Defense: Judge Went Too Far When He Offered Help to Juror
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ To help jurors cope with the rigors of sequestration, O.J. Simpson’s judge has done everything from treating them to a performance by Jay Leno to allowing one juror to attend an out-of-state funeral.
But this time, the defense claims, Superior Court Judge Lance Ito went too far.
The defense on Tuesday called for the ouster of a juror after Ito told her the county might be able to compensate her for money she is losing on a vacant rental property. Court papers referred to a juror losing $1,500 a month in rental income.
Ito took no action on the defense request. He pointed out that he had tried to help jurors whenever possible, but he made clear he had yet to give this particular juror any financial assistance.
The defense also urged Ito to loosen his tough sequestration order and let jurors go home at night.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark called the motion a ``transparent″ ploy to expose jurors to community outrage over the racist statements of Detective Mark Fuhrman.
The judge seemed to agree, calling the issue ``a no-brainer,″ but he took it under consideration.
Today, prosecutors hope to put on some of their most compelling evidence: a new DNA test showing the genetic markers of Simpson and victim Ronald Goldman in a blood mixture in Simpson’s Ford Bronco.
On Tuesday, a prosecution glove expert provided additional testimony linking Simpson to a pair of bloody gloves collected after the June 12, 1994, slayings of Goldman and Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson.
Richard Rubin, a former executive of Aris Isotoner, looked at photos and videos of Simpson working at football games and identified the gloves on Simpson’s hands as Aris Lights, the same type of gloves found near the bodies of Goldman and Ms. Simpson, and on Simpson’s estate.
``How certain are you of that?″ asked Deputy District Attorney Christopher Darden.
``I’m 100 percent certain,″ he said.
Rubin said Aris Lights are a model that is ``quite rare.″
Prosecutors recalled Rubin to the stand to recover from the disastrous demonstration in which Simpson struggled to squeeze his hands into the evidence gloves.
While the glove testimony took up most of the court time, attention once again focused on the troubles of jurors, who look tired and distracted after spending eight months in a hotel _ four months more than they were told to expect.
Ito has said repeatedly that the jurors, sequestered since Jan. 11, are ``not happy campers″ and are demanding a quick end to the trial.
Jury problems hampered the trial during the first six months, and just two of the original 12 alternates are left. But since June 5, no juror has been dismissed.
Clark said she has cut back her rebuttal case and plans to rest Friday, barring more defense motions and appeals. She said the response to jury fatigue should be to ``shut this case down, end this trial.″
Media reports identified the panelist the defense wants removed as a white woman in her early 60s, a retired gas company worker who is believed to favor the prosecution. She is among the most active note takers on the jury and, despite the apparent hardship, one of the few jurors who still smiles in court.
The woman was an alternate panelist until March 17. She said during jury selection that she was the lone holdout in another murder case and managed to get other jurors to change their minds, although she didn’t disclose the verdict.
She is one of two white women on the jury; the other is in her early 20s. The panel also includes eight black women, a black man and a Hispanic man.
Defense lawyer Robert Shapiro told Ito that the juror should be dismissed because Ito’s conciliatory words to her in chambers had elevated her to ``a special condition″ and might lead other jurors to think they are entitled to payments as well. He said the judge overstepped his bounds.
Ito suggested that a member of the public might come forward and bail the woman out, eliminating the controversy.
``Who knows,″ he said. ``Maybe it will go away.″
A Chicago radio station that carries gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial called Ito’s chambers late Tuesday offering to begin a fund-raising drive for the panelist. Drew Hayes, operations director for WLS-AM and WLS-FM, said he has yet to receive a reply from the court.
Meanwhile, CNN reported today that the defense plans to call as a witness an FBI explosives expert who claimed he was pressured to change his testimony to favor the prosecution in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The defense wants to call Frederic Whitehurst to suggest to the jury that the FBI has covered up evidence in the past, CNN reported, quoting defense lawyer Valerie Amsterdam. An FBI toxicologist, Roger Martz, has testified for the prosecution in the Simpson trial, disputing the defense contention that Simpson’s blood was planted on a sock found in his bedroom.
It was not immediately clear whether Whitehurst would provide the ``startling″ information that Cochran promised earlier this week. Cochran said Monday he had met with the judge privately to inform him about a witness the defense may call before it rests its case.
In another development, lawyers for a man serving 13 years in prison for kidnapping and assault sought to reopen his case Tuesday, alleging Fuhrman coerced witnesses against him.
A motion filed on behalf of Howard McCowan was the first seeking to overturn a conviction involving Fuhrman since tapes of the now-retired detective uttering racial slurs and boasting of police misconduct were played at the Simpson trial.
Also Tuesday, a TV executive said Simpson’s lawyers have subpoenaed a taped interview in an attempt to locate an unidentified ex-police officer who said he heard Fuhrman make racist remarks.
``Inside Edition″ executive Eric Ritter said his syndicated show complied with a subpoena delivered Friday and relinquished a copy of the previous day’s broadcast. On the show, a disguised former police officer identified only as ``Ken″ said Fuhrman made racist statements while they both worked for the Los Angeles Police Department.