By Stein, M. L.
Editor & Publisher , Vol. 127, No. 34
Sometimes a simple query from a reporter is all it takes to obtain transcripts of secret grand jury proceedings.
It worked that way for Martin Berg of the Los Angeles Daily Journal when he scooped the town in getting the record of the grand jury that heard evidence in the case of O.J. Simpson, charged with the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
The transcripts, which other news organizations quickly jumped on, revealed for the first time Simpson's only statements to police when he was held for questioning before being charged.
Although much of what the grand jury record disclosed had been reported in the media, it added several new details.
A key issue at Simpson's trial is expected to be what caused an injury to his left hand that police observed during questioning. According to the transcripts, Los Angeles Police detective Phillip Vannatter told the grand jury that Simpson said he didn't know how the injury occurred.
Simpson, who has pleaded "absolutely 100% not guilty" to the charges, also told police he reinjured his hand in Chicago, where he had flown the night of the murders.
The transcripts also revealed that actor Brian "Kato" Kaelin, who lived in the guest quarters of Simpson's Brentwood mansion, was cited for contempt by the grand jury for initially refusing to testify. The citation was lifted when Kaelin agreed to testify after consulting with lawyers.
The Daily Journal, a legal newspaper, broke the tale of the transcripts on July 29. Editor in chief and associate publisher T. Sumner Robinson released the account to the Associated Press the evening before with a 10:30 p.m. embargo. "There was no leak"' said Robinson. "This was just good reporting. Nobody else had asked for the transcripts."
The Los Angeles Times carried a page-one story and sidebar on the transcripts Sunday, July 31, and other news organizations picked up on the disclosures. The Times reported that prosecutors were furious when a star witness, Jill Shively, sold her story to a tabloid TV show for $5,000. …