Tag Archives: Simpson trial

Morrison Captures How It Really Was

It’s O.J. Simpson trial 20th anniversary verdict eve. I’m about as far removed from the Los Angeles Superior Court, high-profile trials and news-media frenzies as I can imagine and still be on the North American continent. I’m ensconced in a hotel room at Dulles International Airport in Virginia on the eve of my husband’s high school reunion. We had dinner this evening with my husband’s best friend since they were both in third grade and his wife and sister. Not once during the entire evening was that 20-year-old trial, the name of the defendant or my book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson mentioned.

Afterwards, back in our hotel room, I logged onto the Internet, and saw a Simpson Google News Alert email in my inbox. The link was to a piece by Patt Morrison, who was a Los Angeles Times columnist when I knew her in Los Angeles. Upon reading what she wrote yesterday, I had to blog about it.

Patt’s piece, published on SCPR’s “Off-Ramp” site, is about the best, most accurate recall I’ve seen or heard about how that court case was was and the media’s chagrin at their behavior in covering it. (In my opinion, there were some standout exceptions, such as the AP’s Linda Deutsch and CBS Radio’s David Dow).

Here’s a quote from this account by L.A. Times columnist Patt Morrison: “And, as with a really bad hangover, when it was all over, we were more than a little mortified about how overboard we’d gone. And we promised ourselves that we would never, ever, go that wild and crazy again. Because there would never be a case like this one, ever again. Until, of course, the next one.”

Patt not only captured the trial and the media’s chagrin accurately, she’s right that their chagrin lasted — until the next high-profile trial came along. I urge readers of this blog to read Patt’s piece. Here’s a direct link, in case you missed the embedded link. Good job, Patt.   http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2015/10/01/44661/patt-morrison-on-oj/

Tom Brady is Like O.J. Simpson, How?

The Simpson trial might be old news — 20 years old, but it continues to make today’s news for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s comparing that ancient-news trial with a current court case. While most are a stretch, one of the most recent was downright ridiculous.

It was the Tom Brady “Deflategate” case.

That was a couple of weeks ago when Howard Kurtz on his Fox TV show asked another Fox personality and host of “Sports Court,” Tamara Holder, about Brady and “Deflategate.”

Holder declared that “Tom Brady is the O.J. Simpson case of our time.”

Kurtz hooted. How so, he asked. Simpson was charged with committing double murder. Brady was accused of knowing that the footballs during the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 18, 2015, had been deflated enough to make them easier for him and his offensive team members to handle.

Holder said the two cases are similar because the investigations in both were botched.

Ho boy.

Did He Want to Sing Another Executioner’s Song–Solo?

Book author needed

To tell the defendant’s side.

Schiller, in out in.


Soon after defense attorney Carl Douglas tried to get a media seat for an author to write Simpson’s story of the trial, writer Lawrence Schiller showed up in seats reserved for the defendant’s family and friends.  Ito ousted him for a while, then let him back in, but only on condition that he sit in a regular defense seat, not squeeze in on the end of the bench with one cheek hanging off.

Attorney Defeated Purpose of the Sidebar

Neufeld’s voice is loud.

Sidebar talk is overheard.

A fine imposed for that.


Yes, defense attorney Peter Neufeld did have a loud voice, and it carried — too much, apparently.

Autopsy Errors Foil Prosecution

Autopsy was done.

Defense decries the errors.

Golden is withdrawn.


The prosecution, not wanting Deputy Coroner Irving Golden to be cross examined about mistakes he made doing the autopsies, decides not to put him on the stand.

Media Get Wish, Look at Autopsy Photos

Press will view the shots

In Department 105.

One year since the crime.


Simpson trial Judge Lance Ito, determined to respect the families of murder victims Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, refused to let the media copy or take pictures of the autopsy photographs. After media attorney Kelli Sager petitioned on the media’s behalf for them to at least be able to view the photographs, Ito arranged for them to do so.  He had them placed on easel-type stands in a neighboring courtroom. Members of the media had to file by, pausing only a few moments at each photograph before moving on. No cameras were allowed.

