TV Appeal Draws People from Across the World to Simpson Courtroom
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The appeal of being in the O.J. Simpson courtroom _ as seen live on TV _ is attracting an international audience, including many tourists who are making a stop at the Criminal Courts Building part of their summer vacations.
``It’s kind of like something you brag to your friends about,″ says Angela McIntosh, a Tulsa, Okla., teen-ager in town to visit her godmother. ``This is kind of a birthday present. I’ll be 15 next Wednesday.″
Jorg Van Loock, a German exchange student at Illinois State University, said he didn’t know who Simpson was until he saw coverage of the case in his country last year. On Tuesday, he and a classmate were among the seven people who won the 7 a.m. lottery drawing for seats in Judge Lance Ito’s courtroom.
``The reason (we came) is that we see it on TV every day,″ said the bespectacled 25-year-old. ``I probably expect to see exactly what I saw on TV. Maybe I’ll get a deeper understanding of the court system. I’m really curious.″
His ISU classmate, Felix Von Schemde, said their trip to the courthouse was a spontaneous addition to their summer vacation _ a road trip through the Western states.
``Yesterday, we thought it would be nice to go to the O.J. trial,″ said Schemde, 24. ``I didn’t even know the building or anything, then I figured it out.″
Demand for the few seats reserved for the public has fluctuated, depending on who is on the stand. But there are always more askers than seats, so sheriff’s deputies have held the early morning lottery every day of the trial. On Tuesday, with the much-anticipated autopsy photos finally shown to jurors, about 20 people waited in the lobby for seats.
Spectator Janis Jones, gesturing low then high, says, ``It was like down here for DNA and up here for Kato.″
Jones, 48, has come to the courthouse about 50 times for the trial and says odds of winning a pass are about 1-in-4. When the Sunland artist is not in the courtroom, she sells T-shirts and buttons she designs, including one with Ito’s picture and the transcript of his daily admonition to jurors.
``I’m not saying in any way that it’s a public service,″ Jones says of her money-making venture. ``It’s just fun.″
Lately, deputies have asserted more control over the courthouse crowd, herding vendors like Jones away from the lobby. Jones says the tourists simply seek out souvenirs on the street instead.
Throngs of news photographers still gather at the courthouse entrance to capture pictures and sound bites from lawyers each day, but the air of excitement that used to come with each attorney arrival has faded.
The prospect of being part of the televised event, however, still packs the house.
Judith Ferraro, a Warren, Mich., English instructor, toured Hollywood sights before sitting in on the trial she follows closely on television.
A computer on-line newsgroup and Court TV were David Sichak’s connection with the trial before the San Diego accountant won a seat on his third early morning drive downtown.
While sipping a cup of coffee in the courthouse cafeteria, Sichak says he won’t become a Simpson regular.
``I don’t like getting up at 4:30 in the morning.″