January 25, 1995 in Nation/World

Lawyer Analysts Miss Real Drama Of O.J.’S Trial

Ed Siegel Boston Globe
 

Will Judge Lance Ito go through with his threat to keep television cameras out of the courtroom because a Court TV cameraman inadvertently shot an alternate O.J. Simpson juror?

Perhaps he will be doing the country a favor if he does. How much more of superstar lawyers trying to be the John Maddens of the legal profession can we take?

If you’ve been watching trial coverage the past couple of days, you might be feeling a little like Shakespeare’s Dick the butcher. “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” he proclaimed in “Henry VI, Part II.”

And that was well before Monday night’s “Nightline,” when Leslie Abramson started slobbering over what the effect of “the hunk” approaching the jury “without an inch of cellulite” on “the bod” would be.

It also was before Tuesday’s cacophony of analyses during every break in the action, as they say in the sports world. Sports analogies seemed unavoidable as Abramson, Peter Arenella, Roy Black and other network legal eagles second-guessed Deputy District Attorney Christopher Darden’s opening statement with all the obnoxious outrage of fans calling in to sports radio.

Granted, this is first and foremost a legal story and shedding light on who scored what points is of interest, perhaps even of paramount interest. But Black and many of his colleagues seemed to be scoring as if they were auditioning Marcia Clark and Darden for a Hollywood movie, rather than evaluating the content of their opening statements.

In constructing a drama around the styles of the lawyers, the analysts missed the drama that the Court TV pool camera was capturing so eloquently: Simpson smiling and turning to his ex-wife’s family and shaking his head as if to say he didn’t do it; Nicole’s mother breaking down in tears both before and after Simpson turned to her; the faces of the other members of the Brown and Goldman families alternating between unspeakable sorrow and outrage.

The low-key presentations of the lawyers was such a minor story compared with the other issues raised Tuesday. The networks would have been better off relying more on their reporters and less on the gaggle of lawyers they had assembled.

They also would have been better off expanding the range of analysis. Let’s hear Camille Paglia and Cornell West talk about racial and gender issues or Robert (“Spenser”) Parker and David E. (“L.A. Law”) Kelley talk about the human drama.

We needn’t kill the lawyers. But at least let’s get most of them off television.


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