Review of Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People v O.J. Simpson, by Jerrianne Hayslett
by Laura Hogan
... For the American legal system, the most significant fallout from the Simpson trial is the absence of cameras in many courtrooms, even 20 years onward. After the verdicts, judges expressed their wish not to be “Ito-ized” by the scrutiny that cameras impose on legal proceedings; their reaction was simply to close their courtrooms to television cameras, even in jurisdictions where the presence of cameras had been the rule rather than the exception. Hayslett opines that when cameras are generally excluded from the courtroom, "the public is the ultimate loser," as routinely televised trials would enable the public to make sure that justice is being administered fairly.
see full review
October 3, 2013
Fly on the Wall
By Barbara J. Groth
Hayslett's book takes me, as a professional whose work took me into the court system for many years, right where I want to be: fly on the wall, and better yet, fly on the right wall to not only see the inner machinations of this high profile trial, but to hear the inner machinations of those directly involved in it. I already knew enough to stay away from the media feeding frenzy on this landmark trial: Hayslett's book brought me the information I craved about it.
June 26, 2013
Fresh insights on a well-worn subject
By David Dow
"Anatomy of a Trial" emerged well after the gush of books that poured out of the O. J. Simpson murder case. But thanks to the author's sharp perceptions and daily access to presiding judge Lance Ito as the court's media liaison, the book is loaded with behind-the-scenes detail and quotes not found in any of its predecessors. It also offers a balanced treatment of the still-smouldering cameras-in-the-courtroom issue. I covered the Simpson murder trial and have read most of the ensuing books. If your time or attention span is limited to just one, "Anatomy" is a good choice.
This book is a must read for anyone interested in popular culture, especially for journalism students as well as those who closely follow the popular media. Most of us remember the O. J. Simpson story which held the country spellbound and this book truly opens the curtain of a professional first hand account and allows us to see what really happened in the interplay between the courts and the media.
June 21, 2013
Fascinating behind-the-scenes look at an important trial
By Janet Halfmann
As a former journalist, it was fascinating to read all the behind-the-scenes goings-on of the news media covering such an important trial. The book reads like a novel, which makes "Anatomy of a Trial" not only a very informative but a fun read. This book would make great supplemental reading in law, journalism, and other media college courses.
March 22, 2010
Anatomy of a Trial" surprises, reveals, satisfies
Reading yet one more book about the vastly over-written and dissected 1995 Simpson murder trial wasn't particularly high on my to-do list when it came out, especially since it was published so long after the fact, some 13 years post verdict. But since I'd read all the other books about it, I decided to keep my record intact and give "Anatomy of a Trial" a try. Wow, what a surprise.
First, the author and publisher did themselves no favors by choosing the title and subtitle -- "Public Loss, Lessons Learned From The People vs. O.J. Simpson." Rather than being a post-mortem of the trial, it's a behind-the-scenes examination of everybody's behavior and the effect everyone had on each other through the spectrum of media coverage. The subtitle, while more true to what the book is about, sounds a bit wonky and boring. I found it to be neither.
The book reads like a novel full of interesting, eclectic and eccentric characters. It goes beyond just media coverage of the trial and back-scenes antics, though. It looks at how the media coverage has continued to reverberate since then in all kinds of ways and in both the U.S. and other countries. Some of the ways is with judges' decisions about media coverage of high-profile trials, state and national courts' rules about letting courtroom procedures be photographed and broadcast and how people perceive the legal system and its players.
This book goes one step further, though, but recommending what court officials and the media can do to avoid such circuses as the Simpson trial. That part seemed a little like it was tacked on at the end and is definitely of more interest to judges and the media. Despite that, though, this is a book I literally could not put down. It also provided much more of a feeling of "closure" than other books on the subject, which I think a lot of people felt like they needed -- I know I did -- with the shocking verdict.
|Anatomy of a Trial|
|Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson|
Reviewed by Barbara Kate Repa, California Lawyer
Do not read this book if what draws you to all things related to O. J. Simpson's first criminal trial is the usual intrigues: the fallen football hero, testimony from the bumbling and beautiful, prosecutor Marcia Clark's ever-changing hairstyle. For example, Kato Kaelin, Simpson houseguest-turned-hostile-witness, gets only a passing mention. Ditto the low-speed Bronco chase, that too-small bloody glove, even O. J. himself.
