Since 1994 people have been outraged that the OJ Simpson trial was held in downtown Los Angeles instead of Santa Monica. The outraged voices have used the Santa Monica Myth to explain the acquittal of OJ Simpson. In examining, the various excuses offered by the outraged voices to explain why Mr. Simpson, who they believe to be guilty, was acquitted, I was reminded of the chorus of the song Blame It On The Rain by Milli Vanilli:
“Gotta blame it on something
Blame it on the rain that was falling, falling
Blame it on the stars that shine at night
Whatever you do
Don’t put the blame on you
Blame it on the rain, yeah-yeah
You can blame it on the rain”
However when it comes to rationalizing Mr. Simpson’s acquittal, his detractors blame it on far more than just the rain and the stars that shine at night. As you will learn, every excuse is connected to Santa Monica.
What is the Santa Monica Myth?
I’ve branded the excuses that we will review as “The Santa Monica Myth” because all of them are factually inaccurate as they do not accurately explain why the trial was held in the Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles and not the Santa Monica Courthouse.
Make no mistake about it, the outrage about the Simpson trial not being held in Santa Monica is rooted in both racism (overt and subtle, conscious and unintentional) and socioeconomic bigotry. Willful ignorance of both the outraged and the media has allowed the Santa Monica Myth to persist; whereas the facts both negate the Myth and mute the arguments that have been used to fuel the outrage for over 20 years.
The Roots of the Santa Monica Myth
Questions about the venue for California v. Simpson were first articulated by Maura Dolan, who was then the Los Angeles Times Legal Affairs Writer, on September 25, 1994, one day prior to the start of jury selection. Dolan’s article offered mostly factual insights into what a Simpson jury could look like and did not invoke any stereotypes or offer any speculations about how diversity might impact the trial.
You’ve Got To Blame It On Something…
Blame It On The Blacks
The racist dog whistle was first blown by Roger Simon, who is currently the Chief Political Columnist for Politico, but in 1994 was a staff columnist for the Baltimore Sun. It was Simon’s October 12, 1994 column which laid the foundation for the Santa Monica Myth:
Poor blacks may hold Simpson’s fate
October 12, 1994 | By Roger Simon | Baltimore Sun Columnist
It is all taking place in the wrong place.
The trial of O. J. Simpson is taking place in the bleak concrete box that is the Criminal Courts Building of even bleaker downtown Los Angeles.
The murders with which Simpson is charged were committed miles from here in the posh, leafy-green neighborhood of Brentwood. And while Brentwood is too small to have its own courthouse, there is a perfectly good one right next door in equally posh Santa Monica.
Simpson could have been — some would say should have been — tried there, near the scene of the crime. This is what ordinarily happens to defendants in Los Angeles.
But nothing about this case is ordinary.
And while hundreds of reporters still spend their time tramping ,, through Brentwood, gawking at the crime scene and lunching at Mezzaluna, they would probably be better off walking through downtown L.A.’s Skid Row or through the Latino neighborhood of East L.A. or the black neighborhood of Watts.
Because that is where Simpson’s jury is going to come from. It is going to come from those neighborhoods that radiate outward in a circle from downtown Los Angeles, those neighborhoods that Simpson has rarely, if ever, ventured through.
Which is the irony: The people that O. J. Simpson has spent a lifetime avoiding now will determine what happens to the rest of his life.
Not that Simpson is complaining.
In fact, the news is very, very good for him.
And this is why:
There are 11 court districts in the vast sprawl that is Los Angeles County.
Ten of them produce juries that are disproportionately white compared with the county’s overall population.
One of them, the Central Court District of downtown Los Angeles, however, produces juries that are disproportionately black.
And that is where O. J. Simpson is being tried.
Ron Chaleff, an attorney who tries many “downtown” cases, believes the final makeup of Simpson’s jury is likely to be 40 percent to 60 percent minority members.
So does this give Simpson a break, a greater chance of finding a sympathetic jury?
Well, yes. You could say that.
“It is a definite boon for the defense,” Edgar Butler, professor of sociology at the University of California at Riverside and co-author of “Race and the Jury,” said. “The race of the jury makes a real difference to the outcome of a trial.”
But how did this come to be? Who changed the location of Simpson’s trial?
