Lance Ito

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Lance Ito
Judge Lance Ito October 1995 (cropped).jpg
Ito in October 1995
Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court
In office
Appointed byGeorge Deukmejian
Personal details
Lance Allan Ito

(1950-08-02) August 2, 1950 (age 70)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Margaret "Peggy" York
(m. 1981)
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles (BA)
University of California, Berkeley (JD)

Lance Allan Ito (born August 2, 1950) is an American retired judge best known for presiding over the criminal trial for the O. J. Simpson murder case, held in the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 1995.

Early life and career[edit]

Ito was born in Los Angeles, to Jim Ito and Toshi Ito. Both his parents were kept in internment camps for Japanese Americans with their families during the Second World War. Ito was enrolled in Sunday School at the Mount Hollywood Congregational Church. 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 Law School 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] The two met while at an Eagle Rock murder scene.[3]

Republican Governor George Deukmejian appointed Ito, a Democrat, to the Municipal Court in 1987, and then elevated him to Superior Court in 1989.[4]

Charles H. Keating, Jr. trial[edit]

In 1992, he presided over the trial of financier Charles H. Keating Jr. Keating's ensuing ten-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.[5]

O.J. Simpson 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,[6] and Ito faced criticism for seeming to enjoy the press and for allowing too many sidebars and recesses.[7]

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 Fuhrman 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.[8] The prosecution requested that Ito step down because they felt that derogatory remarks toward his wife might bias Ito against Fuhrman, though prosecutors later withdrew the request out of fear that it would result in a mistrial.[8]

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 on pending matters or matters likely to come before the courts. 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.[9] Los Angeles County announced on April 17, 2012, that Ito's courtroom, along with 55 others, would be closed due to budget cuts. Ito retired in 2015.[3]

Popular culture[edit]

Ito was portrayed on Saturday Night Live, first by Mike Myers, and then, following Myers' departure from the show, by Mark McKinney.[10] The Tonight Show with Jay Leno had a recurring skit called "The Dancing Itos" featuring five bearded Asian-American dancers.[11] Ito was portrayed by Kenneth Choi in the series The People vs. O.J. Simpson.[12] His likeness also appeared as a judge in Pinky and Brain Season 1, Episode 2 "Of Mouse and Man" which aired in September 1995.


  1. ^ Tharp, Mike (October 23, 1994). "Ito's Fairness Doctrine". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on July 8, 2013.
  2. ^ Adams, Kathleen; Catoggio, Nick; Lofaro, Lina; Rubin, Jeffery C.; Toufexis, Anastasia; Urquhart, Sidney (August 28, 1995). "THE WEEK: AUGUST 13-19". Time Magazine. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Chuck, Elizabeth (October 3, 2015). "The O.J. Verdict 20 Years Later: What Has Judge Ito Been Up To?". NBC News. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  4. ^ Granelli, James S. (April 10, 1992). "Judge Gives No Hints About Keating Sentencing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  5. ^ Zagorin, Adam (February 3, 1997). "CHARLIE'S AN ANGEL? CHARLES KEATING, DEMON OF THE $500 BILLION S&L FIASCO, IS NOW INNOCENT. SORT OF". Time Magazine. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  6. ^ Grace, Roger M. (September 25, 2003). "Did Ito Permit a 'Media Circus'? Wapner: Yes. Philibosian: No". Metropolitan News Company. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  7. ^ Jared Grimmer. "Lance Ito, Biography, O.J. Simpson Trial". University of Missouri–Kansas City. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Margolick, David (August 17, 1995). "Prosecutors Drop Demand That Ito Step Down in Case". The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  9. ^ Ray, Don. "Judicial Profile: HON. Lance A. Ito". Los Angeles Daily Journal. Archived from the original on January 10, 2012. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  10. ^ Silman, Anna (January 28, 2016). "When 'SNL' Was Obsessed With O.J. Simpson".
  11. ^ Harris, Scott (April 15, 1995). "Leno's O.J. Jokes, Dancing Itos Keep Reality at a Safe Distance". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ "Kenneth Choi". IMDB.

External links[edit]