After snafus, choosing Simpson jury close to complete

Updated: September 11, 2008, 2:00 AM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- After a contentious day of lawyers sparring with prospective jurors in O.J. Simpson's kidnapping-robbery trial Wednesday, the judge said it appeared a jury would be seated by Friday or earlier.

"The end is near, folks!" Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass announced to the remaining weary prospects who must be questioned before lawyers begin exercising challenges and choosing the final panel.

"There are people who thought it would take weeks to pick a jury," Glass said. "It will take only a week, maybe less."

She predicted enough panelists will have been questioned by Thursday to provide the pool of 40 from which the 12 jurors and six alternates can be chosen.

A total of 27 have been cleared, although one prospect's angry outburst led to a defense motion to dismiss everyone because they had heard the comments. The judge refused.

The man, who had waited three days to have his say, blurted out a comment that stunned the courtroom.

"I feel the case down in Los Angeles -- if someone got away with that, you would keep yourself clean and you wouldn't come back and commit another crime," he said.

The judge quickly dismissed him and asked other potential jurors to disregard his comments. She told them they would have to put aside negative feelings about Simpson's previous case and that "conversely, if you are a super O.J. fan and think Mr. Simpson is the best thing that ever happened in football, can you set that aside?"

Simpson, 61, is accused with co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart, 54, of kidnapping, armed robbery and other crimes for allegedly stealing items from two sports memorabilia dealers in a hotel room confrontation last year. They have pleaded not guilty.

The day's toughest questioning was reserved for a man who had expressed anger on his written questionnaire at Simpson's acquittal in 1995 and said he couldn't get past it.

"I meant what I said," he acknowledged under questioning by Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter. But he insisted that during his time in court he had "done some soul-searching" and realized he could put aside his feelings about the old case and focus on the facts of the new one. After a half-hour of intense quizzing, he was allowed to remain in the jury pool.

Each side will have eight peremptory challenges allowing them to remove prospects without stating a cause. Three additional challenges are available for choosing six alternates.

Most prospective jurors questioned have said they disagree with the verdict to acquit Simpson on charges of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and friend Ronald Goldman, though many have said they believe they can fairly consider the case before them.

A young prospective juror was one of the few questioned who said he supported the murder verdict. He said he was a fan of Simpson's football career and a collector of sports memorabilia.

"He was tried, he had a fair trial and he was found not guilty," the man said. "Our justice system worked."

One woman said she believed Simpson should have been convicted and that the "Trial of the Century" was mishandled.

"I thought it was because of his status, that if it had been a normal person it wouldn't have gotten so crazy out of hand," she said.

Still, the woman insisted she could be fair. She also said she could put aside the fact that the last time she was a juror the defendant hanged himself after being found guilty.

"I don't think Mr. Simpson is going to hang himself," she said.

Simpson showed no reaction.

Jury selection was delayed briefly after two potential panelists reported they had been approached outside the courthouse Tuesday by a man claiming to be with the media.

The judge summoned the women to the courtroom and both said they had not been wearing their juror badges and that they immediately walked away.

Glass said she was confident neither person has been influenced.

Court officials were reviewing videotapes to try to identify the man, and it wasn't clear if he was a member of the media.

Court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer said any media contact with jurors would be punishable by a contempt citation or confiscation of press credentials.

"The court and the judge are attempting to do everything in their power to impanel a jury that's as unbiased as humanly possible and not tainted by any outside influence," he said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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