Tag Archives: The Associated Press

The Mystery is Solved!

No, not the mystery of “Did he do it?” That was settled long ago, at least in the minds of everyone who had an opinion.

This mystery was, where did Jeffery Toobin come up with his tale of what happened in Simpson trial judge Lance Ito’s chambers when TV talk show celebrity Larry King visited during the trial?

Larry King revealed the answer himself last night at a Los Angeles Society of Professional Journalists’ super-duper, fantastic Linda Deutsch Roast. Deutsch rested her 48-year career in January as The Associated Press’s star reporter for high-profile and notorious trials since the 1969 Manson Family spectacles. Last night, journalists and media lawyers from far and wide gathered to honor and poke fun at this super-scribe and maven of courtroom dramas.

King blew in and out of last night’s soiree long enough to regale the 200 or so (my uneducated guesstimate) attendees with anecdotes and jokes, mostly about himself. (A reporter sitting next to me summed up King’s performance succinctly with his observation that, “I thought this was supposed to be about Linda.”)

One tale King told was about his visit with the judge during a break in the trial. Except for a few embellishments, such as getting a FAX signed “Lance” (he didn’t know anyone named Lance he told the Roast audience, and weren’t people named Lance gay?) inviting him to visit, King related almost word for word what Toobin wrote about that visit in his book, which Toobin promoted by calling Ito a “La-La-Land judge.”

“He had all his press clippings there,” King said last night. “He was so proud of them and he went on and on about them. Finally, I said, ‘Don’t you have to get back to the trial?’ And he said, ‘I’m the judge.’” King told about going into the courtroom where Simpson greeted him. Then saying he didn’t want to appear to favor one side over the other, King went to the prosecutors’ table and spoke to them.

Entertaining stuff. Except it never happened. I know, because I was there.

I can’t attest to the FAX signed “Lance”, but here’s what I do know, which I wrote about in Anatomy of a Trial:

“King’s assistant, Ellen Beard, called to say he was going to be in L.A. and still wanted to interview Ito or have him on his show, I knew the judge would decline. But … I thought he might consider thanking King in person for understanding his position and accommodating his requests, not just once, but twice.  First was when Ito declined to participate in a show about media complaints of restrictions in the case. King read Ito’s written statement on air, with no edits or omissions, about all he had done to accommodate the media. The second occasion was when King was the only TV talk or magazine show host who, at Ito’s request, delayed interviewing Nicole Brown Simpson’s self-described best friend Faye Resnick when her “tell-all” book came out on the eve of jury selection. So I offered to see if Ito would be willing to at least say hello to King.”

It was definitely a good intention that went south, which I included in my book “to illustrate how an event is seen, perceived, remembered and retold, particularly when hearsay forms the foundation.”

Here is how the entire visit went down:

“I accompanied King and his entourage of producer, staff assistant and college-student daughter, Chaia, from the elevator lobby through another courtroom, Department 105, and down the back hallway toward Ito’s chambers.

But instead of going in, King stood in the back doorway to the courtroom and waved to the press corps in the spectator seats.

With the help of Deputy Sheriff John Castro, who had accompanied us from the elevator, we finally steered everyone into Ito’s chambers. There, we waited for twenty minutes while court remained in session with King fidgeting impatiently, saying several times that his time was limited. When Ito took a break, rather than “rambling on about the case,” though, he spent most of the time listening to King name drop, boast about dating the defense team’s jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, and compare Ito’s modest chambers and small courtroom to the grandiose federal courthouse and judges’ accommodations in Miami. As Ito turned his attention to Chaia and asked about her education, King, started beckoning to the defense lawyers who had gathered in the chambers’ doorway to come in.