Instead, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson begins with the conclusion that Simpson was a train wreck of a case, from jury selection through to its lasting legacy. And the author, Jerrianne Hayslett, attempts to explain why from her vantage point as a media liaison for the Los Angeles Superior Court.
As she tells it, the bogeyman behind this tale was presiding Judge Lance Ito: He was too compartmentalized, too informal, too friendly, too human, and too cautious to do his job right. By the author's count, Ito allowed media issues to take up a third of his time during the trial, although she disputes the common claim that the lure of fame caused Ito to undermine his sense of judicial propriety.
Hayslett also points an accusing finger at the media. Throughout the trial, she reports, journalists jockeyed for space in the courtroom, angering the deputies; they talked among themselves, driving distracted jurors to write notes of complaint about their conduct. And she describes her own shock the day then–NBC Today Show host Katie Couric appeared in Ito's chambers, chummily munching candy from the jar on his desk while begging for the promise of an interview.
Now here's the puzzling thing: As the court's media liaison, Hayslett was, by her own description, responsible for "handling press issues and logistics." It would seem that a person in that post would have taken it upon herself to say a few things, such as: "Sit where you belong" and "Be quiet" and "Hey, Katie, you really should have phoned first." But the author remains oddly disassociated, at one point even bemoaning that the trial "launched a cottage industry of books about the trial, the defendant, the crimes, the victims, and the jurors." Present book excluded?
Finally, Hayslett blames television, which, she laments, "could have informed and educated, could have brought people unable to physically attend the trial into the courtroom," but instead "used the trial for entertainment and unabashed commercial promotion."
Well, it was entertainment. The nine-month trial, misbranded by many as the longest in California's history, probably only felt that way—with 150 witnesses testifying, countless hearings to hash out evidentiary issues, and timeouts to deal with jurors' bouts with the flu, infighting, and brewing book deals.
Still, the trial never ceased to rivet. On the October 1995 morning the not-guilty verdicts in the Simpson case were delivered, AC Nielson confirmed that virtually every TV in the Los Angeles area, and 91 percent nationwide, was tuned to hear and see them.
Anatomy of a Trial plumbs that nostalgia. Hayslett draws from reflections recorded in her diary throughout the trial, with the most momentous moments marked by haikus, such as this one:
Press reports are wrong.
Ito feels numbed and disturbed,
What is the outcome?
Poetry attempts aside, though, the book is well written, with nice twists of phrases and observations uniquely gleaned from watching the trial from the inside out. And there's fun in these pages. The author dishes—mostly about the divalike behavior and short skirts of the female reporters and lawyers, although she also gets catty about comic Jackie Mason, hired as a BBC commentator for the trial, noting his "almost wrinkle-free kind of skin" and too-tight hair weave.
Occasionally, Hayslett's own roots get the best of her. For example, she spends too much time describing the cloisters of courtroom administration and which reporter circumvented what unwritten chain of command. It's not that interesting—unless, perhaps, you're the person whose command was jumped. And the book has a scattered and preachy conclusion about courts and media relations and the public's right to know. Or something.
Most profoundly, readers will be reminded what a difference a decade or so makes. Death has taken a chunk out of Simpson's defense Dream Team, with Johnnie Cochran and Robert Kardashian now gone. Lance Ito, once hailed as a judicial rising star, now sits in an L.A. criminal courtroom with no nameplate on the door; his name lives on as a frequent crossword puzzle clue, but he shuns the limelight. And Simpson sits locked up in Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada for 9 to 33 years for those strange and less-gripping crimes involving his old football trophies.
Nevertheless, the mystique of the Simpson case endures, blamed for everything on the First Amendment parade of horribles—including sealed records, prior restraints, closed proceedings, and gag orders on lawyers, litigants, and witnesses. And, of course, for the relative merits of allowing cameras in the courtroom. Approved in California since 1981, cameras in court became suspect after Simpson—singled out, according to Hayslett, as "the biggest contributor to the derailment of that trial and the negative public perception of it and its participants."
The day the Simpson verdicts were delivered, then-Governor Pete Wilson wrote a letter to then–Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, urging a statewide ban of electronic media coverage in criminal trials. In response, the California Judicial Council investigated and held a series of public hearings, ultimately deciding to give judges complete discretion on the issue.
