Fourth Juror Dismissed in O.J. Simpson Trial
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A black courier was dismissed from the O.J. Simpson jury today and was replaced by a 38-year-old white woman who works for the phone company.
Superior Court Judge Lance Ito offered no explanation for the change, but the dismissed juror, a 46-year-old man, had come under prosecution fire during a visit to the crime scene and Simpson’s house.
The man was reported to have stared at a photo in Simpson’s home, in violation of the judge’s order to ignore all pictures. The man’s brother works for an NFL team and the juror was often seen in court wearing T-shirts and caps bearing the logos of the Los Angeles Raiders and Simpson’s former team, the San Francisco 49ers.
There have been numerous news reports that the courier was on the brink of dismissal for allegedly failing to disclose prior instances of domestic abuse _ an important issue in the case since Simpson was alleged to have abused his ex-wife.
The replacement changes the ethnic balance of the jury from nine blacks, one white, one Hispanic and one person of mixed race to eight blacks, two whites and the Hispanic and mixed race jurors.
It was the fourth time a juror has been dismissed and an alternate chosen. The dismissal leaves only eight alternate jurors available as replacements.
The jury remained out of action this morning and Ito apologized to the panel for the latest delay.
The new juror, chosen by lottery, has been married for 15 years. She described herself as a ``touchy, feely″ kind of person when inquiring about whether the jury would be granted conjugal visits.
In a written questionnaire, she described Simpson as a ``great player″ and said ``it seemed impossible″ when she first heard he was a suspect in the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. But she said her opinion of Simpson was neutral.
Three court days have been spent on Rosa Lopez, a maid for Simpson’s next-door neighbors who is in the middle of testifying outside the presence of the jury that she saw Simpson’s white Ford Bronco parked outside his house about the time prosecutors say Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered.
Her testimony is being videotaped and preserved in case she makes good on her threat to flee to her native El Salvador to escape media harassment and other pressures.
Lopez told Ito on Tuesday that she was sick and tired and wasn’t going to answer any more questions.
``This is not my fault to work close to Mr. Simpson, to have seen and to have heard,″ she said in a quavering voice after a long, vitriolic day in which prosecutors accused her of being a puppet of the defense and lying under their orders.
And with that, the maid-turned-defense witness became the first person in the trial to dare turn her back on the judge and walk away.
Lopez, the latest witness whose life has been shredded on national TV in the name of justice, didn’t get far. Ito called her back to the lectern and made her promise _ reluctantly _ to return Thursday to continue her testimony.
As she left the courtroom, the tiny woman burst into tears. She was consoled by Simpson’s relatives, including his son Jason.
Add Lopez to the dishonor roll of witnesses savaged during this trial. It already included Ronald Shipp, the former Simpson friend grilled by the defense about booze and blondes; Mark Fuhrman, the detective who went from enviable hunk to alleged racist; and Mary Anne Gerchas, the jeweler and potential defense witness arrested on fraud charges.
Prosecutors contend Simpson drove to the murder scene in the Bronco. Police found a drop of blood near the handle and more blood inside.
But some of Lopez’s statements aren’t consistent with a July 29 interview she gave to defense investigator William Pavelic _ an interview that prosecutors just found out about Monday.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark said that in that initial interview, Lopez never mentioned seeing the Bronco shortly after 10 p.m., and only said she saw it later that night.
Lopez also said in the July interview _ but not in her testimony _ that she went outside with a friend, who also saw the Bronco, Clark said.
Pavelic disclosed for the first time Monday that a tape recording of the interview had not been turned over to prosecutors _ a violation of California’s reciprocal discovery law. Defense lawyers portrayed the failure to disclose as an oversight; prosecutors called it intentional.
After hearing an audio tape of the interview on Tuesday, Clark called it ``unbelievable″ and demanded more time to prepare for cross-examination. She also accused Pavelic of coaching Lopez through ``every bend and turn.″
``She was handed a script and Mr. Pavelic got on the tape and spoke almost nonstop for 15 to 20 minutes, getting her to affirm, `Yes, yes, yes, yes’ _ `No’ on very minor, inconsequential matters and, I might add, all in English,″ Clark said.
Defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. countered: ``The tape will speak for itself as to whether this witness is consistent.″
The judge granted a delay until Thursday and, as part of their punishment for failing to disclose the interview on time, ordered defense lawyers to pay for Lopez’s hotel accommodations.
The delay frustrated Lopez, who said she was afraid that if she appeared on Thursday, she would then be told to return another day.
``I want to tell you that I was very honest with you,″ Lopez told Ito through the interpreter. ``You told me to come back on Monday, and I came back on Monday. I was very honest with my attorneys. ... I came from very far to finish with this.
``I’m very sick, sir,″ she said is a quavering voice. ``I don’t eat during the day, sir. I’m not sleeping very well.″
The judge apologized, saying ``I know this is not your fault,″ but explained that fairness in the trial required the delay.
In an exercise in understatement, Ito ended the court session by saying, ``Thank you, counsel, for another interesting day.″