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Attorneys Want to Weed Out Prospects Seeking Notoriety, Observers Say With AM-Simpson

September 29, 1994

Attorneys Want to Weed Out Prospects Seeking Notoriety, Observers Say With AM-Simpson Slayings, Bjt

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ It’s too late for lawyers and the judge to avoid celebrity generated by the O.J. Simpson murder case. Now their job is weeding out jurors intent on seeking their own fame and fortune.

″This case is so extraordinary,″ said Michael Metnick, a Springfield, Ill., defense attorney. ″There are so many commercial opportunities in this case. For jurors, this case could be a lottery ticket.″

People winning one of the 20 spots on the jury could find themselves being dazzled by lucrative television, magazine and book deals.

″You don’t want the jury deciding the case based on what’s in it for me,″ Metnick said.

Within two hours of the verdicts in the second Rodney King trial, a juror appeared on television in disguise, discussing the case in detail. A juror in the Erik and Lyle Menendez murder trial received $5,000 from ″Inside Edition″ for his story.

California has taken steps to keep jurors from cashing in on their service. Gov. Pete Wilson signed two bills earlier this week that make it a misdemeanor for jurors to sell their stories before a trial and for 90 days thereafter.

But the Simpson case likely will still offer appeal for fame-seeking jurors.

Superior Court Judge Lance Ito said Wednesday that 311 people survived the first phase of jury selection. They will return next month for questioning on their backgrounds and personal beliefs.

Ito, who also presided over the high-profile Charles Keating case, was surprised by the pace of the first phase of selection and the large number of jurors willing to endure the lengthy trial, even though they might by sequestered.

″It could be the hoopla factor. It goes up in direct ratio to the number of microwave dishes outside,″ Ito speculated Tuesday, referring to the array of television equipment around the courthouse.

Prominent Los Angeles defense attorney Harland Braun said jurors driven by fame and fortune could make a decision based on how much money a particular verdict might make them.

″That’s a calculation of personal self interest as opposed to public participation. He’s asking the question ’Would I get more money if it were a guilty or not guilty verdict?‴ Braun said.

Lawyers can learn much about a juror’s motives by asking about his background, Metnick said.

″The things I would ask about would be background, occupation. I would want to know what you do in leisure time, what books what magazines you read,″ he said.

Jury consultant Martin Buncher of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., said he might ask potential jurors how they would react to an offer of money from reporters after the trial.

In the end, even the most subtle questions can never fully reveal a juror’s motives.

″We can’t yet read into the deepest crevices of one’s mind to learn their motives in doing or not doing something,″ Metnick said. ″This is why experience and instinct are so important.″

Attorneys screening a high-visibility jury also should seek to exclude people who may have hidden agendas and try to sabotage the panel’s verdict, said Stacy Schreiber-Lopez, a jury consultant in Galveston, Texas.

″You need to address the issue straight up. Ask them ’Why do you want to serve on the jury?‴ Schreiber-Lopez said. ″If they’re lying you can usually tell. Their body language gives them away. People rely on that more than they realize.″

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AP writer Anh Bui contributed to this story.

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