The pundits couldn't stop themselves from drawing parallels with the Simpson case a couple years ago when Judge Larry Paul Fidler opted to allow cameras in court during Phil Spector's first trial for murder. But Spector, an unphotogenic record producer best known for the Wall of Sound production technique he popularized in the 1960s, was no Simpson—on a number of levels. And his trial was no Simpson.
Barbara Kate Repa, a contributing writer to California Lawyer, watched every televised moment of The People vs. Orenthal James Simpson.
Wisconsin Law Journal
March 9, 2009
'Anatomy' dissects misdeeds of lawyers, media during O.J. Simpson's murder trial
by Jane Pribek
A search of “O.J. Simpson” at Amazon.com in the books department yielded 11,209 results. Clearly, the public’s fascination with the former football star has waned little since his 1995 acquittal of murder charges for the deaths of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman. Fourteen years later, books are still being written.
The Judicial Edge
National Judicial College
Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson
The People vs. O.J. Simpson ranks indisputably as the trial of the century. It featured a double murder, a celebrity defendant, a perjuring witness, and a glove that didn’t fit. The trial also shaped the judicial system, the media and the public’s access to the courts. Jerrianne Hayslett was an insider at the O.J. Simpson trial, and reveals in her book the untold story of the most widely followed trial in American history and the indelible impact it has had on the judiciary, the media and the public.
Wisconsin Clean Elections Coalition
March 27, 2009
Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson
(Hardcover) by Jerrianne Hayslett
"Anatomy of a Trial" by a fellow heathcare and election-finance reform advocate Jerrianne Hayslett received honorable mention in the non-fiction book category of the 2009 Council of Wisconsin Writers contest. "Anatomy of a Trial tracks the media's coverage of and conduct in the 1995 Simpson murder trial and shows the long-term effect on public perception and confidence in the court system and on judges' decisions in permitting public access to court proceedings and case information. Hayslett, a long-time journalist, served as court information officer in Los Angeles in the 1990s and early 2000s. In both capacities and as a court-media consultant since 2002, she has worked to improve court transparency and better court-media interaction, and for greater public understanding of and access to the courts. She has worked with court officials in Belgrade, Serbia, on the creation of the war crimes and organized crime departments, on projects in Indonesia, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia, and with courts in the United States. She also is on faculty at the National Center for Courts and Media at the University of Nevada, Reno.
More information about her book is at www.anatomyofatrial.com.
NACM "Court Express"
Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson by Jerrianne Hayslett
by David A. Sellers
The first NFL running back to rush for more than 2000 yards in a single season and an actor with a number of movies and television shows to his credit, O.J. Simpson is best known as the individual who redefined the limits and soiled the reputation of our criminal justice system. Mention O.J. to nearly anyone, and the reaction is immediate disgust. There are many reasons for the strong public distaste for this sordid chapter.
One is the thriving post O.J. industry. The lawyers and others who were involved with the trial who wrote books or who landed television gigs as "experts" are too numerous to count. The latest to enter the fray is Jerianne Hayslett, the former media officer for Los Angeles Superior Court, who has written Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson.
Ms. Hayslett is late to the table -- nearly 13 years after Simpson's acquittal in the double-murder case -- but that is OK because her work differs from other O.J. books in several ways. First, she had access to Judge Lance Ito, who rightly or wrongly, has been the punching bag for everything wrong with celebrity trials and the media excess that so often descends upon them. Second, she is not particularly interested in Mr. Simpson, but instead focuses on the relationship between the court and the media throughout the Simpson murder trial. This is not just another sensationalized treatment of the case.
The book moves quickly. It is less than 220 pages long, including 15 pages of photos.
Ms. Hayslett and others question whether history might have treated Judge Ito differently if Mr. Simpson had been convicted of the double murders. A fair question to raise. On one hand, Ms. Hayslett tries to rehabilitate Judge Ito's image by detailing how he attempted to balance press access, cagey counsel, a handful of bizarre jurors, and other courthouse challenges the public knew little about until now. On the other hand, she acknowledges that he miscalculated the level of public interest, the belligerence of the press, and made a very bad decision by granting a television interview that was supposed to be about his Japanese American heritage, but spun out of control.