No Courtroom Cameras, No Court TV

Its stock declining.
No cameras in the courtroom.
Court TV bankrupt?
With states across the country tailoring their courtroom camera coverage rules based on the erroneous belief that cameras in the Simpson trial had turned that case into a “media circus”, Court TV was worried about its viability, given that its entire reason for existing depended on camera coverage of court proceedings.
I say “erroneous belief” because it was cameras outside the courtroom and outside the courthouse that created the circus. Simpson was no more of a circus that countless high-profile trials that did not have courtroom camera coverage, such as the 2005 Michael Jackson child-molestation trial in Santa Barbara County and the 2004 Scott Peterson murder trial in Redwood City, California.

Richard Dreyfuss and the Mysterious Bouquet Revisited

A comment that just showed up on a post on this blog more than a year ago prompted me to revisit a couple of events that occurred during the Simpson trial.

Here’s the comment, posted by Mike:

“according to cnn Dreyfuss was in court monday september 18 they have a photo of him too here http://www.cnn.com/US/OJ/daily/9-18/pm/index.html . When was James Woods in court?”

I took a look at the photo in the CNN piece Mike provided the link to and, sure enough, there sat Richard Dreyfuss in what certainly appeared to be the Simpson courtroom in the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building. So, here’s the link to my blog post about Dreyfuss and the Simpson trial and here’s my reply to Mike:

Thank you, Mike! Seeing this photo helps explain why I didn’t notice Dreyfuss when he attended the trial. It appears that he wasn’t sitting in the press section. Those were the seats I was responsible for. It looks like he might have been sitting in the defense section of the courtroom spectator seats. Defense attorneys/staff determined who got to sit there.

(The only occasion I can recall that I took any interest in who occupied those seats was when <em>The Executioner’s Song</em> author Lawrence Schiller was hanging one cheek on the end of a bench-style seat in that section as the seventh person in what was supposed to have been a six-person row. I probably wouldn’t have taken much notice even then, except for two factors.

One was a couple of defense-team lawyers entreating me to give Schiller a media seat. He apparently was there at the behest of the defense to, as defense attorney Carl Douglas said, “Tell O.J.’s side of the story.” I told Douglas and his colleague that the media seats were all assigned, so if they wanted Schiller to attend the trial, they would have to give him a seat in the defense section. I believe I said something like Schiller would have to replace someone they had already given a defense seat to. It didn’t occur to me that they was have him squeeze in with everyone else already there.

The second factor was sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom telling me that seven people sitting in that row, instead of the space-designed six, violated fire department code, so he would have to leave.)

Another reason I might not have noticed Dreyfuss in the courtroom is because I generally don’t recognize famous people. That was the case when Nicole Kidman attended proceedings involving a civil lawsuit filed against her for breach of contract and when Steven Spielberg was a spectator in a case of someone charged with stalking him.

As for James Woods, I remember him attending the Simpson trial, but not the date. I’ll have to do a little research to see if I can come up with that information.

Musical Courtroom Seats

The press gets new seats.

Most are happy, some are mad.

It’s always no win.


Simpson trial judge Lance Ito knew there was great demand for seats in his courtroom and signed off on the assigned seating for the media. He concurred that they were the eyes and ears of the public and thought they should have some certainty in getting a seat. The assigned seats came with a caveat, however. They had to be occupied. In the early days of the trial, no problem. But as time went on, some reporters and producers would watch the TV feed in the media center instead of sitting in the courtroom.

After weeks of seeing empty media seats, and knowing that some members of the media who were always there didn’t have the best seat, he asked me to revise the seating plan and give members of the media who had the better attendance to better seats. I could do that because, just like a school teacher taking daily attendance, I had a written record of who was there — not just every day, but at the beginning of each session.

So, here is my journal entry for the day the new seating assignments went into effect:

“The revised seating plan went into effect today and I feel like I’ve been through a meat grinder!

All but maybe three people were absolutely up in arms. They just ripped into me.  It started out, I went over to the courthouse and told a couple of the deputies at the (security) screen, ‘Hey you guys want to come up and be my bodyguards? I need a flack jacket,’ and boy I was not underestimating!”

One wire service reporter was in tears, saying it wasn’t fair because she had to duck out to meet frequent deadlines. But I took attendance only at the beginning of each session, not during it. She said she was late and didn’t get in on time because of balky elevators. Everyone ran that risk, I said. Plus, I didn’t ding anyone the day the elevators broke down or when there were bomb scares, or when they were out sick, including her.

