They met over a dead body. Back in 1981, young Lance Ito was part of the Los Angeles district attorney's elite gang unit. At 4 a.m. one day he was called to a murder scene in Highland Park. Margaret York was the detective on the case--part of the LAPD's first all-female homicide team. Ito and York met, dated and married within months. It was "a marriage made in D.A. heaven," says Robert Philobosian, the former district attorney who recommended Ito for his current job on the bench.
Unfortunately for the tabloids, Judge Ito and Captain York-- the highest-ranking female police officer in Los Angeles and a 27-year veteran of the force-are, by all accounts, a devoted couple who deftly handle the potential conflicts posed by their careers. It may not be "Adam's Rib," but having a judge married to a top cop can be ticklish, as the O. J. Simpson circus illustrated last week. York is one of two captains who oversee LAPD's Internal Affairs Division. Her lawyer says any investigations concerning Detective Mark Fuhrman will be handled by the chief of police. Still, York got drawn into the trial because the Fuhrman Tapes refer to her disparagingly, and Ito has to rule on whether O.J.'s defense team can use the tapes. In open court, Ito had to fight back tears as he spoke of his love for his wife.
"Peggy" York is 54, nine years older than Ito. She has three grown children from a previous marriage. She and Ito lead quiet suburban lives in Pasadena. As the judge's reaction last week suggested, they are fiercely loyal to each other. Even throughout the trial, he's accompanied her to official police gatherings--and her elementary-school reunion in Ohio last month. And she has tagged along to judicial events.
Most of his colleagues have expressed support for Ito. But some lawyers say he shouldn't have been assigned the Simpson case given that everybody recognized that Fuhrman's conduct was going to be an issue from the start. "How can a judge married to the highest-ranking female LAPD officer preside over a case where the defense is that the police lied and fabricated evidence?" asks Harland Braun, a well-known Los Angeles lawyer. Ito will be second-guessed by commentators no matter how he rules on the tapes. But in the court of public opinion, Ito may come out ahead. "The public is going to remember Ito as the judge who loved his wife," says Braun. "They'll forget everything else that happened over the last eight months."