The longest chapter is about cameras in court. "Cameras, probably as much as Ito, were demonized for what was perceived to be a trial run amok...," Ms. Hayslett wrote. This chapter chronicles the constant squabbling between the media and Judge Ito over broadcast and still cameras, demonstrating that the judge did not simply give them carte blanche, but instead fined the media several times and more than once threatened to expel cameras from the courtroom. "If I were to do it over," Judge Ito says in the book, "I would still allow cameras in Simpson, but with a fixed focus that I controlled."
Anatomy of a Trial is a tad heavy on anecdotes, such as the one about a well-liked Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who was killed in a tragic car accident during the trial -- that may be interesting, but offered little if any insight in a book that contains the title "lessons learned." Nevertheless, the book has much to offer.
Ms. Hayslett kept a diary of sorts during the Simpson trial, and interviewed Judge Ito and dozens of others since then. The book contains several hundred footnotes. But even without the meticulous research, Ms. Hayslett is knowledgeable in these areas. She has lectured to judiciaries overseas on media relations and periodically serves on the faculty of the Reynolds National Center for Courts and the Media at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Ms. Hayslett offers an intriguing behind the scenes glimpse, though parts are somewhat dated. One chapter promises a blueprint for future high profile trials, when the truth is the Simpson trial was an anomaly that occurred more than a decade ago. The technology available to courts and the media has changed so dramatically since the Simpson trial, that the lessons form this book may be more about human relationships and effective communications, than about court management of high-profile trials.
Court managers will want to read this book, if for no other reason than to appreciate the value of a professional public information officer like Ms. Hayslett and to wake up to the realization that they should have started planning for a high profile trial yesterday.
David A.Sellers is the Assistant Director for Public Affairs at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The opinions expressed in this review are his only.
The African American Literary Review
January 7, 2009
Book Title: Anatomy of a Trial
Author: Jerrianne Hayslett
Publisher: University of Missouri Press
by Tracy Ricks Foster, Editor/Publisher
The summer of 1994 was a turning point in the way news gathering and reporting was once perceived. Journalism and celebrity paparazzi merged uneasily to cover what was the beginning of the "Trial of the Century."
All American hero fav, NFL great, car rental and orange juice commercial icon, B-list actor and celebrity, O.J. Simpson was arrested and charged in June of 1994 for the brutal murders of former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. The murders committed in front of the doorstep at Nicole Brown Simpson's condo in the late evening hours of summer, had all of the makings of a murder mystery with an astounding cast of characters and one prime suspect. Simpson.
The ensuing trial was broadcast around the world and made household names out of the prosecuting and defense attorneys, L.A. Superior Court Judge Ito, rouge cop Mark Fuhrman, extended Simpson house guest Kato Kaelin; and catch phrases such as "if it doesn't fit, you must acquit." The international viewing audience also gained extensive DNA knowledge thanks to tiny blood droplets on a pair of socks.
But the trial itself, ground breaking in historical legal aspects and proportions, was the first trial of its kind that set media precedence incomparable to any before it. Jerrianne Hayslett, former L.A. Superior Court media liaison to Judge Ito, was right in the thick of a movement that changed the way the public and the media interacted with a full-blown celebrity murder trial. Hayslett helped mediate and disseminate court information and documents to media outlets that dissected the Simpson trial day by day to the public.
Fraught, oftentimes, with a dissatisfied media and the hunger for news of anything Simpson, Jerrianne Hayslett details from an insider's vantage point, the Simpson trial's overwhelming coloration and revision of the traditional concept of journalism.
"Anatomy of a Trial" is a great read for those interested in a fresh perspective on the Trial of the Century."
Go to The African American Literary Review on Blog Talk Radio achieves for an in-depth discussion of "Anatomy of a Trial" with Jerrianne Hayslett:
January 28, 2009
Amazing Story on Courts and the Media
This is perhaps the most riveting and detail book ever on the impact of the media on the courts, and the courts on the media. I loved all the insider information on the O.J. Simpson trial. I couldn't put the book down.
By Geeta Sharma Jensen
Posted: Nov. 29, 2008
The fall harvest from small presses featuring Wisconsin writers has yielded works of history, travel, fiction and an inside account of the O.J. Simpson trial.
In "Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson," South Milwaukee resident Jerrianne Hayslett, a courts media consultant, explores how the 1995 Simpson trial and the media circus surrounding the case affected various sectors and people, including presiding Judge Lance Ito, a rising star in the Los Angeles legal community whose courtroom was besieged during the lengthy trial. Hayslett recorded anecdotes, commentary and other excerpts in a personal journal, which helps round out this eye-opening book published by the University of Missouri Press.
