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Darden: Letter About Juror ‘Smacks of Obstruction’

March 29, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ A possibly fabricated letter accusing one of the O.J. Simpson jurors of misconduct ``smacks of obstruction of justice,″ prosecutor Christopher Darden said today.

The comment came as promotions for this week’s ``60 Minutes″ TV show reignited interest in one of the minor mysteries of the Simpson case: Who sent Judge Lance Ito a letter accusing a juror of planning to write a pro-Simpson book during the trial.

The juror was ultimately dismissed, but not because of allegations in the letter, and the matter has been aired in the media and in Darden’s new book. Ito ejected juror Francine Florio-Bunten from the panel for allegedly lying to him about a note passed to her from another juror, according to court records.

The note from the other juror, who also was dismissed, alerted Florio-Bunten that the judge was looking into reports of ``a juror writing a book.″ Florio-Bunten was accused of lying when she would not admit reading the note.

Darden told WTTG-TV, the Fox station in Washington, D.C., that he and co-prosecutor Marcia Clark objected when Ito first revealed he had received the letter, believing it was ``a fabrication and a plant.″

Asked if he believed the letter amounted to jury tampering, Darden drew a legal distinction between the letter and tampering _ generally defined as trying to bribe, threaten or otherwise illegally influence a juror.

``From a lawyer’s perspective, it smacks of obstruction of justice,″ Darden told the TV station today.

He didn’t say who he thought was responsible.

``60 Minutes″ hasn’t revealed details of what it will report Sunday, other than to say it investigated the source of the letter, which purportedly was written by a woman who claimed to be a receptionist for a book agent.

The letter claimed the unidentified agent had negotiated with Florio-Bunten’s husband for a pro-prosecution book the juror would write. The letter-writer said she was a 20-year-old who had a family that lived in Germany during World War II.

However, ``60 Minutes″ said it could find no receptionist fitting that description in 58 literary agencies in Los Angeles. None of the agencies said they had contact with Florio-Bunten or her husband.

Darden said in his book he believed the letter to be a fake concocted to get Florio-Bunten thrown off the jury.

``If that’s what `60 Minutes’ is suggesting, I’m behind them in that regard,″ Darden said today. ``The only issue, the only question is, who is the source of that letter?″

Darden’s account of the dismissal appears in a section of his book where he describes ``skullduggery going on in Simpson’s camp.″ The book, ``In Contempt,″ does not specifically accuse the defense of planting the letter.

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