The lawyers flooded in with King glad-handing and back-slapping them like old friends. Instead, Toobin portrays King as being concerned about Ito’s time and quotes King directly when he writes in his book that King asks Ito, “‘Don’t you have to get back to court?’” Although I was standing directly behind the sofa where King was seated, I not only didn’t hear King utter those words, that didn’t even seem to be on his mind. In fact, Ito seemed to have slipped from his mind entirely as he continued to laugh and joke with the lawyers while Ito donned and snapped up his robe. Neither did the entourage follow Ito “through the rear door into the well of the courtroom,” as Toobin relates. Both Ito and I were trapped behind the gaggle of lawyers, King and King’s entourage as they squeezed through the cramped passage behind the clerk’s chair. Peering past their heads, I watched with horror as the lockup door opened, the bailiff escort Simpson into the courtroom and Cochran start to steer King toward the defendant to greet him. My repeated, “Please don’t do that,” finally got Cochran’s attention. Later Cochran told me I needn’t have worried, he would never have let them shake hands.

King, with his group following, proceeded into the courtroom well where King greeted the prosecution team. Then King’s daughter, who had followed him into the courtroom, drew a raised eyebrow and a “you don’t want to go in there!” from Simpson and a laugh from the spectators when she turned to leave and, with the help of her famous father, tried to pull open the wrong door—the one that led into the courtroom’s inmate lockup area.”

As I note on my website at www.anatomyofatrial.com, “…New Yorker writer/CNN legal analyst Jeffry Toobin shows why courts don’t–and shouldn’t–permit hearsay testimony. Pages 65-67”

Listening to King last night reminded me of how horrified I felt when I learned that that a TV series-in-the-making that is being promoted harder and more furiously than the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing debacle is based on Toobin’s book.

Yep, my suggestion that Ito thank King in person was indeed a good intention that went south – a direction it continues to sink to to this day.

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!


Birth of the “Media Circus” Debated

My Facebook Friend, and longtime actual friend, Linda Deutsch, posted this on the other day:

“Judge Lance Ito was a question on tonight’s Jeopardy. Some stories live forever!”

That prompted this comment from FB Friend (also longtime actual friend) Scott Shulman:

“The answer is…he pioneered the terminology, ‘Media Circus’.”

Having been on the high-profile court scene since the run-up to the 1992 Rodney King beating trial, I begged to differ with my wonderful friend Scott as I recall that trial also being called a media circus.

Since Linda Deutsch’s high-profile trial experience goes back to the 1970 Charles Manson case (she’s been with The Associated Press for more than 47 years), I asked her if that court scene was called a media circus. Linda reached back to the 1930s and the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder case, which was dubbed “The Trial of the Century.” No verdict yet on whether it was referred to as a media circus.

The Lindbergh trial was indeed called “The Trial of the Century” (as were other trials of the 20th Century), as cited in Hearst newspapers reporter and best-selling author Adela Rogers St. Johns’ autobiography “The Honeycomb.”  http://www.amazon.com/The-Honeycomb-Adela-Rogers-Johns/dp/0451063503. It might have been a circus, but I doubt if it was called a media circus, as the word media wasn’t ubiquitous in those pre-TV days like it is now.

Where Were We 20 Years Ago

If you’ve ever seen a movie that included scenes in an old-timey newspaper newsroom, you might have noticed one or more machines about the size of 1930s console radios clattering away in a corner and disgorging a continuous spew of paper. They were called wire machines. They carried non-stop streams of reports from wire services, most commonly The Associated Press and United Press International. They became dinosaurs in most newsrooms with the advent of computers that carried reports from The AP, UPI and other wire services.

Except for my office in the Los Angeles Courthouse. The one I had installed there in the early 1990s and that was still clattering away when I left the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2002, was provided by City News Service, a local version of the national and international big guys. It rattled away around the clock, burping out CNS-generated stories and reports on continuous-form tractor-feed paper that we only had to make sure didn’t run out of paper and to clear of jams (which did occur frustratingly often).

It was from a report that had come in sometime during the early hours of Monday, June 13, that I first learned about the murders of O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman.

It was a report of note, but not a real attention grabber. Our courts were filled with celebrity-related cases and Nicole Brown was an ex-wife, making the case even less likely to be of significant media interest.

