In Sensational Murder Trial, Recorder’s Fingers Do Talking for World
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ When attorneys talk too fast or step on each other’s lines during the O.J. Simpson trial, they get a computerized scolding from Janet Moxham.
``Rude, rude, talk one at a time,″ the court stenographer flashes to computers on prosecution and defense tables when attorneys interrupt each other.
Moxham can be forgiven if she has a few choice words in the case. After all, she’s got to take down all of them, and the work is like none she has seen in 15 years as a court stenographer.
``With all the media attention,″ she said, ``it’s intimidating.″
For the first time in trial history, newsrooms around the world are getting immediate transcripts _ goofs included _ through a computer hooked to her 26-key steno machine.
``I didn’t really want to do it,″ Moxham said. ``It’s like your rough notes. But the judge really wanted to do it.″
And there are constantly new curves.
Last week, the defense waited until opening statements to spring a dozen or so new witnesses with unusual names like Mary Anne Gerchas. Moxham had spent weeks programming the names of key trial players and possible witnesses into her machine.
The new witnesses forced her to turn to phonics and guesswork.
Gerchas became MERRY ANNE GEAR CHASE. Howard Weitzman, Simpson’s first criminal lawyer, came out MR. WHITES PLAN.
A wrong keystroke once turned the phrase ``Any comment by the people″ into ``ANY COMMENT WHITE PEOPLE.″
``I AM LAME RULINGS″ was the result of a mistake in transcribing ``Are there any rulings that you objected to.″
And, once, Superior Court Judge Lance Ito became ``JUDGE EAT.″
``We’re not perfect,″ said Moxham, who usually gets to edit her work before it’s made public. ``The world is seeing us on our bad days.″
Moxham and Christine M. Olson, who is assisting with court reporting in the Simpson case, work long hours. Moxham begins at 7 a.m. and sometimes goes on late into the evening as she edits transcripts.
``It’s hectic, but it’s OK,″ she said. ``We’ve started testimony. There are a lot of questions and answers, which gives us a little break.″
She has worked for Ito for more than four years, handling cases like the fraud trial of savings and loan owner Charles Keating Jr.
``I like working criminal cases,″ Moxham said. ``They’re interesting and they’re hard work. But this is indeed a challenge.″
Lead defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr. is a particular problem.
``Mr. Cochran is a very nice man,″ Moxham said. ``But he’s very hard to record. He swallows a lot of words and he talks very fast.″
Moxham also has flashed the message ``Slow, slow″ to prosecutor Marcia Clark.
``When I’ve done that, no one seems to look,″ she said. ``So I just put my head down, close my eyes and write as fast as I can. You just hope the next person who stands up is a little slower.″