in this or even a year’s worth of blog posts. But I do offer a link to a Huffington Post piece that does a good job of capturing Linda the journalist, mentor and friend.

Even though I’ve heard many, many of her stories, both in private conversations with her and at conferences where she was a featured speaker, I’m right behind the writer of this piece, Judy Farah, in line to get a copy of Linda’s published memoirs.

Write on, Linda!

Linda Deutsch: Retires from The AP to Write Memoir

Passing the torch.

Changing of the guard.

End of an era.

All of those cliches could be said about the news that Linda Deutsch is hanging it up after a 48-year career with The Associated Press. But none them fit. One reason is because no phrase, label or accolade has been created that could come close to Linda and the stupendous body of work she amassed in her nearly give decades as a court beat/legal affairs reporter at the AP. Another is that cliches are trite and Linda isn’t.

Linda’s prowess as the doyenne of celebrity and notorious trials was well established — starting with the 1970 Charles Manson murder trial — when she became known to me. She was one of the media minions covering the 1992 Rodney King-beating trial, which was my baptism by fire as the greener than green new Los Angeles county courts public information officer.

 One of three photographs of Linda that grace my office — right beside one of me with Jay Leno when I gave him a copy of my book, Anatomy of a Trial. This is an 8-1/2 x 11-inch  collage of some of the more notorious trials she covered, which she sent to me with the inscription, “To Jerrianne–who made it all easier. You’re a great pal. Linda Deutsch.” Another photo is of Linda and me with our friend, famed author, movie producer and TV host Dominick Dunne, who has since passed, at a Las Vegas restaurant following a court proceeding in the Simpson robbery trial, which resulted in a sentence of up to 33 years.

I quickly came to know and respect her professionalism, just-the-facts reportage, and accuracy through that and a host of other cases that paraded through the L.A. courts, not the least of which was the 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial.

She not only was a straight-shooter with me and her readers, she worked to keep judges honest, particularly when they closed proceedings to the public.  Her tenacity and passion for freedom of the press and the people’s right to know is reflected in the many mentions of her in Anatomy, such as this one: “She was also frequently the first, and often the only one, to leap to her feet in a courtroom to object when she believed a judge was about to wrongfully close proceedings to the public.”

The few stories I could tell about Linda would barely fill a thimble of her lifetime of experiences in the court/judicial/legal world. I, along with her legions of friends and colleagues, have been urging her for years to write a book.

It looks like she’s about to do that. “I consider it less a retirement than a transition to a new phase of my career — writing a memoir of my life and trials. And who knows what else will follow? In one way or another, I will continue to pursue my twin passions: journalism and justice,” she posted on Facebook.

‘Yay, Linda! I can’t wait to read it. But why couldn’t you wait just two more years and make it an even 50?

Bottom line, though, Linda is irreplaceable. She is among the last of the, not just truly great, but true journalists. Please, won’t someone rise up and again make journalism the watchdog and be the objective eyes and ears the public so desperately needs!