Tag Archives: The People vs. O.J. Simpson

It Wasn’t Just Her Hair

A story headlined The Female Gaze: Marcia Clark in ‘People v. O.J.’ faces sexism in the courts and in the media which was published in Daily Titan, the student newspaper of my alma mater, California State University, Fullerton, perpetuated at least one media generated People vs. Simpson misperception involving Marcia Clark’s hairdos.

I had to respond, so here’s what I wrote:

As L.A. Superior Court’s director of public information & media liaison during the 1990s, and was present in the courtroom every day of Simpson’s murder trial, I feel compelled to address some points in this article.

Regarding “As soon as she entered the courtroom, all eyes were on her hair.”, that is not true.

As noted in this article, Marcia Clark had two young sons who needed childcare on weekdays. Clark asked Simpson trial judge, Lance Ito, for trial proceedings to begin later than the court’s regular start time of 8:30 a.m. so she could take her boys to childcare herself, rather than have someone else do so. Ito accommodated her request by taking care of other court matters at 8:30 and scheduling trial proceedings to begin at 9 a.m. For whatever reason, however, Clark was chronically late, sometimes by half-an-hour or more. Indeed, all eyes were on her when she entered the courtroom, but not because of her hair. In fact, one morning after she had assured Ito she would be there for a specific matter, she wasn’t. He delayed and finally, with an apology to the jury, said court would remain in session with everyone seated and wait for Clark to arrive. We did, in uncomfortable silence, for many minutes. I didn’t keep track of exactly how long, but it is reflected in the court transcript. Here is my account of Clark’s morning arrival routine as described in my book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson http://www.anatomyofatrial….

“And her [Clark’s] late entrances, at times with an entire courtroom full of people—and, indeed, the entire television-viewing world—sitting and waiting, were just that. Entrances.

Rather than trying to be unobtrusive or quiet, she would shove the courtroom door open and prance in and down the tiled aisle with the clack of her spike-heeled pumps reverberating loudly in the otherwise silent surroundings. She would push through the little swinging gates in the rail and leave them flapping behind her as she crossed the courtroom well with the eyes of spectators, defendant, fellow attorneys, bailiffs, clerk, court reporter, judge and jurors following until she finally arrived, with no hint of apology in her body language, at her place at the counsel table, a bare arm’s reach from the jury box.”

Clark’s hair was an issue, not for trial participants, but for the news media and, I suspect, for District Attorney spokeswoman Suzanne Childs. Childs was much about appearance. Here’s another short excerpt from Anatomy of a Trial:

“Pulling me aside one day, Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti’s director of communications, Suzanne Childs, said that since the whole world was watching and forming an impression of the court and judge, she thought we should change out the florescent bulbs in the ceiling that were standard—and cast a rather harsh light—throughout the Criminal Courts Building and put in pink-tinted ones. Those, she asserted, would give the courtroom and everyone in it a softer look.”

I thanked Childs, but thought about the public outcry if the chronically underfunded court spent money on special lighting just for the sake of appearance when the media reported on it, which they would have.

It makes sense to me that Childs suggested that Clark change her hairdo, but I think it backfired. Had Clark not permed her hair in the midst of the trial, no one—either with the media or in the courtroom—would have even remarked about her hair, much less made it headline news.

MarciaClarkImage result for Marcia Clark's hairdos

I agree with this article’s assessment that unfair scrutiny is embedded in American culture, and is magnified and exacerbated by the media. I did a presentation years after the Simpson trial about how differently female attorneys in death penalty cases have been depicted in the news.

I was not immune. As you can see from my description above of Clark’s courtroom entrances I mentioned her clicking spike heels and what might be interpreted as “haughty” demeanor” (although in retrospect, she might have just felt self conscious).

And as a Cal State Fullerton alum who majored in communications/journalism, I learned from the best. –Jerrianne Hayslett

Simpson Trial Photographer Troubled by Miniseries

Interesting Facebook post by photojournalist Haywood Galbreath, who was the only photographer to be inside the courtroom every day of the Simpson trial.

