CNN O.J. Simpson Trial


Simpson trial on TV:
New high, or low?

December 19, 1995
Web posted at: 10:40 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Jim Moret

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- June 17, 1994 served as a prelude to 1995's "Year of O.J." It was on that day that O.J. Simpson's slow-speed chase through Los Angeles before his arrest on murder charges drew an estimated TV audience of 95 million viewers, 10 million more than the 1969 moon walk.


But it was the trial itself that captivated viewers from January to early October. Reporters and camera crews from around the world erected a virtual village dubbed "camp O.J." across the street from the Los Angeles Criminal Courts building.

The trial and its players became fodder for tabloids. Headlines promised revelations about the victims, their friends, even some of the attorneys. Some critics lament that the event marked a new low in American journalism.

"I remember talking to a CBS journalist whom I really respected and he was telling me, 'Isn't it amazing how much closer the tabloids have come to us?'" said Los Angeles Times media critic Howard Rosenberg. "I mean, he was stating it as something positive and I was just seeing the opposite. We've become much more like them."

book covers

Dozens of books were written by or about many of the players in the so-called trial of the century. Among the authors were Nicole Simpson's friend Faye Resnick and Simpson's former houseguest Kato Kaelin, who even parlayed his association with both O.J. and Nicole into a Los Angeles radio show.

OJ's book cover

While in custody, even Simpson himself wrote a tome and released an audio tape titled "I Want to Tell You." (76K AIFF sound or 76K WAV sound)

"We saw the bottom of the barrel," said Dove Audio President Michael Viner. "From two people who had psychic experiences with (Kato) the dog to the golf caddy, everybody had a book. Most of them were garbage."

The publishing frenzy hasn't stopped in the months since the verdict. Simpson attorneys Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran have signed lucrative book deals. Prosecutor Marcia Clark reportedly inked a $4.2 million contract for her story, and co-prosecutor Christopher Darden landed both book and movie deals.

Kaelin, with Pauly Shore

Many of the players have been elevated to celebrity status. Their appearances at entertainment events prompt a frenzy among the paparazzi. That leap from private citizen to media star was facilitated by the unblinking eye of the camera in Judge Lance Ito's courtroom, which broadcast the trial to the world.

Criticism of that camera prompted judges in several high-profile cases -- including the murder trial of Susan Smith and the Menendez brothers re-trial -- to bar cameras in their courtrooms.

According to the founder and chairman of Court TV, Steven Brill, the backlash will be short-lived. "I think now that the dust has cleared ... we're getting judges who seem more anxious to have us in, oddly enough because they don't like the image of the justice system that was conveyed to some in the Simpson case," Brill said.

Whatever that image, it was conveyed to an estimated 150 million Americans who watched the reading of the verdict on broadcast and cable television, perhaps changing forever the popular notion of a public trial.

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