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Simpson loses bid to block miniseries

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From the Fall 2000 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 7.

From the Fall 2000 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 7.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge refused on Sept. 6 to allow O.J. Simpson to block the airing of a miniseries concerning Simpson’s defense at his 1995 criminal trial, but Simpson returned to court later in the month to file a lawsuit seeking damages for what his lawyer said was a conspiracy to defraud Simpson out of privileged information.

Superior Court Judge David Yaffe said he was not convinced the miniseries would harm Simpson because most of the material was published in the defendant’s 1996 book on which the show is based, according to an Associated Press report. The judge’s denial of the preliminary injunction followed his Aug. 16 denial of a temporary restraining order on the same grounds.

Simpson had alleged in court papers that confidences he shared with his legal defense team were protected by a legal privilege against disclosure, a privilege that would be violated when television viewers watched the yet-to-be-completed miniseries.

Simpson sought to stop Lawrence Schiller, who produced and directed “American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense,” because of alleged irreparable harm that would result from Schiller’s distribution of the miniseries.

Schiller wrote the 1996 best-selling book of the same title; the screenplay for the miniseries was penned by Norman Mailer. Yaffe also said he would review Mailer’s script under seal, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Simpson has sued Schiller and Robert Kardashian, one of his former criminal attorneys, for breach of contract and fraud. According to The Los Angeles Times, Simpson’s attorney submitted eight sworn declarations in support of the motion, including statements from Simpson defense lawyers Barry Scheck, F. Lee Bailey and Alan Dershowitz, stating that they let Schiller interview them only after receiving promises that no confidential or privileged information would be printed without Simpson’s approval.

Simpson’s sworn statement states that Schiller reneged on a promise to permit him to approve the manuscript, according to the Times. “This action is about the avaricious disregard of the attorney-client relationship, and of promises of confidentiality, by an attorney and a writer,” the newspaper quoted the complaint as stating.

“The information contained in the miniseries has already been widely disseminated to the public by the publication of the Schiller book in 1996 and its release in paperback in 1997,” defense attorney Gary Bostwick told the Times. Bostwick said that a Simpson legal victory would serve as an unconstitutional prior restraint and that imposition of a restraining order would kill the show and lead to an $11.8 million loss for CBS, the network that plans to air the miniseries in November.

The book and miniseries purportedly reveal the perspective of the legal “dream team” that helped win a 1995 acquittal for Simpson on charges that he murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles in 1994. Simpson later lost a civil wrongful death suit and was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages.

Simpson claims he did not try to stop publication of the book published in 1996 because he was at the time involved in the wrongful death civil trial for the death of Goldman.

According to a CBS spokeswoman, the miniseries will feature Ron Silver, Christopher Plummer and Ving Rhames as attorneys Robert Shapiro, Bailey and Johnnie Cochran, respectively. There is no appearance by a Simpson character in the miniseries, according to the spokeswoman.

In late October, the court had not yet acted on the breach of contract and fraud lawsuit.