When Charles Manson leapt over a defense table and tried to stab the judge at his trial, Linda Deutsch was a greenhorn reporter who had been sent to the trial to back up a veteran AP reporter. During jury selection for the O.J. Simpson, Linda Deutsch was named the pool reporter and went on TV every day to explain what had happened. When Michael Jackson was acquitted of molesting a teenage fan, the pop idol called Linda Deutsch for an exclusive interview. Indeed, for the last near half century, Linda Deutsch has been the most trusted voice in court journalism. Now, she says, she’s moving on to the next stage of her career.The veteran AP courts reporter closes her notebook for good Monday, capping off a 48-year career during which she covered some of the most high-profile trials in American history.
Deutsch says her first big story was covering the 1963 civil rights march on Washington, D.C. during an internship she had during college. However, Deutsch says it was covering the 1970 trial of Charles Manson that made her into a trial reporter.
"Everybody thought, now I was a trial reporter. That's how my career was decided," Deutsch told AirTalk's Larry Mantle. "In essence, Charlie Manson changed my life, I hate to say. After that trial, the minute something happened that was big, somebody in the newsroom would say 'Another trial for Linda to cover!" And I was off and running."
Deutsch was known for her uncanny ability to get major players in the trials she covered to speak to her outside of formal interviews and press conferences. Both O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson called Deutsch after their trials, and she says they both thanked her for being fair to them. She says she kept in contact with Simpson for years after his trial.
"It has to do with personal connections. I think everybody got to know who I was and they learned that they could trust me. That was the big thing. They knew that if they said that it was off the record, it was off the record. If they wanted to get something out, they knew that I was a conduit to write the story, so long as it was legitimate. I think I broke a lot of stories that way."
Deutsch says while she spent a lot of time during her career with people who had done terrible things, she had to remain objective and look at each defendant the same way. She added that leaving the cases in the courtroom and being able to joke with other reporters helped her keep her sanity during some of the more disturbing cases she covered.
"I see them as human beings who I meet at the worst time in their lives. There has never been a worse time for a defendant than being on trial in a major case. You have to look at them from the human side and be compassionate, and also know that some people really deserve punishment and they are really bad people, but there's always two sides to every story."
Deutsch, who is 71, says her plan for the future is to work on her memoirs and probably lecture a little bit.
Linda Deutsch, veteran courts reporter for the Associated Press who is retiring after a 48 year career in journalism. She has covered the high-profile trials of Charles Manson, O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, and many more.