Associated Press reporter shares experiences covering famous trials

 
By Julia Aizuss

Associated Press Correspondent Linda Deutsch’s first front page bylined story was about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, she told the Chronicle staff on Sunday.

“After that, there was no turning back,” she said.

As a part-time student reporter, Deutsch had pitched covering the 1963 Civil Rights March to the editor of her hometown newspaper in Asbury Park, N.J. and rode a bus to Washington with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Originally an entertainment reporter, Deutsch transitioned to covering trials when she was assigned as a backup reporter in the Sirhan Sirhan trial after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968. In 1969, Deutsch was assigned to cover the murder of actress Sharon Tate, an assignment that extended for over a year becasue she then covered the entirety of the Charles Manson trials.

“It resonated with the times,” Deutch said of the Manson trials, describing them as “mind-blowing.”

After surviving the Manson trials, Deutsch was considered a “trial expert” by the Associated Press, and she was assigned to cover trials all around the country, including the Bush vs. Gore recount in the 2000 presidential election and pop star Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation trial. Deutsch also traveled all over the country for two years searching for newspaper heiress Patty Hearst when she was kidnapped in 1974 by the urban guerilla group Symbionese Liberation Army.

“When people ask me what I didn’t cover, I say the trial of Socrates,” Deutch said.

Deutsch covered the O.J. Simpson trial and became “phone pals” with him. The trial had a large impact on her career by making her a recognizable public figure because she was often interviewed on television about the case, she said.

When CNN’s Larry King asked Deutsch who was going to win the trial, she said, “The one who put on the best case.” While the other reporters covering the Simpson trial were convinced of Simpson’s guilt, Deutsch refused to give an opinion, maintaining her objectivity.

“When I write my book, I’ll give my opinions,” she said.
 
Deutsch told the Chronicle staff that she always enters a trial as if she is a juror and knows nothing, so that her writing will not be opinionated.
 
“I trust the reader to make their own decisions,” she said.

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