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TV blackout changed how world viewed second Simpson trial

January 19, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ There’s been no O.J. TV this time around.

O.J. Simpson’s wrongful-death trial is almost over, and none of it was televised. Not even when he took the witness stand.

The much shorter sequel to his criminal trial was in many ways its antithesis, especially with the judge’s ban on cameras in the courtroom.

It prompted hand-wringing among the crowd that couldn’t get its daily O.J. fix. Others saw it as a balm for the nation’s collective angst.

Pulling the plug on TV cameras this time around? Psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers found it a hopeful sign for the O.J.-obsessed.

``There were people who overdosed,″ Brothers said of the first trial, in which Simpson was acquitted of murder. ``The people who overdosed put their lives on hold. ... It’s very healthy for them to not pay attention.″

From doctors to radio talk show hosts, actors and fans to hair stylists, everyone had an opinion on the trial that again will ask jurors to decide whether Simpson killed his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

Actor Mark Hamill, best known as Luke Skywalker of the ``Star Wars″ films, made the pilgrimage to Santa Monica, where he lined up to try for a seat in court by lottery, which he won.

Late last year, as he took stock of the crowd outside ``Camp O.J. By the Sea,″ he said, ``I look at all these people, and I want to say `Hey, I’m not one of them!″ For a while, though, he was another face in the courthouse crowd.

John Kobylt, host of a radio talk show on KFI-AM in Los Angeles, misses Simpson TV and laments the no-TV ruling.

``The entertainment part of the murder trial has been taken away,″ Kobylt said ``It sucked a lot of personality out of the second trial.″

Science fiction author William F. Wu, who left Simpson TV coverage on continuously at his home in the remote desert community of El Mirage, felt powerless this time around.

``The decision of others to control the information left me helpless,″ said Wu, who has a doctorate in American culture. ``Besides, I’m a lifelong football fan.″

Before Simpson was acquitted of murder in October 1995, the victims’ relatives sued him in civil court.

Alternative media rushed to fill the void created by Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki’s camera ban. The E! Entertainment Television cable network ushered in a daily re-creation of the civil doings, with actors filling in for the real life players.

The cable network’s ratings tripled in the time slot, said John Rieber, vice president of programming at E!.

With the ban on cameras, Ann Marie Palmer, a Phoenix hair stylist, can’t get enough O.J. news.

``I just can’t find the information,″ she said. ``There’s a lot less to read and I remain very interested in the legal aspects of the case.″

Howard Rosenberg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning television columnist of the Los Angeles Times, advocates cameras in the courtroom but thinks it’s time to move on.

``Television doesn’t tell you what to think,″ he said. ``Television tells you what to think about.″ The break in TV coverage ``has freed space in our brains to think about other things, and I think that’s positive.″

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