Was Chris Darden Held In Contempt During The Simpson Trial? 'American Crime Story' Shows A Breaking Point
On American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson there's hardly a character written to be more sympathetic than prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. While we must consider that the series is only a version of the true story, I've come away from the show appreciating just how hard these two worked, and how tough things could be in court for the pair. But, did the stress ever build to a point where Chris Darden was held in contempt? Well, while American Crime Story has embellished elements of the trial, Darden's frustrations did hit a point where he was threatened to be held in contempt of the court by Judge Lance Ito. There is a transcript of Darden and Ito's courtroom conversation, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, that sheds light on the incident. According to the LAT, the disagreement happened during a sidebar conference in which the prosecution objected to a line of questioning from defense attorney Johnnie Cochran. As reported by the LAT, here's how the exchange happened:
Cochran: They obviously haven't tried any cases in a long time and obviously don't know how, but this is cross-examination.
Darden: Who is he talking about, doesn't know how to try a case?
Ito: Wait, Mr. Darden.
Darden: Is he the only lawyer that knows how to try the case?
Ito: I'm going to hold you in contempt.
According to Find Law, being held in contempt of the court, means displaying "conduct that defies, disrespects or insults the authority or dignity of a court." It's worth noting that because all of this happened in a sidebar, the jury was not present, and it couldn't have impacted their verdict.
According to the Times transcript, Darden told Ito, "I should be held in contempt ... This cross-examination is out of order." He then refused the judge's suggestion to "take three deep breaths" before continuing the sidebar. The incident ended a short while after when Darden apologized to the court, as reported by the Times.
Your Honor, thank you for the opportunity to review the transcript of the sidebar. It appears that the court is correct, that perhaps my comments may have been or are somewhat inappropriate. I apologize to the court. I meant no disrespect. However, I did have some concerns, concerns I would like to take up with the court when the court is available to hear my concerns. I apologize.
But, clearly, this moment in court stayed with the People v. O.J. Simpson prosecutor long after the trial was over as Darden even went on to name his O.J. Simpson trial memoir, In Contempt.