This is part one of a two-part interview. Check out the second part here.
These days, veteran legal commentator Dan Abrams is spending less time covering trials in courtrooms and more time in the A&E studio, hosting Live PD. A&E Real Crime spoke to him about some of the high-profile legal cases he’s covered in the past.
For years you worked on Court TV. How closely do you follow the lives/continued legal struggle of the defendants you once covered? For example, what did you think about O.J. Simpson’s recent parole hearing for his armed robbery and kidnapping conviction?
A lot of the defendants I covered went to prison. There have been a handful [who have] come up for parole, etc. [There have been] people who were [unjustly] imprisoned and it was rewarding to see when they were released.
With O.J., I thought he had to be released legally. You can’t keep him in prison for a [murder] he was acquitted for in 1995.
You’ve covered the Scott Peterson trial. Do you feel he was tried in the media? Did he receive a fair trial?
He did receive a fair trial. There was an overwhelming amount of evidence against Scott Peterson. Those who question the evidence in the Scott Peterson case either didn’t follow the case closely enough or are deluding themselves by ignoring critical pieces of evidence.
There’s a lot made about the idea that media coverage can affect how a jury sees a case, and thus how it plays a role in the verdict juries reach. As a court reporter, did it ever affect your decision-making in covering a trial?
It’s not my responsibility as a court reporter to be reporting for the jury. The jury is instructed in very clear language not to watch coverage of what’s happening. If they’re watching coverage, that’s as much a violation as if they were doing research online. I’m there to report for people who aren’t watching. Or if it’s a televised trial, for those who want context.
Any notable incidents where you disagreed strongly with the jury?
The O.J. Simpson verdict [in his murder trial] was one of the most disappointing verdicts, because of the evidence. After sitting through the trial there was clearly overwhelming evidence to convict him.