Mike Botula, news secretary to Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, told me the police determined the location.
“Normally, in the geographic scheme of things, this case would have gone to Santa Monica for trial,” he said. “But the Los Angeles police department determined that its elite robbery/homicide unit should handle it and that meant it came downtown.”
Which is not at all what his boss, Gil Garcetti, said when I caught up with him yesterday morning.
“It’s being tried downtown because it’s a long-duration case,” Garcetti, who has one of those Hollywood complexions that makes him look as if he is lit from within, said. “So the case could have been tried here or Van Nuys.”
And Van Nuys was, indeed, where the Menendez brothers’ murder trial was held.
But there is another theory as to why prosecutors moved the O. J. Simpson trial to the worst possible location for them and the best possible location for Simpson:
Gil Garcetti, at least one national prominent criminal defense attorney believes, is an idiot.
“Mr. Garcetti has an extraordinarily poor record of losing major cases,” attorney Barry Tarlow told me. “Mr. Garcetti simply shot himself in the foot. His only duty is to win this case. If he loses this case, he will probably be booted out of office by the citizens.
“But Garcetti would have been significantly better off trying this case in Santa Monica than in downtown Los Angeles. Downtown, he will probably get a majority minority member jury. A downtown jury is a very tough jury for a prosecutor.”
Tarlow believes that Garcetti goofed by attempting to get an indictment of Simpson through a grand jury.
The grand jury, which meets only downtown, would have allowed Garcetti to keep the prosecution case secret and would have kept his witnesses free from cross-examination.
But Garcetti’s plan was foiled by a judge who found that the grand jury had been tainted by outside publicity.
So the grand jury was dismissed, and Garcetti was forced to take his case to a preliminary hearing instead.
“And both the preliminary hearing and now the trial had to be tried downtown, because that is where Garcetti began with the grand jury,” Tarlow said. “If he tried to take the case to Santa Monica, it would have looked as if he was trying to avoid a black jury! And so Garcetti was trapped.”
Rodney King recalled
But how about another theory: Maybe Garcetti, a professional politician, wanted to avoid another riot like the one that happened after the Rodney King verdict.
In 1991, King, a black motorist was stopped by police after a long car chase.
As most of the world now knows, King was savagely beaten by the police and that beating was captured on videotape.
The officers were tried, however, by a jury that contained no African-Americans.
And when, on April 29, 1992, the jury found the officers not guilty, four days of rioting broke out in Los Angeles that left 53 dead, 2,400 injured and more than $800 million in property damage.
Which would tend to remind people about the importance of having minorities on juries in Los Angeles.
But Tarlow isn’t buying that theory, perhaps because it makes Garcetti look too responsible.
“If you believe that theory, you believe in the tooth fairy,” Tarlow said. “I happen to like Gil Garcetti. He’s a nice fella. But he’s not qualified to be district attorney. And now he will not get a conviction of O. J. Simpson.”
Nobody yet knows, of course, what the O. J. Simpson jury will actually look like. The one-on-one questioning of jurors begins today. And even if the jury has many blacks on it, that is no guarantee that Simpson will be found not guilty.
But there is also no doubt that Simpson is going to want jurors from neighborhoods like the one he came from. A neighborhood he made sure he never would have to go back to.
I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, the old joke goes, and rich is better.
O.J. Simpson knows that joke.
He grew up poor in the housing projects of San Francisco and ended up in Brentwood in Los Angeles, where the price of the average home is $1.4 million. The mayor of Los Angeles lives in Brentwood. As do Roseanne and James Garner. As does Gil Garcetti.
It is not the wealthiest neighborhood in Los Angeles, but it is one of the prettiest and most comfortable.
It is the kind of place O. J. Simpson’s friends knew he would choose, just as he chose virtually all-white University of Southern California to attend when he could have chosen any college in the country.
$5 million house
Simpson bought a 6,000-square-foot home (almost exactly 100 times larger than the cell he now occupies) for $5 million. He owned expensive cars. He made good money (though the Los Angeles riots destroyed his chicken franchise.)
But, still, he feared what all poor kids who become rich fear: He feared losing it. He feared going back. He feared being ordinary.
