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Anatomy of a Trial

Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson

Jerrianne Hayslett

Publication Year: 2008

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 became a media circus of outrageous proportions that led the judge to sequester the jury, eject disruptive reporters, and fine the lawyers thousands of dollars. Now an insider at The People vs. O. J. Simpson reveals 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.


            As the Los Angeles Superior Court’s media liaison, Jerrianne Hayslett had unprecedented access to the trial—and met with Judge Lance Ito daily—as she attempted, sometimes unsuccessfully, to mediate between the court and members of the media and to balance their interests. In Anatomy of a Trial, she takes readers behind the scenes to shed new light on people and proceedings and to show how the media and the trial participants changed the court-media landscape to the detriment of the public’s understanding of the judicial system.


            For those who think they’ve already read all there is to know about the Simpson trial, this book is an eye-opener. Hayslett kept a detailed journal during the proceedings in which she recorded anecdotes and commentary. She also shares previously undisclosed information to expose some of the myths and stereotypes perpetuated by the trial, while affirming other stories that emerged during that time. By examining this trial after more than a decade, she shows how it has produced a bunker mentality in the judicial system, shaping media and public access to courts with lasting impact on such factors as cameras in the courtroom, jury selection, admonishments from the bench, and fair-trial/free-press tensions.


The first account of the trial written with Judge Ito’s cooperation, Anatomy of a Trial is a page-turning narrative and features photographs that capture both the drama of the courtroom and the excesses of the media. It also includes perspectives of legal and journalism authorities and offers a blueprint for how the courts and media can better meet their responsibilities to the public.


Even today, judges, lawyers, and journalists across the country say the Simpson trial changed everything. This book finally tells us why.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-9


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pp. 10-15

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Introduction: The Reality of Perception

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pp. 1-7

When former pro football player and TV pitchman O. J. Simpson was acquitted in the slashing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, few foresaw the effect that trial would have on the judiciary and, consequently, on the ...

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Chapter 1. To Here from There

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pp. 9-14

Lance Ito leaned back in the black leather chair in his chambers, propped his feet up on his cluttered desk, and clasped his hands behind his head.
“Well, Jerrianne,” he asked, “what do you think I should do with the rest of my life?” ...

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Chapter 2. In the Beginning

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pp. 15-23

News reporters and television producers began to filter into the cavernous nineteen-story Criminal Courts Building in Los Angeles soon after Simpson’s arrest for the June 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. They came to cover his initial arraignment and ...

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Chapter 3. Careening Off Track

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pp. 24-34

As mistakes go, it was a doozy. It began one October morning when I walked into Ito’s chambers.
“Jerrianne, I would like for you to come up with a graceful way for me to get out of doing an interview,” he said without preamble.
I found the request both puzzling and surprising. We had already discussed the pitfalls of media interviews ...

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Chapter 4. Pressing Issues

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pp. 35-39

I started writing daily haiku soon after the Simpson case was filed in court.1 This one, on September 22, 1994, was inspired by a comment Ito made during a hearing about forensic testing of clothing Simpson wore the night of the murders. Both the prosecution and the defense expressed ...

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Chapter 5. Pack Jackalism

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pp. 40-62

The media issues that dominated Ito’s time and attention were largely fueled by the outsized personalities, antics, and ambitions of some members of the media. Their impact, however, affected everyone on the courthouse scene, from people massed in the parking lot to spectators gathered in the ...

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Chapter 6. Seeing Stars

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pp. 63-70

Although Ito never wavered from his belief that the trial would amount to no more than an “Andy Warhol moment,” at one point he remarked with a touch of cynicism how surprising it was that suddenly everyone wanted to be his friend. Among the minions were media stars, and ...

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Chapter 7. Getting the Picture

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pp. 71-106

Six months after Simpson’s acquittal, U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter testified at a Congressional committee hearing about courtroom electronic media coverage.
“The day you see a camera come into our courtroom,” he said, in a line ...

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Chapter 8. Who’s to Judge?

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pp. 107-129

If media issues consumed a third of Ito’s time during the trial, jury problems took up another huge chunk.
From secret note-taking for book deals to personality clashes, rebellions, illnesses, and psychological disorders, hardly a day went by from the time the ...

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Chapter 9. If It Please the Court

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pp. 130-141

Dealing with the lawyers in the Simpson case seemed at times like trying to contain a roomful of two-year-olds. Ito fined them, sanctioned them, admonished them from the bench, chided them in chambers, and issued written orders about their ...

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Chapter 10. Judges Judging Judges

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pp. 142-152

The judiciary in every state and at the federal level is subject to an official code of conduct.1 The codes vary somewhat state to state, but they generally cover such areas as independence, impartiality, integrity, impropriety— and equally important, the appearance of impropriety—diligence,

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Chapter 11. More Craziness

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pp. 153-162

Judges weren’t the only officials smearing on clown paint during the trial. When New York radio shock jock Don Imus argued with U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato, R-NY, on an April 1995 “Imus in the Morning” program about delaying the Whitewater hearings until the Simpson trial was over, ...

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Chapter 12. Aftermath

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pp. 163-173

It was over so fast.1
The day after the verdicts, everyone was pulling up stakes. Trash littered the courthouse media center. Broadcast equipment left for future trials, in vain as it turned out, sat idle like ghosts wondering who to haunt. The place resembled a postwar ...

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Chapter 13. From There to Here

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pp. 174-188

One January morning in 1995 soon after the Simpson trial had gotten under way, the Los Angeles Superior Court’s new presiding judge, Gary Klausner, asked what the reaction would be if courtroom-camera coverage were ...

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Chapter 14 . . . And Beyond

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pp. 189-203

Shortly after the 1997 Simpson wrongful-death civil trial, Court Manager magazine ran an article I wrote, titled “What a Difference a Lens Makes.” In it I contrasted Simpson’s two trials, only one of which was televised, and the Menendez brothers’ two trials, of which only one was televised. Of note ...

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Chapter 15. A Blueprint

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pp. 204-214

A few months into the Simpson trial, Ito wanted the media courtroom seating plan revised based on attendance to that point. As expected, the idea created a howl among members of the media. Everyone insisted they had perfect attendance—and even if they didn’t, it wasn’t their fault. (So goes ...

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Postscript: Where Are They Now?

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pp. 215-217

Some of the larger-than-life trial participants and reporters who covered it are no longer among the living. Those who are soldier on. In yet another bizarre twist in the Simpson saga, 2007 found O. J. Simpson once again facing criminal charges, this time in Las Vegas, Nevada, involving the possible robbery ...


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pp. 219-237


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pp. 239-240

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p. 241-241

My deepest appreciation to my former journalism professor Dean Mills for his stellar teaching, mentoring, and fortuitous connections, to University of Missouri Press director and editor in chief Beverly Jarrett for her belief in and enthusiasm for Anatomy of a Trial, to UMP assistant managing ...


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pp. 243-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780826266552
E-ISBN-10: 082626655X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826218223
Print-ISBN-10: 0826218229

Page Count: 266
Illustrations: 26 illus
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1