Judge bars cameras in courtroom for Simpson civil trial
August 23, 1996
From Correspondent Greg LaMotte
SANTA MONICA, California (CNN) -- A California judge Friday decided to bar television and still cameras, radio equipment and courtroom sketch artists from O.J. Simpson's civil trial.
Simpson was acquitted last year of the 1994 stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. However, the families of the victims filed wrongful-death civil lawsuits against him.
His criminal trial, which was broadcast live worldwide by television networks and cable stations, was considered fascinating and educational by those who watched avidly. Others considered the hype surrounding the proceedings to be excessive.
Both the news media and attorneys for the Goldman family had hoped that Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki would allow cameras in the courtroom for the civil trial.
Instead, the ruling means the throngs of journalists who covered Simpson's criminal trial in 1995 will be limited to reporting what they see and hear. It means reports about the case could vary. Except for a few reserved seats, the public will not witness the trial for itself.
"What the judge has done, in effect, is to limit every kind of direct access that the public would have to this case. There's no possibility that people who are interested in seeing this trial will be able to march down to the courthouse and get a seat in a very small courtroom," media attorney Kelli Sager said.
"So it's made it impossible now for the public to actually see for themselves or hear for themselves what goes on in a civil trial."
Fujisaki previously imposed a gag order on attorneys which prevents them, their clients and witnesses from discussing the case in a public setting or with reporters.
"Those knowledgeable about the issues and facts relating to the proceeding are not going to be able to give all of you in the media information, and they and you won't be able to give information to the public," ACLU attorney Paul Hoffman said.
In making his order, Fujisaki repeatedly referred to the circus-like atmosphere that surrounded Simpson's criminal trial, and said media coverage of the civil case would detract from the dignity of his courtroom. Fujisaki also said his decision was based in part on the fact that he will reject any effort to have the civil jury sequestered.
Fujisaki based his order on a California law that gives judges wide discretion on whether to allow cameras in the courtroom. Even so, it's likely that at least some portion of his ruling, which nearly blacks out coverage of the trial, will be appealed.
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