He told people that he worried about what would happen when someday he would go into a restaurant and the maitre d’ would treat him like a regular person instead of a star.
“When all the adulation is withdrawn, it’s traumatic, Jack,” he told an interviewer.
And he had a thing, he admitted, for white women. Especially “Farrah Fawcett types,” he said.
“He wasn’t trying to pass as a white person and he didn’t espouse being a black person,” Jerry Burgdoerfer, a former Hertz executive, told Newsweek. “He never looked at himself as an Afro-American. He never did. He only looked at himself as O. J. Simpson.”
He divorced a black wife and married a white one. He belonged to the Riviera Country Club, where he was one of the few black members. He did a few things that were very “Hollywood,” like holding an annual Fourth of July party where everyone always got thrown into his swimming pool.
He also did one thing that everybody does: He got older. He stopped drinking orange juice because he felt the citric acid effected his arthritic knees. He got divorced again. And, according to some, he stalked Nicole, jealous of the younger men she now was seeing.
He is 47. Nicole was 35. Ron Goldman was 25.
Nicole’s friend, Cora Fischman, said she once heard Nicole taunt Simpson by saying: “You’re old! You’re too old for me!”
Unable to hit back at Simpson physically, Nicole hit back the only way she could. Perhaps she hit back harder than she knew.
“Please think of the real O. J. and not this lost person,” he wrote in his final note before he fled in his Ford Bronco.
And now he sits in a cell in downtown Los Angeles, hoping to persuade a downtown jury that the real O. J. is really one of them.
Following Mr. Simpson’s acquittal, some of the most respected national news publications pointed the finger at the diversity of the jurors selected from the downtown district when, had the trial been held in Santa Monica, a lily White jury would have determined Mr. Simpson’s fate:
What Went Wrong?
A guide to where the case went wrong
October 15 1995. Newsweek magazine
It was perhaps the most critical decision that prosecutors made: where to try Simpson.
In sprawling Los Angeles, cases tend to be tried in courthouses closest to the crime. For Simpson that would have been in Santa Monica, an affluent, mostly white area, about four miles from Bundy.
But the courthouse there had been damaged by an earthquake and its security was not adequate for the coming frenzy.
Should Los Angeles D.A. Gil Garcetti move the case downtown, where control was better, access was more convenient, a grand jury was already sitting?
He moved the case. But going downtown meant drawing jurors from surrounding neighborhoods. They tended to be black and Hispanic and not terribly well educated; that profile favored the defense.
This was not a decision taken lightly. Garcetti might have tried for the Van Nuys courthouse, but the Menendez brothers were filling the pews. Or he might have bused in a jury pool from the white West Side, out by Rockingham, but that could well have sent his political career up in smoke. Garcetti, after all, had won his job after the previous district attorney lost the first Rodney King beating trial before an all-white jury.
The racial makeup of the potential jurors wasn’t the state’s only problem. It was little noticed that Judge Lance It to had also winnowed the jury pool to people who were often poorly educated or informed. To prevent bias, he eliminated potential jurors who admitted to watching TV and radio shows or visiting bookstores. But that tended to leave jurors who might be more easily swayed by the defense’s arguments and less able to ingest arcane scientific evidence.
Donald Vinson, who had advised the prosecution as a jury consultant but was soon dismissed, says his analysis found that of the 307 potential jurors the “vast majority were predisposed to believe Simpson was innocent.”
Yes, that is the highly influential weekly news magazine with the second highest circulation (in 1995) unabashedly, unequivocally stating that the Simpson jurors were too dumb and too Black to be fair. Newsweek insists that the trial was lost when it was moved to the Downtown district and insinuates that if it had been held in Santa Monica the lily White jury would have provided a different verdict.
The headline of Miles Corwin’s November 27, 1995 article in the Los Angeles Times is “Location of Trial Can Be Crucial to Outcome, Experts Say: Court: Simpson case is latest to show importance of jury pool.”, however based on the content, an alternate headline might be “Blacks dumb, Whites smart: Should Blacks be allowed to serve on juries?”
Location of Trial Can Be Crucial to Outcome, Experts Say: Court: Simpson case is latest to show importance of jury pool.
Miles Corwin. Los Angeles Times. November 27, 1995.