Nov. 17, 2008
Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs.O.J. Simpson Jerrianne Hayslett. Univ. of Missouri, $29.95 (296p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1822-3
Los Angeles Superior Court media adviser Hayslett explores the ramifications of the much publicized 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial in this unique account focused on Judge Lance Ito’s role and the media circus inside and outside the courtroom. Ito had once been a rising star in the L.A. legal community and suffered more than other judges presiding over equally high profile trials, argues Hayslett. Though he continues to sit on the bench, Ito has never pursued appointment to a higher court. With excerpts and anecdotes from her personal journal, Hayslett details the difficulties of dealing with the media and the near-impossible task of sequestering a jury for nine months. Interestingly, only two of the original jurors remained at the end of the proceedings. Some may find it ironic that, by publishing yet another account of the highly publicized trial, Hayslett is doing exactly what she condemned in jury members and other trial participants. But insight that comes from her insider status is valuable and may leave readers wishing for her backstage access from the latest chapter in Simpson’s ongoing legal battles. (Jan.)
Aug. 4, 2008
Big Books, On Campus and Off
Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson by Jerrianne Hayslett. Univ. of Missouri, $29.95. Southern California; Seattle; Las Vegas, Nev.; Denver; Chicago; and New York author tour.
The media have written on all aspects of the O.J. Simpson trial, except their own responsibility to the public. The author should know - she's the Los Angeles Superior Court's media liaison and had the cooperation of Judge Ito in writing this book. Court TV managing editor Fred Graham calls this "a thorough and thoughtful account of how the O.J. Simpson murder trial went awry, and its continuing negative impact on the judicial system."
“Mention O. J. Simpson and judges cringe. Anatomy of a Trial shows why. This book, like no other, flings the doors open to the court’s back halls and inner chambers to reveal the effect of the public’s obsession with the Simpson murder case, the all-consuming media coverage of it, and the impossible task that befell the trial judge. Hayslett, in this unflinching account, masterfully lays out how the witches’ brew that bubbled up from those toxic ingredients continues to this day to permeate the American consciousness. A riveting read!”
Host of “Power, Privilege, and Justice”, truTV (formerly Court TV)
“This book absolutely redefines the meaning of the phrase ‘Inside Story.’ For all the people who watched the O. J. Simpson trial from the sidelines, the book presents a fascinating, up-close-and-personal history. I was a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court at the time of the Simpson trial, and thought of myself as an insider, but I had no idea what went on behind the scenes, until now. In addition, the book provides an invaluable analysis of the nationwide impact of unprecedented media attention on the criminal justice system.”
Judge, United States District Court
Central District of California
“A thorough and thoughtful account of how the O. J. Simpson murder trial went awry, and its continuing negative impact on the judicial system.”
Senior Editor, truTV (formerly Court TV)
Bravo, Jerrianne! You have written a fascinating and important book. So well done on all levels.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge (Ret.)
It's wonderful! I am overwhelmed by the level of scholarship involved -- footnoting everything and that amazing Index. I'm going to keep on reading, but my initial feeling is that I'm learning something I didn't know in every chapter.
The Simpson trial is history and your take on it is so instructive for covering future trials.
Legal Affairs Reporter
covered Simpson trial
Despite a lot of armchair quarterbacking, most judges and court staff have no real idea what they are facing when a court case draws relentless attention from the worldwide media. Nor in fact do most of the lawyers and many of the journalists involved. This book is a road map of the pitfalls that await anyone in a courtroom caught in the unwavering gaze of the 24-hour-a-day news cycle. The book convincingly makes the case that Judge Lance Ito has been unfairly pilloried, chiefly because of well intentioned acts that were grossly distorted by others through deadline pressure, greed, and the lure of instant fame. Most importantly, the book also examines the visceral overreaction that followed the Simpson case when judges across the nation pulled cameras from their courts. As this book shows, the problem is not the cameras. It is how they are managed.
Immediate Past-President of the Florida Court Public Information Officers, Inc.