Haywood Galbreath tagged you and Bobby Glanton Smith in a post.
Haywood wrote: “It’s almost time for FX American crime story “The people vs. O.J. Simpson” which comes on Tuesday nights on FX. I have been quite troubled with the representation of as I say the honorable Judge Lance Ito who was the presiding judge of the O.J. Simpson double murder trial. I say honorable judge Lance Ito because that is what he was and will always be to me. Judge Ito had an almost insurmountable task ahead of him in being the judge of the trial that became the largest criminal court case in the history of America. And arguably the largest media event of the 20th century. Mainstream media which is defined as white owned media organizations criticized the judge almost from the beginning to the end of the trial. Criticizing him and saying that he let the trial get out of hand. The only thing in the trial that was really out of hand was mainstream media and it continues to be in America! The idea that judge Ito was mesmerized by the attention of the media and celebrities is inaccurate and borders on blasphemy of the integrity of the judge and his name. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons mainstream media criticizes judge Ito is because of his fairness when it came to media coverage of the trial. And the judge made a decision, the unprecedented decision of giving the Black Press of America a photo position in the courtroom which had never taken place in the history of America. In such a large criminal court case or actually any type of case in America. I Point this out and Ms.Jerrianne Hayslett continues to point out the unfairness of mainstream media and the inaccuracy of the FX American crime story “The people vs. O.J. Simpson” portrayal/ betrayal of judge Lance Ito. And she also points out the lies of writer Jeffrey Toobin whose book the run for his life the miniseries is based on. I also want to point out something else, no journalist no matter how large of news gathering organization they worked for had more access to judge Ito than myself photojournalist Haywood Galbreath. I spend more time in the judge’s chambers asking to see him as well as him inviting me in to his chambers to speak with me than any other journalist covering the trial. For 21 years I’ve seen journalist and heard mainstream media condemn the honorable judge lance Ito, and at the same time talk about how they held audience with him and wear it as a badge of honor! I am almost certain that Ms. Hayslett can prove that those journalists are lying and it did not happen the way they said it did! And I challenge any of them to prove that I did not spend more time in the chambers of the honorable judge Lance Ito for honorable reasons than they did! -IHMPJ/HG- #americancrimestory #PeoplevsOJSimpson #highprofiletrial #anatomyofatrial #Photo #iconic #image #picoftheday #photography #photographer #photojournalism #photojournalist #HG #BlackPress #BlackPressUSA #NNPA #NPPA #FOX #FX #Americancrimestory #OJ #HaywoodGalbreath #Photobook #OJSimpson #blackhistorymonth #historymakers #thepeoplevsOJSimpson #haywoodOJbook #OJbook #”

So, What’s the Problem with a Little Dramatic License

“The way the public perceives something can often be the exact opposite of the real facts, but public perception has a way of outweighing and eventually eclipsing the truth.”

That is the second sentence in an article posted a couple of days ago on the Rolling Out website, and is one of the more accurate statements I’ve read or heard in connection with the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Not the current TV miniseries, but the 1995 trial itself. Although the show in progress does do a lot to perpetuate public perceptions that were created during the trial and have continued for more than 20 years to overshadow reality.

The trial judge, Lance Ito, is an excellent example.

Anyone who believes the media-created Ito is the real person would have to wonder how a star-struck, celebrity-wannabe, incompetent, dithering, camera-pandering, media-hating, la-la-land person ever made it onto the Los Angeles Superior Court as a judge. Those media-invented labels are the exact opposite of the real facts.

My book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson shows in many ways the opposite of how the media portrayed him. (The book is now available for $10.99 directly from me, or on Amazon.com (Prime) by using this link:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0826218229/ref=olp_page_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1456499960&sr=1-1&startIndex=10

The FX miniseries not only perpetuates the erroneous perceptions of Ito, it reinforces them, which are then embellished to an even brighter shine by articles about the FX drama. An example is a review of the miniseries Episode 4 on the tv.com website that contains the following:

“BTW, did you notice how when Judge Ito told his wife Sgt. York that he’d gotten the big O.J. trial gig, A) he was wearing a seriously rad windbreaker …”

Never in all the years that I knew Judge Ito — before, during and after that trial — did I ever see him wear anything other than a business suit at the courthouse. The most casual he ever got was to loosen his necktie. Might he have dressed down more if or when he came in on weekends or holidays? I don’t know. But the day he learned that the judicial leadership of the court assigned him to the Simpson case was not a weekend or holiday. So, not only would Ito not have been giddy at the news, as he was portrayed in Episode 4, he would not have been wearing a windbreaker, rad or otherwise.