Nevertheless, the office staff and I monitored wire-service reports belching out of the machine, not because we were celebrity watchers or O.J. Simpson fans, but because we most likely would be fielding at least some media calls. And also because CNS was our sole source of breaking news. The office couldn’t receive signals of any radio stations and our requests for a television with cable service wasn’t granted until after the Simpson case was in court.


Sometime later that day came the bombshell. Simpson was a suspect in the murders. We knew for a certainty that the case would, indeed, end up in court — unless Simpson pled guilty or someone else got charged with the crimes.

What we didn’t know, in fact, had no inkling of at that moment was just how huge the case would be and how it would consume us all for the next 16 months.


The Book Author Who Didn’t Dies

Reading this morning that Fatal Vision and The Selling of the President 1968 author Joe McGinniss died, I repressed the urge to say, another one bites the dust.

Joe’s death follows that of a number of notables from the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial–fellow authors Dominick Dunne and Joseph Bosco; defense attorneys Robert Kardashian and Johnnie Cochran; newspaper reporters Andrea Ford, Dennis Schatzman and Robin Clark (killed in an automobile collision late in the trial), at least one juror, Tracy Kennedy–although McGinniss ended up shucking the chance to profit from it after investing daily attendance at court proceedings for more than a year.

In Anatomy of a Trial (published in 2009 by University of Missouri Press), Joe makes his entrance at my office in the Los Angeles County Courthouse within days of Joe Bosco. Here are a couple of excerpts that spotlight the rivalry and contempt among writers of various stripes who intended to cover the trial:

Bosco, author of Blood Will Tell, about a DNA-based court case in New Orleans, arrived in my office in late August 1994 full of hand wringing and teeth gnashing over the news that he might not get a courtroom seat in the Simpson case. …

With his graying mane flopping over a forehead festooned with bushy eyebrows, he hrumphed at newspaper reporters, who were “at the bottom of the food chain,” getting seats over himself, Joseph Bosco, who had paid his reporting dues and graduated to the fine art of writing books. He spewed indignation that Fatal Vision author Joseph McGinniss, whom Bosco called a hack, was going to get a seat and Bosco might not. The very idea was unthinkable to any rational human being who had the slightest modicum of intelligence or literary knowledge. …

Joe McGinniss was the yin to Bosco’s yang. Quiet, unpretentious and anything but flamboyant, McGinniss washed in to my office not long after Bosco with the advent of Southern California’s rainy season. Intent on learning the terrain and players, he seemed oblivious to his dripping jacket and rivulets of water running off strings of his gray hair and into his eyes. He announced sometime into the trial that he wasn’t talking to anyone or doing any research. His book would be from the jury’s point of view and based entirely on what occurred in the courtroom.

Although Bosco beat McGinniss to Los Angeles, McGinniss had the upper hand. Within days after Ito got the Simpson case, McGinniss wrote to him requesting a seat. Ito agreed, then told me. It was a done deal. Ito would not go back on his word, even though in hindsight after learning the ultimate fate of the book McGinniss said he was going to write, he might have decided otherwise. At the end of the trial McGinniss ditched his book project and reportedly took off for Europe to cover international soccer.

Veteran reporter, Linda Deutsch, who is in her 47th year with The Associated Press as its renowned legal affairs reporter whose coverage goes back to the 1970 Charles Manson mass murder trial, was outraged than any book author got a media seat at the trial. Here’s what I wrote in Anatomy about her reaction:

While hers was a cult of professionalism as opposed to the cult of personality that imbued so much of the nouveau journalism that was emerging in the mid-1990s, Deutsch could express righteous indignation with the best of them. An example is when the Simpson trial seating plan included seats allocated to people who were writing books.

“That’s unconscionable,” she fumed, puffing up her five-foot-tall frame, her cloud of champagne-colored hair fairly shivering. “They’re just in it for the money. They won’t be reporting anything to anyone until their books come out months after the trial.”

And Joe McGinniss’s didn’t come out at all, and never will.

While we all know none of us will get out of this life alive, the departure is a bit unnerving when one among the Simpson-trial ranks, which, as Deutsch observed at the memorial gathering for Robin Clark, who was about 40 years old, that Joe McGinniss held at his rented Beverly Hills house following Clark’s shocking and untimely death in August of 1995, had become family.