Juries drawn for the Santa Monica courthouse are more affluent, better educated and have a different ethnic mix than those at the Downtown courthouse. A Westside jury in the Simpson double-murder trial, legal experts say, would have been much more receptive to the prosecution’s case.
“Once it was determined that the case was going to be tried Downtown, the outcome was . . . almost a fait accompli– that jury was not going to convict O.J. Simpson,” said Donald Vinson, who heads DecisionQuest, a Torrance jury-consulting firm that briefly assisted prosecutors in the case. “The civil trials in Santa Monica will be an entirely different story.”
You’ve Got To Blame It On Something…
Blame It On The Quake
On January 17, 1994, at 4:31 am, the Northridge Earthquake, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. The Santa Monica Courthouse was among the buildings that suffered severe damaged.
New York Post. April 10, 2016
The January 1994 Northridge Earthquake also worked in Simpson’s favor. It removed any chance — as many had suggested — for Garcetti to move the trial venue to more affluent Santa Monica, where a wealthier and whiter jury might have decided differently.
“The court [in Santa Monica] had been wrecked by the earthquake so we had to have it downtown … they had built on the 9th floor of the Superior Court downtown a courtroom to handle high-profile, high-security and high-media case like O.J.’s, so we had to have it there,” he said.
You’ve Got To Blame It On Something…
Blame It On Garcetti
Lou Cannon covered politics for The Washington Post for 26 years (1972-1998) as a political reporter, White House correspondent, columnist and Los Angeles bureau chief. Mr. Cannon has won numerous awards including the White House Correspondents Association’s coveted Aldo Beckman award (1984) for overall excellence in presidential coverage. Mr. Cannon was both respected and influential.
Mr. Cannon’s ignorance and biases were apparent in his article “It Wasn’t the Jurors’ Fault” published in the Washington Post on October 8, 1995.
In the Simpson trial the prosecution stacked the deck against itself. District Attorney Gil Garcetti, who was elected because of backlash to the riots, had a choice of trying Simpson in downtown Los Angeles or Santa Monica, near Simpson’s Brentwood home.
Garcetti amazingly chose a downtown trial even though he knew that the demographics of the Santa Monica area would produce a more diverse jury pool. Like Weisberg, he seems to have been motivated by reasons of convenience. He may also have assumed that the evidence was so overwhelming that it made no difference where Simpson was tried.
But race matters in criminal trials, as in other aspects of American life. Jurors in both cases deny that their verdicts were race-based, but racial perceptions influenced the way they viewed the evidence.
You’ve Got To Blame It On Something…
Blame It On The Grand Jury
Scott Turow is an attorney and author of many bestselling legal thrillers, including Burden of Proof and Presumed Innocent. Appearing on the 2005 episode of Frontline titled The OJ Verdict, Turow blamed the Grand Jury for the trial being held in the downtown district and not Santa Monica:
Why did the prosecution use Detective Mark Fuhrman? Many people, even some of the defense lawyers, say that state would have won if they just left Fuhrman out of the case. But they didn’t.
In retrospect, the question of how everything happened is the usual comedy of errors. And I don’t say that in a way to criticize either the L.A. police or the L.A. County DA’s Office. As I recall the testimony, Fuhrman kind of wormed his way into the case that wasn’t even properly his. But on the other hand, he was knowledgeable, and he was a very successful detective.
But one of the things that every law student ought to be taught about the Simpson case is that initial decisions can carry enormous consequences, because once Fuhrman goes into the Simpson house and is involved in taking those statements from O.J., he’s in the case. If you’re going to use the statements or the evidence that’s gleaned as a result, he’s in your case. He’s your case.
And the same thing happened with the decision to indict Simpson by grand jury, which meant that the case had to be taken from the suburbs to downtown. And basically the decision is — and Gil Garcetti claims that he made this decision consciously, and probably did — you’re going from a largely white, suburban jury to an inner-city jury by taking the case downtown, to indict it in front of the grand jury.
Now, Garcetti has said he had the [Rodney] King riots in mind. He didn’t think that he could convict somebody of the stature of O.J. Simpson in front of a white jury, and so he decided to make sure that he would have an inner-city jury. That’s what he says. and it’s quite possible that that was his thought process.