“Everybody had a gripe, a complaint, a reason why they shouldn’t have been held accountable or they wanted to contest me, saying, ‘We were there, we were there, we were there!’ I have it written down every single day that the seat wasn’t filled with somebody from their organization.  So, I can’t help it if they say, ‘We have producers here from New York and you may not know who they are.’ But I always asked. If I didn’t know who the people were I asked, if I had a question and I thought they might be with the network then I put a question mark.  I did not count it as a vacancy.  So I really erred on the most liberal side giving everybody the biggest benefit of the doubt.

“It is strictly on attendance, strictly on attendance, strictly on attendance. They couldn’t seem to understand.  They were saying that I was unfair, and so forth and then they started saying that I have this unannounced policy and that I hadn’t told anybody that the seats are going to be reassigned and that I was giving secret demerits.

“At one point, David Goldstein with KCAL had said, ‘Hey, we are an affiliate of CNN so we can share seats because it says affiliates can share,’ and I said, ‘That’s not right because CNN has a seat with KCOP, so when we do the revised seating I guess we’ll put CNN with KCAL and KTLA with KCOP.’  Oh no, he says, ‘all of us, all three stations are affiliates of CNN.’ I said, ‘Well, maybe I will just give one seat to all of you because the other, the networks have to share with all of their affiliates.’ He said, ‘Oh, but they are owned by the networks, CNN doesn’t own us, we are all independent, we just have an affiliation agreement with CNN.’ That’s what I have to put up with.


“Then Bill Whitaker called, he is a correspondent with CBS. I was on the phone with him for a 1/2 hour and he just went on and on saying they were in their seat and this person was on this day and this person was on that day and I said, ‘I can tell you I sat right in the courtroom and if there was not a human body in that seat it was vacant or if a George Reedy (a media wannabe), or a Current Affair or somebody else who is on the first-come-first-served list is in a seat, it was vacant.’  He started carrying on about secret policies.

“So before I got back to the office I stopped by to see Judge Ito and I said, ‘If I remember correctly you even made a remark from the bench one day about all these empty seats and that the seats were going to be reassigned so that the people who were there faithfully would get better seats,’ and he said, ‘Yes, I did.’

“So, there it is on the record. Then, I get back to my office and come to find out he had issued a media advisory, I’d forgotten all about it.  We issued a media advisory on April 14th spelling out exactly what was going to be happening and so I faxed that to Bill Whitaker.”



Another Juror Kicked

A juror question.

453 is excused.

Just what she asked for.


So many jurors got kicked during the course of the Simpson trial that before it was all over the 12 people who were selected as regular jurors had all been replaced by the 12 people who were selected as alternate jurors. Here’s an excerpt from my recorded journal about a juror being dismissed:

” … there was an article in the Daily News about yet another juror asking to be released from jury duty.  This one complaining that her husband is sick and she is concerned about him and it is distracting and so forth.  She was identified as a 38-year-old white woman and I showed it to Judge Ito and I sure hadn’t heard anything about it.  So he asked if they identified the juror and I said, “Yes, a 38-year-old white woman,” and he said, “Yep, that’s her,”

Apparently this knowledge came out in the conversations that the judge had with the jurors.  The transcripts of those meetings, which were held in chambers with the doors closed, have not yet been released.  So it’s like, OK, how do they know?  And he said, “How does the press find this out?”  I said, “Well, you’ve got some attorneys that are talking — either that or it’s your court reporter and I don’t think it’s your court reporter.” So he said, “Hmm, [he named another person who was present during the conversation] was in those meetings.” … I said, “Well, I know that [person Ito named]has a very, very cozy relationship with a member of the media, not associated with the Daily News, in fact it’s [I named that person and that person’s news organization].  If she’s got a cozy relationship with one, she could very easily have a cozy relationship with others.”  He said, “Yeah, well, I think she is the problem.  She has been in here, I have allowed her to be in here, I think she is not going to be in here anymore.=  Then, in open court, he said that he wanted to meet with the lead counsel from both sides at noon for about 15 minutes in chambers.  I asked him what it was about because the media will want to know what it is about and he said, “It’s none of their business, but between you and me I’ll tell you, it’s about this article. I’m thinking about requiring every single person who was in my meetings with the jurors to make a sworn affidavit statement swearing that they did not leak this information.” … I asked him if he is sure that his chambers are not bugged and he said, “Yeah, they have come in and swept it.”  I said, “What about the telephones?” and he said, “Well, you know it could be.”

He talked to the sheriff’s sergeant in charge of the 9th floor about checking to see if his telephone was tapped.