2-1/2 Branches of Government

I’ve come to realize that the Founders of this country were just kidding.

The joke is in the provision for three equal branches of government.

The light began to dawn several years ago when I worked for the Los Angeles court system and the state legislature determined the court’s budget and level of funding. And he who controls the purse strings is in control.

Conclusive proof is in a bill being floated around the Wisconsin Legislature  that would  neuter the courts as reported by the Milwaukee newspaper http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/miffed-by-court-decisions-against-them-gop-lawmakers-want-to-limit-impact-of-rulings-439ghsq-202338051.html and The Associated Press http://wislawjournal.com/2013/04/10/gop-bill-would-nullify-judges-injunctions/ and posted on the Huffington Post.

Wisconsin Republicans Seek To Cripple Courts That Have Blocked Their Controversial Laws


The Republican-controlled Wisconsin government passed a number of laws, including one that defanged, with potential of killing off, public employee unions and another that made significant changes in the state’s voting requirements. The courts said not so fast on both laws.

So we’ll see if (1) the bill passes, which it no doubt will, (2) if the governor signs it, which he no doubt will and (3) if the courts try to strike it down, which it might no longer have the power to do with any bill the legislature and governor pass into law.


Journalists “Need to Know”

One of the biggest complaints judges have about people with the media who cover the courts is they don’t know the rules, or as one judge once told me, “They don’t know what they’re doing.”

It’s also one of the biggest problems for the media. The reason not knowing the rules is a problem FOR the media is because it limits their access.

That wasn’t always necessarily the case — and still isn’t in very rare instances.

Back in the day when reporters had “beats” they had the time and opportunity to not only learn the rules but to get to know judges and court staff and vice-versa.

So they not only learned the process, they knew who to ask if they had questions about it.

These days reporters generally no longer specialize. They and other with the news media, such as TV producers and camera crews, are frequently sent to cover proceedings at courthouses they’ve never been in before. They don’t know where courtrooms, clerks’ offices or those things are located. They don’t know the function of the people who work there. They don’t know where files and documents are located or if, just by glancing at a file, any of the documents in it are sealed.

That causes consternation and disruption, not just for judges, but for staff.

It also causes frustration for the media who are facing deadlines and need access and information fast.

One reporter who has become a rarity in today’s media, AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch, provides an insight on this situation.

Judges, Deutsch says, are process oriented. They focus on making sure everything is done correctly and according to Hoyle, all neat and orderly.

People in the news business, Deutsch explains, are results oriented. They focus on getting the story and how that’s done can sometimes be messy.

Deutsch, who is a 45-year-veteran of covering the courts for The Associated Press, used to impart her wisdom and pearls of  advice at education and training courses for judges and journalists at the National Center for the Courts and Media where she and I served as faculty. The demise of that function of the center a few years ago left few institutional avenues for improving judge-journalist mutual understanding and instructive interaction.

Other resources for journalists do exist. One is the Digital Media Law Project at http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/guides-and-resources.

Others are offered through courts systems, such as the Kansas courts information office and University of Kansas faculty “Law School for Journalists” program.

Court information officers have an association, the Conference of Court Public Information Officers (CCPIO), that has developed a number of resources such as a report on new media’s impact on the judiciary (updated last year), which can be found at http://www.ccpio.org.

A list of members and their contact information is included on that site.  http://ccpio.org/about/members/ Unfortunately, the largest court in the country, the Los Angeles Superior Court, has no representative in that organization, and doesn’t even list one on its own website. I’m not sure if anyone has been named/selected to replace the last person to hold that position left more than two years ago after being accused of leaking information to the online celebrity scandal sheet, TMZ.  http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/19/local/la-me-allan-parachini-20101119  An acting information officer, Mary Hearn, has been holding down the fort ever since.

In the absence of other assistance, the Digital Media Law Project lists an impressive array of resources that are worth checking out, and can be done quickly from anywhere and at any time — even on the way to cover something at a court a reporter or camera crew has never been in before.