Debunking a Myth: An Examination of High Profile Los Angeles County Criminal Trials 1984 – 1994
McMartin Preschool Molestation Case
The McMartin Preschool was located in Manhattan Beach, California. In March 1984, Virginia McMartin, Peggy McMartin Buckey, Ray Buckey, Ray’s sister Peggy Ann Buckey and teachers Mary Ann Jackson, Betty Raidor, and Babette Spitler were charged with 115 counts of child abuse, later expanded to 321 counts of child abuse involving 48 children who attended the McMartin Preschool. Since the crimes were committed in Manhattan Beach the criminal trial should have been held at the Torrance Courthouse, however it was held at the criminal courts building in downtown Los Angeles.
The defendants argued that a change of venue was necessary because the nature and extent of pretrial publicity about what at first appeared to be the largest child abuse case in U.S. history would make it impossible to find an impartial jury. Their request was denied.
LAPD Officers who brutalized Rodney King
At 12:30 AM on Sunday, March 3, 1991, motorist Rodney King was stopped by LAPD for speeding in the Pacoima area of the northeastern. San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. In the next few minutes, King would be surrounded by at least a dozen Los Angeles police officers, some of whom beat him fiercely. The attack of Mr. King by LAPD officers was captured on videotape by George Holliday, who subsequently provided the footage to a Los Angeles television station.
On March 14, 1991, four of the twelve LAPD officers who beat Mr. King were criminally charged with use of excessive force. Since the crime was committed in Pacoima, the criminal trial should have been held at the San Fernando Courthouse, but it was not.
The trial was initially set to be held in the criminal courts building in downtown Los Angeles. Superior Court Judge Bernard Kamins denied a request for a change of venue, filed by attorneys representing the four officers. On June 20, 1991, UPI reported Judge Kamins rationale for denying the change of venue:
The judge said his view that a fair jury could be found in Los Angeles County has not changed, regardless of a defense motion before the appeal court alleging that the political firestorm stemming from the case could further influence local jurors.
Kamins, noting that Los Angeles County jurors may be residents of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills or other surrounding cities, said, ‘I feel a fair trial can be had by this community and I have no doubt about it.’
In July 1991 the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that the trial could not be held in Los Angeles County. In November 1991 Superior Court Judge Stanley M. Weisberg decided that the trial would be held in Simi Valley, California.
I must admit that I have absolutely no idea why the 1993 trial of Erik and Lyle Menendez for the murder of their parents was held in Van Nuys and not Santa Monica — it appears that the reason has never been reported. The murders occurred in Beverly Hills, so the trial should have been held at the Santa Monica Courthouse, but for unknown reasons it was moved to Van Nuys.
The 1993 trial of Erik and Lyle Menendez ended in a mistrial. Citing damage to the Van Nuys courthouse caused by the January 14, 1994 earthquake, the Los Angeles County District Attorney filed a motion in February 1994 to change the venue from Van Nuys to the criminal courts building in downtown Los Angeles.
Defense attorney Jill Lansing said the place for a transfer–if there is to be one–is to Santa Monica, the courthouse nearest Beverly Hills, where the slayings occurred.
“It has always been our request that it be handled in Santa Monica,” Lansing said. “If not in Santa Monica, I’m not sure what the rationale is for having it in the Criminal Courts Building.”
The rationale, prosecutors said in legal papers, is that the brothers were indicted Downtown and the transfer would simply be moving the case “back to the courthouse from which it came.”
Some legal observers suggested that the maneuvering over the site of a retrial was evidence of the belief on both sides that the outcome of the retrial could hinge on jury selection. They said prosecutors probably believe that the blue-collar jury pool Downtown is likely to be less sympathetic to the brothers’ emotional claims of abuse than the suburban jury pool in the San Fernando Valley–and far less sympathetic than in affluent Santa Monica.
From the prosecutors’ perspective, said defense lawyer Harland W. Braun, “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where it should go.”
Some pre-indictment hearings in the case were held in Santa Monica, but the trial was moved to Van Nuys when it was assigned to Weisberg, who is based there.
Prosecutors said the Downtown Criminal Courts Building offers the added advantage of high-security courtrooms, which would “be ideal for controlling media access to the trial proceedings and for insulating jurors from media contact.”
