Retired Judge Ito Endorses Darden for Superior Court
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito—who became the world’s most famous sitting judge when he presided over the globally televised O.J. Simpson murder trial that stretched from Nov. 9, 1994 to Oct. 3, 1995—has endorsed a prosecutor in that case, Christopher Darden, in his bid for an open seat on the county’s Superior Court.
The endorsement was announced Friday night by Crystal Litz/LP Campaigns, a professional consulting firm.
Its press release says:
“Christopher Darden and Lance Ito are both well known for their respective roles in the OJ Simpson trial, but Darden and Ito have a longer history. Mr. Darden and Mr. Ito worked together as prosecutors in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Hard Core Gangs unit prior to Ito becoming a Judge.”
“After Darden left the District Attorney’s office, his first case back in court (this time as a criminal attorney) happened to be in front of Judge Ito—so the Judge has seen Darden work on both sides of the courtroom.”
Darden is quoted as remarking:
“I have always had tremendous respect for Judge Lance Ito. As a prosecutor, a Judge and retired jurist, Judge Ito has always conducted himself with the utmost professionalism and sets the standard for fairness on the bench. I am so honored to have his support as I now seek a seat on the Superior Court.”
Ito is presently on the bench, serving on assignment. He was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by Gov. George Deukmejian, now deceased, on Dec. 16, 1987 and was elevated by Deukmejian to what was then the upper trial bench on July 13, 1989, retiring on Jan. 5, 2015.
Given that the Simpson trial ended 28 years ago, many voters were too young at the time to remember it or weren’t even born yet. But among those who do recall the “trial of the century,” as it was widely dubbed, Darden will have high name recognition, possibly giving him an edge.
Trying on Gloves
However, recollections of Darden are not entirely favorable. What is generally regarded as a blunder by him is frequently cited as a reason—perhaps the major reason—for the jury’s acquittal of Simpson in the 1994 slaying of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
He asked Simpson to try on two blood-soaked gloves, one found at the murder scene, the other in front of Simpson’s home. The former National Football League running back and Hall of Famer, turned actor, struggled with them and proclaimed that they didn’t fit.
Darden said in a June 23, 2016 ABC News show that it was not a “bad moment” for the prosecution, explaining: “I think it’s a wonderful moment, actually. A lot has been said about these gloves. I sit back and watch my former friends and former colleagues talk about that. I think they’re being disingenuous in some ways.
“I stood there with [Simpson]. I let him put those gloves on. Why not? They’re his gloves. And the gloves fit the same way they had always fit him.”
He added that Simpson was “a better actor than I thought he was.”
O.J. Simpson appears to be struggling in putting on gloves allegedly belonging to him.
However, Marcia Clark, lead prosecutor in the case, wrote in her book, “Without a Doubt,” that when Darden readied to ask Simpson to try on the gloves, she admonished:
“Don’t do it. I’m warning you.”
She quotes him as insisting:
“This is my witness.”
After Simpson tried on the gloves, Clark recounts, she said to herself (the italicizing is hers):
“That’s it. We just lost the case.”
In his summation, defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran, now deceased, leading member of the “dream team” of defenders, told jurors, with reference to the gloves: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”—and they did.
Termination of Employment
On the day of the Oct. 3, 1995 verdict, Darden embarked on a one-year paid leave of absence that had been awarded by his office based on the long hours devoted by prosecutors in the case. He claimed in a 2016 podcast that while on leave, he learned of a newspaper report that he had been fired for job-abandonment and that then-District Attorney Gil Garcetti confirmed in a note that “[Y]ou’re fired.”
He is now an attorney in Fountain Valley. He has taught at Southwestern Law School and been a legal commentator on various television networks and has authored a book on the O.J. Simpson, trial, “In Contempt,” as well as co-authoring two crime novels.
Simpson was released on parole on Oct. 1, 2017 after serving nine years of a 33-year sentence for a 2007 armed robbery in a Las Vegas hotel room.
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