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Judge Ito Gives CSUN Student a Scoop : Media: The jurist of O.J. Simpson trial fame agrees to his first post-verdict interview--three questions from a budding journalist.

October 24, 1995|DAVID E. BRADY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Three questions.

That's all Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito would answer, but it became the scoop of Gayle Gomer's still-budding career Monday.

The Cal State Northridge journalism student was preparing a story on cameras in the courtroom when the bearded jurist made famous by the O.J. Simpson double murder trial agreed last week to give his first post-verdict interview.

On camera. In a courtroom.

In a five-minute segment videotaped Friday at the Downtown Criminal Courts Building, the 45-year-old Ito, responding to Gomer's first two questions, said he hadn't evaluated the impact of courtroom cameras but defended his decision to allow Simpson's trial to be televised.

"My gut reaction . . . is that the American public got to see for themselves, every day, all day, how this trial progressed . . . and the American public was able to make up their own mind whether or not this verdict was a just verdict or not," Ito said.

"So I think there's a lot of value in the public being able to see how the judicial system works," he added, explaining that cameras remove the "filtering effect" of reporters' biases and opinions.

For her final question, Gomer asked Ito if he thought the Simpson verdict would have been different if the trial had not been televised.

"I can't speculate on that," was his off-camera reply, according to Gomer.

The interview was broadcast on Cablevision, a cable TV system in the western San Fernando Valley, Monday night during "Valley View," a weekly half-hour news program produced by CSUN students.

Gomer, 21, described the judge as "very nice" and noted that he asked her not to release the interview to other media.

"I told him it would be for Channel 29 in the San Fernando Valley," she said. "I hope he understood that Channel 29 is cable."

Superior Court spokeswoman Susan Yan said Monday that Ito agreed to Gomer's interview request because it was a "class project" and because his remarks would not be "commercialized."

"Basically he was just helping her out," Yan said.

For Gomer, who will graduate in December, it was a brush with the so-called "Trial of the Century," an experience that left the Long Island native a little numb.

"I know I should be happy but I'm really worried" about the judge's reaction, she said, explaining that she feared commercial television stations would tape the segment and rebroadcast it, raising Ito's ire.

"If that happens I'll be very upset," she said. "I just want to make sure he knows we didn't disobey his order."

In its 6 p.m. newscast Monday night, KNBC-TV Channel 4 aired a segment noting that Gomer had interviewed Ito, but used none of the taped interview and did not disclose the judge's remarks.

CNN reported the interview, briefly summarizing the judge's remarks.

A CSUN student since fall of 1994, Gomer said she enjoys the "excitement" of covering a story and seeing the finished product, but admitted that her tete-a-tete with Ito wasn't the highlight of her education.

"After I did this, I wasn't ecstatic," she said. "I was like, 'This is nice,' you know?"

Gomer said she took more pride in an earlier piece on crime in Los Angeles that "took a lot of effort."

And despite Ito's endorsement of cameras in courtrooms, Gomer herself is against televising trials, arguing that defendants should have the right to prohibit live TV coverage.

"Even though I'm in the media I feel that it's a bad thing," she said. "Some things are private and I don't think cases should be public."

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