THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL : Comments in Courtroom
Text of exchanges Thursday involving Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito and Deputy Dist. Attys. Christopher A . Darden and Marcia Clark. These first comments occurred in a sidebar conference called to discuss the prosecution’s objections to a line of questioning by Simpson attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.:
Cochran: They obviously haven’t tried any cases in a long time and obviously don’t know how, but this is cross-examination.
Darden: Who is he talking about, doesn’t know how to try a case?
Ito: Wait, Mr. Darden.
Darden: Is he the only lawyer that knows how to try the case?
Ito: I’m going to hold you in contempt.
Darden: I should be held in contempt. I have sat here and listened to. . . .
Ito: Mr. Darden, I’m warning you right now.
Darden: This cross-examination is out of order.
Later in open court:
Ito: Mr. Darden, let me give you a piece of advice: Take about three deep breaths, as I’m going to do, and then contemplate what you’re going to say next. You want to take a recess now for a moment?
Darden: I don’t require a recess, Your Honor.
Ito: I’ll hear your comment at this point. I’ve cited you (for contempt of court). Do you have any response?
Darden: I would like counsel, Your Honor.
Ito: You can have counsel. You have counsel. Do you want to call your counsel? Do you want to have somebody from your appellate division come down?
Clark: I’d like. . . .
Ito: Do you represent Mr. Darden in this matter?
Clark: I don’t know if I’m legally entitled to, but I would like to be heard on his behalf.
Ito: All right.
Clark: What we are all concerned about here, Your Honor, is that there is a method of cross-examination that is being conducted by Mr. Cochran. . . .
Ito: That’s not what I’m interested in, Miss Clark.
Clark: But that is the impetus for the exchange at sidebar, Your Honor. And we are all of us greatly concerned about what the jury is getting. They’re getting. . . .
Ito: I don’t want to hear this.
Clark: That is what led to the exchange at sidebar, Your Honor.
Clark: (asks for recess to consult with counsel)
Ito: It’s a pretty simple procedure. You wish to pursue this?
Clark: We are only asking for the opportunity at this time to confer with counsel.
Ito: You seem to have two options. Either you offer an apology to the court, and we proceed. Or we proceed to a contempt hearing. Those are your choices. Request for a continuance is denied.
Clark (asks for a moment to confer) Is the court then not going to afford us that opportunity?
Clark: We could proceed with the trial and resolve the matter at the conclusion of the day or in the morning tomorrow. And that way we wouldn’t have to take up any more court time with this matter at this time.
Ito: There’s a very simple way to terminate this, Miss Clark.
Clark: I’m aware of that.
Ito: I think I’ve offered it to you twice already now. I don’t know that I have to do it a third time. But I’m prepared to go forward if you wish to choose, if you choose otherwise.
Clark: Even if the court’s prepared to go forward with the contempt proceeding, we’re entitled to counsel, are we not?
Ito: This is civil contempt, counsel. It has to be adjudicated immediately. Unless you want to make it criminal contempt and have a jury trial. I’d love to see the voir dire in that case.
Clark: Me too. (laughing nervously) Can we use the same jury, Your Honor?
Ito: Miss Clark, now, all levity aside, I’ve offered you three times an opportunity to end this right now. This is very simple. And perhaps if Mr. Darden had the opportunity to review the transcript that I have before me, he would see the wisdom of that.
Clark: And perhaps we would like to review it as well. Why don’t we review the transcript. . . .
Ito: Mr. Spence, your comments aren’t necessary. . . . (reference to a comment from a courtroom observer, attorney Gerry Spence.) I heard it. . . . You guys make me feel like Mr. Kimble. Let me see counsel at the sidebar without the reporter.
After a second sidebar:
Darden: Your Honor, thank you for the opportunity to review the transcript of the sidebar. It appears that the court is correct, that perhaps my comments may have been or are somewhat inappropriate. I apologize to the court. I meant no disrespect. However, I did have some concerns, concerns I would like to take up with the court when the court is available to hear my concerns. I apologize.
Ito: Mr. Darden, I accept your apology. I apologize to you for my reaction as well. You and I have known each other for a number of years, and I know that your response was out of character, and I’ll note it as such.
Darden: Thank you, Your Honor.