High-profile courtroom dramas fascinate our nation, especially when they concern the rich and famous. And while the American public has come to realize that the spin factor is a prime ingredient in political tactics and marketing campaigns, many are unaware of the strategies for shaping public opinion when it comes to major courtroom battles. This behind-the-scenes analysis of media strategies presents intriguing and often entertaining insights into what they do not teach in law schools or in journalism classes. As the lead counsel in some of the country’s most notable cases and a savvy legal commentator with hundreds of television appearances, author Kendall Coffey brings a distinctive combination of depth as a legal practitioner and experience as a media analyst to this illuminating, provocative, and practical book.
The White Bronco
People love a good car chase. Or at least television news producers think we do. That’s why we’re treated to endless coverage of the police pursuing one felon or another on the streets – or, more likely, highways – of some major city, most often Los Angeles or Miami. In fact, Bob Tur, the “dean of LA’s media helicopter journalists,” pioneered the form. By June 17, 1994, he had already broadcast 128 freeway pursuits for KCBS. But no one had ever seen anything like what unfolded in the late afternoon and early evening hours of that day when a white Ford Bronco containing O.J. Simpson and his friend Al Cowlings led a phalanx of twenty-five police cars on a bizarre low-speed chase on the freeways of Southern California.
Simpson, who was wanted for the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, was either trying to escape justice or suicidal, or both; during the chase, he was holding a gun to his head, as Cowlings told police by cell phone. At first, Tur had exclusive footage f the Bronco’s progress, but soon his helicopter was joined by six others. When the highway passed through black neighborhoods, people lined the overpasses, cheering, “Go, O.J.!” By the time the pursuit ended safely back in the driveway of Simpson’s Brentwood mansion, where the former NFL great surrendered meekly to police, some 95 million Americans had watched all or part of the chase. Networks carried live coverage. NBC even broke into its telecast of Game Five of the NBA Finals. It was, in some ways, a fitting media beginning of what became known as “the trial of the century.”
From that day forward, until a jury declared Simpson not guilty on Octber 3, 1995, America and the world could not get enough of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. After Judge Lance Ito allowed television cameras into his courtroom, the proceedings became a kind of daily soap opera, visible anywhere a television was on – in homes, airports, and health clubs. Reportedly, the first question Russian President Boris Yeltsin asked US President Bill Clinton when he arrived for a summit was, “Do you think O.J. did it?” The public became so transfixed by O.J.’s courtroom drama, according to one estimate, that US industry lost a reported $25 billion in productivity as employees set work aside to follow the trial.
Expert from “Spinning the Law” Chapter 3: The O.J. Revolution
“If your profession requires you to convince ANYONE of ANYTHING, this book is a must read.
Kendall Coffey, master of persuasion, takes us through the backseat plays of strategic puppeteering that all high-press cases engage in, and had better engage in, if they know what’s good for them.”
“You’ll never again watch a courtroom drama the same way after reading this book. This is a fascinating look at some of the most high-profile cases of our time through the eyes of a man who took part in many of them. Kendall Coffey provides a stellar look at why lawyers concentrate on not only what’s going on in the courtroom but also what’s being fed to the court of public opinion.
Fans of courtroom drama and law students alike: here is your teacher.”
“Most books and analysis by pundits lack the perspective of someone who has been through the eye of the hurricane. Coffey’s book may be the first in a while that truly is written from the experience of having lived it and lived through it. If you want to know the truth about how big cases are really won or lost, this is a must read. This intriguing book exposes how the media is artfully used as a critical tool in the dynamic realm of American law and justice.”