Judge Threatens to Bar Simpson TV Coverage
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Of the thousands of hours of television coverage generated by the O.J. Simpson murder case, it was a shot that lasted less than a second that threatened to end it all.
A glimpse of an alternate juror during opening statements Tuesday so angered Superior Court Judge Lance Ito that he cut short the court session, prompting cries of foul from the defense.
The shot in question came as Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark spoke. As she walked toward the counsel table, the camera followed her and caught a side view of a female alternate juror leaning forward in her chair. The woman’s face was clearly seen for eight-tenths of a second before the camera jerked away.
A producer for Court TV, which operates the remote control pool camera that provides the court feed, said the shot was a mistake.
``We were the first to notify the judge,″ said Cynthia Glozier, the supervising producer. ``We regret it. We will do everything in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again.″
But Ito was angry, and said he would decide after a hearing today whether to cut off the camera for the rest of the trial.
Ito himself supervised the installation of the camera system after an earlier dispute over allegations that TV stations had broadcast hallway shots of jurors in other cases. Ito threatened then to yank the court camera but left it in after hearing from media lawyers.
The earlier threat was also related to a TV news report about DNA evidence that the judge deemed inaccurate. However, prosecutors confirmed in their opening statements Tuesday that the results of the blood tests were reported correctly.
Ito told attorneys outside the jury’s presence he was not only upset at the camera operator for violating the often-repeated court order that forbids showing jurors on TV. But he said he was doubly mad because a producer sitting at a ``kill″ switch missed the shot and didn’t black it out.
``Both (the) camera operator and the person on the delay box made an error, and I indicated to all parties that if this would occur, then I would then terminate the television,″ Ito said, according to a transcript of the proceeding.
With that, the judge ordered the sequestered jurors back into the courtroom. He told them a problem had arisen ``that involves directly your welfare″ and he sent them back to their hotel early.
The abrupt end of the court session came just as defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. was about to deliver his opening statement to answer numerous allegations made by Clark and fellow prosecutor Christopher Darden in their televised presentation.
After the defense objected to the camera being ousted, Ito asked for the prosecution’s position. Clark supported the move.
``The important people to hear from both sides are the jury,″ she said. ``They are the ones who will vote on guilt or innocence. ... We are not playing to the world, we are playing to the jury.″
Outside court, defense attorneys were as angry as Ito.
``What we saw today was an interference with his rights to due process,″ Robert Shapiro said. ``We were not allowed to proceed to opening statements ... because of the media.″
Shapiro said that for Simpson’s sake, the defense presentation should be televised when jurors return today.
``The world has to judge O.J. Simpson and what his life will be when we believe this jury will return a not guilty verdict,″ he said. ``We believe the world has a right to hear our opening statements just as they heard the prosecution’s.″