No Outrage About Those High Profile Cases
The preceding compendium was produced by searching three of the most comprehensive electronic databases of newspaper and magazine articles and transcripts of TV broadcasts. Despite having access to these best-in-class tools, this process was incredibly time consuming because not a single article has ever been written by an individual outraged about the fact that any of those three high profile cases were not adjudicated in the judicial district in which the crime occurred.
In contrast, if one enters ‘OJ Santa Monica criminal trial’ into a search engine, the seemingly infinite number of results – of which the majority are from outraged voices — will overwhelm them.
The Other TMZ — The Twenty Mile Zone
The 1993 trial of Damian Monroe Williams and Henry Keith Watson, charged with attempted murder for the April 29, 1992, beating of Reginald Denny, telecast live during the onset of the Los Angeles riots revealed an unspoken truth about Los Angeles County juries.
Given the media attention the footage of Reginald Denny’s beating attained, there was concern about the ability to find an impartial jury. According to the July 23, 1993 edition of the Baltimore Sun, in selecting the jury for the trial of Williams and Watson, Los Angeles County court officials sent 3,600 jury summonses to people living within a 20-mile radius of the downtown Criminal Courts Building. The 20-mile radius includes: Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Bel Air, Compton, Inglewood.
The court had mailed 1,200 summonses to people living within a 20-mile radius of the Superior Court building downtown, ordering them to appear Wednesday.
Why wasn’t I sent to a courthouse closer to my home?
Because the law requires a fair cross-section of the county’s residence to be summoned, it is not always possible to summons residents to the closest courthouse. All jurors are summoned by a computerized process. Jurors are summoned from a 20-mile radius of a given court based on the needs of the parties seeking trial. The assignment is made taking into consideration the location of the juror and the location of the court which needs jurors at the time the juror is summoned.
Let’s examine what falls into the 20-Mile Radius of the Criminal Courts Building in Downtown Los Angeles:
If Los Angeles County had followed the same method that was used in the trial of Watson and Williams just one year earlier, jurors summons would have been sent to men and women from Beverly Hills to Watts and everywhere in between.
In fact, we do not know that they did not take advantage of the 20-Mile rule in the Simpson case.
Debunking the Santa Monica Myth: The Actual Reason The OJ Simpson Trial Was Not Held in Santa Monica
In the aftermath of a verdict that they disagreed with, the outraged, willfully ignorant “gotta blame it on something” but rather than “blame it on the rain that was falling, falling” or “the stars that shine at night,” they blame “uneducated” African-Americans, District Attorney Gil Garcetti, the Los Angeles County Grand Jury and the Northridge Earthquake.
If we are being honest, this was a subtle way for people to avoid articulating their anger that a lily White, “educated” Santa Monica jury did not get the opportunity to ‘get the [insert racial slur here].’ — Subtle, disgusting and, most importantly, uninformed.
For over 20 years, the truth has been suppressed — willful ignorance.
In an incredibly detailed article published in 2010, Metropolitan News editor Roger M. Grace spoke with the men who made the decision.
What is Metropolitan News?
The Metropolitan News-Enterprise (Met News) is Los Angeles’ leading legal newspaper. Founded in 1901, Met News provides intensive coverage of the legal profession, courts, and politics in Los Angeles County.
Roger M Grace has been with Metropolitan News since 1972. Grace spent his first five years with the publication as its editor. In 1977, he was named the legal newspaper’s publisher.
Roger M Grace has been cultivating sources and building relationships throughout the Los Angeles legal community for more than 40 years. Under his leadership, Metropolitan News established itself as THE legal paper of record.
What Really Happened?
Much of the blame for the Santa Monica Myth can be blamed on the man who the news media says made the decision to file the case in the Downtown district: Gil Garcetti.
Garcetti defended his decision in a recent interview, contending that the case would have been moved Downtown even if he had filed it in Santa Monica.
“We always knew this case was going to be tried Downtown,” Garcetti said. “We knew it couldn’t be tried in Santa Monica. . . . It was a given . . . based on our experience and the history of big cases.”