That might be considered taking a tiny bit of dramatic license, but it isn’t inconsequential. Details like that work on the subconscious and are a major part of the opinions people form about other people. The plethora of inaccurate and downright wrong details and labels the news media gave the public about Ito became mountainous by the end of the trial.

3 Down, 7 to Go

So much of the FX dramatization of the 1995 Simpson murder trial has been private conversations that my take on the miniseries so far is pretty much as a spectator.

Perhaps having spent most of my waking hours in the downtown area of Los Angeles as the main city and county administrative centers, a couple of scenes caught my eye.

One was the balcony Marcia Clark stood to feed her nicotine habit. My assumption is it was a balcony of the Criminal Courts building because City Hall could be seen across the street and the District Attorney’s office complex is in CCB (since renamed the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center). What jarred me was that the balcony Marcia Clark was on looked like it was about two and no more than three stories from the ground. The DA’s office complex is on the 18th floor. I can’t think of anything on the second or third floor that would have accounted for Marcia Clark being there.

On the plus side, Sarah Paulson became a more believable Marcia Clark in this episode. Not being part of the attorneys’ conversations, which made up the bulk of this episode, I focused more on the actors’ portrayals.

The more I see John Travolta in this show, the less I see Robert Shapiro. Travolta doesn’t look like Shapiro, is much larger than Shapiro, doesn’t sound like Shapiro and just isn’t the same presence as Shapiro. Or more accurately, Shapiro wasn’t the same presence that Travolta is. Travolta comes across to me as a larger-than-life character. Shapiro wasn’t.

Bruce Greenwood, except for being a bit smaller, is a dead ringer for Los Angeles Superior Court Criminal Division Supervising Judge James Bascue, not the Gil Garcetti character he was playing.

I’m still trying to figure out why David Schwimmer was cast as Robert Kardashian. Nothing about Schwimmer looks, sounds like or reminds me in any way of Kardashian. The character Schwimmer is playing looks like a lost geek who has no idea what’s going on.

And what was that ChinChin restaurant scene all about? Just as all of the promos featuring Kardashian’s ex, Kris Jenner, seemed like the maximum exploitation of what has become The Kardashians, scenes of Kardashian’s children seemed like nothing more than yet another way to capitalize on that brand.

Thinking about it later, though, perhaps it was a vehicle to showcase what the series makers’ effort to portray Kardashian as a principled person and loyal friend and not as vapid as his progeny appear to be.

The best performance so far as being the character he was portraying, in my opinion, was Sterling Brown as Christopher Darden.  My sense of Darden during the trial was that he was introverted and Marcia’s foil.

Kato Kaelin’s line, “Fame is complicated,” made me laugh. It was unbelievable to me that Kaelin could have formulated such a complicated thought. So was the sort of big personality he was imbued with. He always struck me as just quirky.

We’ll see how upcoming episodes play out. I do have to keep in mind that, like all dramatizations, fiction is sure to be mixed with fact. What bothers me about that is an unwitting public, unable to know one from the other, tends to believe that it’s all true.

 

 

 

 

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.”

Sorry, FX, Disbelief Is Not Suspended

As I watched the first episode of FX’s “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” tonight, which I had DVOed last night, I tried to think how to process what I had seen. I had the most trouble with Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson. He just wasn’t. Not in size, not in looks and definitely not in voice.

Before I logged onto this blog to write about it, however, I decided to read a review in “Connecting” newsletter by recently retired AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch, possibly the only person save the courtroom bailiff, the trial judge and his clerk, the parties to the case, and photographer Haywood Galbreath, who spent more time in the courtroom than I did.

I’m glad I read Linda’s review before I wrote anything. So far as I’m concerned, she nailed it.

Because of that, instead of writing anything else, at least about the first episode, I’m going to provide the link to her review.  http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Connecting—February-03–2016.html?soid=1116239949582&aid=tU78hcPb9YY

Thanks, Linda!

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.