September 26, 1995
Web posted at 7:45 p.m. EDT
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Judge Lance Ito abruptly cut off camera coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial at 5 p.m. EDT because of a television close-up of Simpson taking notes. Ito later reversed his decision and slapped the media pool with a fine.
Shortly after the camera zoomed in for a tight shot of the defendant's hand to show his middle finger, which was being discussed my Marcia Clark, an irritated Ito halted closing arguments by the prosecution and asked to see the tape. He called the camera operator's actions a "flagrant violation and intrusion of the attorney-client privilege." Ito then ordered that the coverage be terminated.
Media attorney Kelli Sager raced to the courtroom to discuss the coverage issue and to argue for its resumption. She was successful. After viewing the tape, the judge decided to let coverage resume at 6 p.m. EDT. At a press conference, Sager said Ito didn't think that the camera operator had ill intent, but wanted to prevent any more shots of notes or writing.
Sager said the judge wants camera shots of the defense table to remain above the shoulders of the subjects in order to avoid further disruption. He also levied a fine of $1,500 against the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California, the media pool that is responsible for broadcasting the trial.(246K .aiff sound or 246K .wav sound)
The judge's initial decision to pull the plug on coverage sparked criticism from legal analysts. Legal expert Greta Van Susteren said she found the ruling hard to swallow, since the judge played to the television audience with the Fuhrman tapes.
"There is certainly no way to justify what Judge Ito has now done," she said, "especially in the light of the fact that it was Judge Ito who wanted the world to hear the Mark Fuhrman tapes and suddenly now, he's become the censor and doesn't want to the world to hear the closing arguments." She also said Ito's decision violates the law.
Van Susteren said that pulling coverage could hurt the jury. If the public isn't allowed to see what may have swayed them during closing arguments, their decision may seem unjust to everyone else.
Legal expert Roger Cossack called the decision a "rip-off" for the viewing public. He said for people who have watched the trial from the beginning to miss the closing arguments would be unfair and frustrating. Cossack speculated that Ito, knowing that attorneys tend to play to the cameras, may have been looking for a way to speed things along.
With the cameras back on, Ito apologized to Clark for the interruption. Clark then resumed her closing arguments.
The prosecution began its summation earlier Tuesday by quickly distancing itself from Fuhrman. Clark told the jury that the former detective is a racist who lied about making racial epithets. But, she says, the defense's attack of Fuhrman is a "false road" leading them away from the truth.
Court is scheduled to continue until 11 p.m. EDT Tuesday.
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