Although a number of current and former judges disagree, Garcetti cited several reasons: The Santa Monica courthouse suffered tremendous damage during the Northridge earthquake, the facility is too small, its court calendar was “grossly overcrowded” and it did not have adequate security to handle a long-term, high-profile trial. He added that the county had spent more than $1 million renovating courtrooms on the ninth floor of the Criminal Courts Building for high-profile cases such as Simpson.
As Roger M Grace, rightly, points out in his 2010 Metropolitan News article:
The public assumed the decision had been his, and he didn’t dispute it. Why? Garcetti has declined to be interviewed, pursuant to his policy of not talking about his years as DA.
However, Garcetti did reveal the truth 1996 reelection campaign as the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported on March 23, 1996:
One oft-repeated complaint, that [Garcetti] made the decision to move the trial downtown from Santa Monica, is just plain inaccurate, he says. The decision was made by the Superior Court without any input from his office, he says, but it made sense and he accepted it as a foregone conclusion because the case was so large.
In 2010, journalist Roger M Grace leveraged the relationships that he had built over decades of reporting on Los Angeles legal matters and spoke on the record with the men who made the decision to hold the OJ Simpson trial at the Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles.
Judge Robert Mallano is currently the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals. In 1994, Judge Mallano was the Presiding Judge of Los Angeles County Superior Courts.
“Here’s the truth,” Mallano says. “It gets ignored.
“The determination wasn’t Garcetti’s that the matter not be heard in Santa Monica.” The court made the determination, he tells me, “for security reasons and because of earthquake damage” in Santa Monica.
The Court of Appeal presiding justice, who heads this district’s Div. One, says the recommendation was made to him by [Supervising Judge of the Criminal Courts Cecil J] Mills; he [Judge Mallano] consulted with the West District supervising judge, David Rothman, who concurred; and he gave his approval.
“Garcetti got blamed for it,” Mallano notes. It was the court’s decision, he reiterates, adding: “I keep telling everybody that.”
He says he told that to a reporter at a time Garcetti was drawing criticism, but it wasn’t included in the story.
Mallano adds: “Historically, the big cases were tried downtown. The fact that O.J. was tried downtown is more the observance than the breach.”
“The thing that was correct to do was bring that case to a place where we had a high-security environment.”
That, he reflects, was “one of the easier decisions” in connection with the case.
Had the case been tried in the West District, he opines, “it would have just devoured the Santa Monica court and shut them down.”
He related the decision to hold the trial downtown, he says, to Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman and others on the prosecution team during the time the preliminary hearing was in progress.
There you have it, the venue for the OJ Simpson trial was determined by Presiding Judge of Los Angeles County Superior Courts Robert Mallano in consultation with Supervising Judge of the Criminal Courts Cecil J Mills and Supervising Judge of the West District David Rothman.
Their decision was rooted in security and not wanting to shut down all other business at the Santa Monica Courthouse for one case. It is important to remember that criminal trial (1994-1995) attained a million times more visibility than the civil trial. Moreover, most importantly, during the criminal trial OJ Simpson was a guest of the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail.
The most important revelation is that in order to select an unbiased jury in the 1993 trial of Damian Monroe Williams and Henry Keith Watson for the attempted murder of Reginald Denny, summons for jury duty were mailed to citizens of Los Angeles who lived within 20 miles of the Criminal Courts Building.
This 20-mile radius includes the following Los Angeles neighborhoods: Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Bel Air, Compton, Inglewood, etc.
We do not know whether the jury summons for the trial of OJ Simpson followed the same method as the 1993 trial of Damian Monroe Williams and Henry Keith Watson; but it is likely that they did use the same method and cull the jury from throughout the 20-mile zone.
The truth is undeniable:
The jurors were chosen by agreement of both the prosecution and defense teams – neither side used all of their challenges; they were happy with who they selected.
Considering that It is more likely than not that jurors were culled from the entire 20-mile zone, had the trial been held at the Santa Monica Courthouse it is highly unlikely that the dreams of many of a lily White jury would not have come to fruition.
The Santa Monica Myth is just that…a myth.
Although so many who propagate the Santa Monica Myth have the attitude that “Whatever you do, Don’t put the blame on you,” given the facts revealed in this article it might be wise for those folks to buy a mirror.