Your book arrived and I’m enjoying it. It really shows the impact that the O.J. trial had on courts in the U.S., and also has a lot of details about grandstanding by the attorneys, jurors, etc. during the trial. The public has never really heard from Judge Ito, so it’s interesting to see why he made various decisionssp; --Holly Kurtz Librarian, Ontario CA
Jerrianne, I found (Anatomy of a Trial) fascinating reading and you did a fine job of presenting the insider's point of view on behalf of Judge Ito, the courts' viewpoints of how the media went about providing coverage and the impact it had on the various people involved. Since the OJ trial prodded me toward the beginning of the end of my anchoring career, I was in agreement with the great majority of your observations.
I'm sure the book has already motivated some high level discussion, debate and soul-searching about the various court/media issues and I'm confident it will continue to do so - and lead to enlightenment on all sides.
I hope the book does well and I wish you the best.
--- Ed Sardella,
Host "Let's Talk"
Denver Community Cable KUSA Channel 9
News anchor (retired),
The book was great, well-written. You have a page-turning style and it progresses very naturally through the points you want to make.
--- Jayne Dye, M.D.
I think it is very well written and exceedingly thorough in its sourcing. Certainly we all have a more complete picture of Lance Ito after reading this. I suspect he is pleased you wrote the book. ...Hopefully it will help those who work with and interact with the courts appreciate the challenges the judiciary faces in trying to balance the First and Sixth Amendments.
--- Federal Court Administrator and Information Officer
I can't thank you enough for writing Anatomy of a Trial. I am about to re-reading it. For one thing, your effort has gotten me off my butt and I have been back at work putting together a book that has been percolating in my head for darn near 30 years. Your insights into the nightmare of communications between the [government] entities and the media and what can best serve the public have been most helpful in re-ifying my thoughts and the truths of my experiences. I plan to renew my memberships in SPJ and The Public Relations Society of America. All of the many pieces of disaster management, recovery, mitigation and on and on, are bubbling up now in a way in which I believe I can make it work-that is, I can just about state a thesis and know how to present it and solve it.
--- Former FEMA Information Officer
Thank goodness someone finally wrote about the issues Judge Ito faced behind the camera. This book gives a balanced look at the problems the Judge had to contend with on a daily basis. I think the information you provide is invaluable for any reader wanting to get the big picture of the "Trial of the Century". Further, it would be useful for anyone involved with juries and jury trials to read from an academic standpoint. Amazing job!
--- Michelle Carswell Prichard, Esq.
Simpson trial intern
This book provides stories most have never heard before. I laughed out loud when reading about Lisa Rose and her stilt shoes.
The conclusions you came to throughout were very interesting and insightful. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt, and it was valuable for you to explain the cultural forces at work when describing the Japanese background of Judge Ito. The media took advantage of his openness and then bashed him so they could maintain their status in the ranks of the cynical.
Contempt was also bred with TV viewers in the general public. They subconsciously blame Judge Ito as a way of dealing with their guilt over tuning in day after day.
David Dow mentioned some great reasons why the trial became what it did, but I just wanted to toss the Bronco chase into the mix. Would the case have been so high-profile if that drama hadn’t played out for such a long time on national TV? The feeling of being “brought together” during that chase was akin to all of us tuning in during 9/11 or after the Challenger exploded, which is scary considering the difference in importance between the events. ...
I agree that even with no cameras allowed, the trial would have been a circus. Although cameras in the courtroom was only one of the many issues you wrote about, it is what I took away most from the book. The bottom line is that restricting cameras is a short-term relief. The long-term result is an erosion of public trust and confidence. TV access can clearly change people’s misperceptions. There is no better way to educate than TV, if it’s used ethically and responsibly.
Media and courts are both public servants, and they need to work together to present news, not entertainment (no narration! no punditry! no speculation!) It is critical to involve the media in planning for high-profile cases, as you mentioned when writing about the Simpson civil trial. If only we could install court cameras in every courtroom to prevent media drama.
A disadvantage to courtrooms without cameras is that reporters have to rely on themselves and they try to explain things they don’t understand. They must know the basics when it comes to court proceedings, but I see this as less and less their fault. They are short-staffed and given directives by corporate owners who don’t care about the news, let alone journalism. They are abusing the powerful tool that TV is. Cameras should work only for public benefit.
As far as judges are concerned, cameras will force them to behave and perform better, which makes most of them nervous and even resentful. But let’s face it- some judges need to be scrutinized given the importance of their work. ...
Rather than getting the snippets the traditional media are able to present with their own spin, people have been able to watch gavel to gavel without narration and understand for themselves.
Minnesota Judicial Branch
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