updated 2/13/2004 4:19:21 PM ET 2004-02-13T21:19:21

Everyone has to stop fearing that every high-profile trial will become the next O.J.  It won't.

I‘ve covered just about all the highest profile cases of the past 10 years and O.J. was one of a kind.  And yet, many California courtrooms feel like they're still haunted by the ghosts of Judge Ito and Johnnie Cochran. 

Based on recent rulings and legislative efforts, you would think it just happened last week rather than almost a decade ago.  In both the Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson cases, sweeping gag orders prevent any of the people who really know the cases from talking about them and almost all the evidence is sealed. 

I assure you that will not prevent anyone from talking about these cases --  and it doesn't matter what the media does or doesn't do.  People will continue to talk about it on the Internet, in their communities, wherever.  So rather than public discussion of whether the charges are legitimate based on evidence, is it becomes based at least in part on speculation. 

Prosecutor David Harris in the Peterson case said, "the media has taken great steps to place themselves in the middle of this case."  Come on.  I know they don‘t want their missteps reported, they just want people to listen to them, but this has nothing to do with the big bad media putting themselves in the middle of anything. 

And the defense doesn't seem to want the public to see the evidence either.  Gee, I wonder why.  Now the judge in Peterson is even sealing the witness list although witnesses are subject to the gag order.  So rather than knowing who we‘re not supposed to talk to, we in the media have to guess. 

An ever greater overreaction is being considered by some of the California legislature to ban all cameras from their courtrooms, basically saying we just don‘t trust our judges to control their courtrooms. 

In every discussion about gag orders, keeping evidence sealed, and cameras in the courtroom, the Simpson case is cited by those trying to keep the public in the dark. 

Rather than fearing the ghosts of O.J., I call on judges to show the world that they can run efficient public trials.  Restore public confidence in the legal system.  Prove that a camera in the courtroom does not have to suddenly transform a no-nonsense judge into a cowering fan.  Otherwise, your Honors, you‘re selling yourselves short. 


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