Eighth Simpson Juror Dismissed; Only Four Alternates Left
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A white telephone company worker who participated in the infamous juror revolt was ousted from the O.J. Simpson trial, forcing the judge to dip deeper into the dwindling alternate pool.
When jurors arrived this morning, the woman known as juror No. 353 was absent.
The judge was expected to replace the woman before resuming testimony. When her ouster was announced late Thursday night, no reason was given for the dismissal.
Juror 353 is a white woman mentioned repeatedly in the account of unhappy sequestration provided by a black woman dismissed from the panel in April.
Ex-juror Jeanette Harris claimed in myriad media interviews and a discussion with the judge that jurors were divided by race and stressed from months of sequestration.
Harris contended No. 353 treated blacks badly and received preferential treatment from deputies guarding the panel. In fact, she figured in at least four of Harris’ complaints to the judge, including one in which she accused the woman of a kicking her and a black man in the jury box.
Past media reports also said No. 353′s husband had pneumonia and she told the judge she didn’t know if she could continue to serve on the panel.
After complaints from Harris and another juror who was eventually dismissed, the judge replaced three deputies who guarded the panel. That move led to a revolt by 13 jurors who dressed in black and refused to hear testimony in support of the deputies, who were removed the day before. Juror number 353 was one of the 13.
Before the jury was brought into the courtroom, Ito heard arguments over the admissibility of Simpson’s statement to police on June 13, 1994, the day after Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, were murdered.
After Thursday’s unplanned, five-hour meeting with the judge, defense attorneys were all smiles, apparently happy with the ouster of the panelist. Prosecutors, on the other hand, rushed out of the private session grim-faced. Prosecutor Christopher Darden told reporters, ``Get a life, guys.″
The alternate pool has dwindled from 12 to just four, with months to go in the sensational double-murder trial that has been rocked by wide-ranging jury complications.
``This bodes very badly for the future of this trial,″ said law professor Robert Pugsley of Southwestern University. ``I don’t see realistically how they’re going to make it.″
No reason was given for the dismissal, and the identity of the juror wasn’t announced. Both sides said they had been ordered to withhold comment about the dismissal.
Jury selection began Sept. 26, and the panel has been sequestered for more than four months, since Jan. 11.
Superior Court Judge Lance Ito’s decision to stop testimony for half a day was remarkable given his new get-tough policy aimed at keeping the trial moving quickly. Jurors have been impatient with the slow pace and suggested last week that more hours be added to the court schedule.
Myrna Raeder, a Southwestern University law professor, thought Ito would heed that request.
``It would not surprise me if Judge Ito decides to lengthen those hours in order to ensure the best possibility of attaining a verdict,″ she said. ``A blow like this is bound to reinforce the need to keep that testimony flowing.″
If the number of jurors drops below 12, it would take an agreement by both sides to continue. Otherwise, a mistrial would be declared.
A few dismissed jurors have described a troubled jury divided along racial lines. Explosive comments by one former panelist about some of her colleagues and deputies who guard them led to an investigation by the judge.
Before the latest ouster, the jury included seven blacks, three whites and two Hispanics. There were nine women and three men. The alternate pool consisted of four blacks and one white; four women and one man.
The trial was interrupted as more arguments were to begin on the admissibility of Simpson’s statement to police on June 13, the day after his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were killed.
If the defense succeeds in telling jurors about the audiotaped statement, it could mean that Simpson’s story could be relayed to jurors without him having to take the stand and endure hostile cross-examination.
The dispute began Wednesday, when criminalist Collin Yamauchi testified that he once thought, based on media reports, that Simpson had ``an airtight alibi.″
Prosecutors said in court papers that Yamauchi’s testimony had no relevance to Simpson’s June 13 statement. In it, Simpson told police he had no idea what happened and outlined his whereabouts leading up to an 11:45 p.m. flight to Chicago the night of the murders for a planned business trip.
``The news report the witness testified to overhearing was not offered for its truth, but, rather, for its effect on the state of mind of the witness when he examined the evidence,″ the prosecution brief said.
It noted Yamauchi ``made no reference to any statement of the defendant.″
But the defense argued that the reference to ``an airtight alibi″ left the jury wondering just what Simpson had said. A section of the state evidence code says if part of a statement is introduced, the opposing party has the right to bring in the entire thing.