Lance Ito

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Lance Ito
Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court
In office
1987–2015
Personal details
Born Lance Allan Ito
(1950-08-02) August 2, 1950 (age 66)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Spouse(s) Margaret Ann York

Lance Allan Ito (born August 2, 1950) is a Japanese American retired judge best known for presiding over the O.J. Simpson murder trial while on the bench of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California. He heard felony criminal cases at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Early life and career[edit]

Ito was born to Jimmy and Toshi Ito. Both his parents were kept in Japanese American internment camps with their families during World War II. Ito attended John Marshall High School, where he was student body president and received the Scholar Athlete award in 1968. He earned his bachelor's degree with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1972, and his J.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley's Boalt Hall in 1975. He then joined the Los Angeles district attorney's office in 1977, working in the hardcore gang unit and the organized crime and terror unit, among others.[1]

In 1981, he married Margaret Ann York, the first woman to attain the rank of Deputy Chief in the Los Angeles Police Department and that department's highest ranking woman officer when she retired in 2002.[2][when?] The two met while at an Eagle Rock murder scene.[citation needed]

Republican Governor George Deukmejian appointed Ito, a Democrat, to the Municipal Court in 1987, and then elevated him to Superior Court in 1989.[citation needed]

Charles H. Keating Jr.'s trial[edit]

In 1992, he presided over the trial of financier Charles H. Keating Jr. Keating's ensuing 10-year sentence was later overturned on appeal because Ito had neglected to instruct the jury to determine whether Keating intended to defraud investors. It was the prosecution's position that Keating was liable as a matter of strict liability.[3]

O.J. Simpson's murder trial[edit]

Ito presided over the 1995 murder trial of O.J. Simpson, at which Simpson was acquitted. His decision to allow television coverage of the trial was controversial,[4] and Ito faced criticism for seeming to enjoy the press and for allowing too many sidebars, recesses, etc.[5] In his book Outrage, Vincent Bugliosi faults Ito for allowing the issue of race to enter the trial by permitting F. Lee Bailey's cross-examination of Mark Fuhrman with respect to his use of racial epithets.

During the trial, the prosecution requested that Ito recuse himself when it came to light that his wife, Margaret York, had been detective Mark Fuhrman's superior officer in the past. Fuhrman had been called to testify by the prosecution regarding his discovery of evidence in the case. During cross-examination, Fuhrman claimed that he had not used racial epithets to refer to African-Americans during the last ten years. Simpson's defense team unearthed tapes in which Furhman had used racial epithets as recently as 1988, and they wished to introduce them as evidence to prove that Fuhrman had perjured himself in order to discredit his testimony. However, in the tapes, Fuhrman disparages York's appearance and suggests that she used her gender to advance in the police force.[6] The prosecution requested that Ito step down because they felt that derogatory remarks towards his wife might bias Ito against Fuhrman, though prosecutors later withdrew the request out of fear that it would result in a mistrial.[6]

In the FX limited series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which is based on the trial, Ito is portrayed by Kenneth Choi.

Post-Simpson trial career[edit]

Ito declined to give interviews regarding the O.J. Simpson murder trial because ethical guidelines for California trial-court judges forbid commenting upon pending matters or matters likely to come before the courts. Ito has considered writing a book about the Simpson trial, but doing so would require resigning from his judicial seat, and Judge Ito believed that resigning from his position would be a dishonor to his family. He has noted his disbelief that public interest in the trial extended through the "turgid" DNA section of the trial. He has used his status to work on issues of judicial reform, such as increasing the number of translators and enforcing rules for foreign national defendants in the court.[7]

Los Angeles County announced on April 17, 2012 that Ito's courtroom, along with 55 others, would be closed due to budget cuts.[8] Ito retired in 2015.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tharp, Mike (October 29, 1994). "Ito's Fairness Doctrine". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on September 2, 2011. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 
  2. ^ Adams, Kathleen; Catoggio, Nick; Lofaro, Lina; Rubin, Jeffery C.; Toufexis, Anastasia; Urquhart, Sidney (August 28, 1995). "THE WEEK: AUGUST 13-19". Time. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ Zagorin, Adam (February 3, 1997). "CHARLIE'S AN ANGEL?". Time. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  4. ^ Grace, Roger M. "Did Ito Permit a 'Media Circus'? Wapner: Yes. Philibosian: No.". 
  5. ^ "Lance Ito, Biography, O.J. Simpson Trial". 
  6. ^ a b "Prosecutors Drop Demand That Ito Step Down in Case". The New York Times. August 17, 1995. 
  7. ^ Ray, Don. "Lance A. Ito Judicial Profile". Los Angeles Daily Journal. Archived from the original on December 10, 2008. Retrieved March 6, 2009. 
  8. ^ "The O.J. Verdict 20 Years Later: What Has Judge Ito Been Up To?". 

External links[edit]