Simpson jury is mostly white Legal fight threatened to shake up panel
Gale Holland; Jonathan T. Lovitt
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- A white-majority jury was sworn in Thursday to
hear O.J. Simpson's wrongful death trial, but a legal fight erupted that threatened
to shake up the panel.
Less than an hour after the jury was chosen, a black male juror was called into
Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki's chambers for a private conference. The purpose was to
discuss a report from another juror that the man made a questionable comment
out of court. At the end of the day, the man remained on the panel.
``It's still a 12-person jury and right now we're having jury problems,'' said court
spokeswoman Jerrianne Hayslett, who declined to discuss the issue. Fujisaki has
placed a gag order on the trial.
Fujisaki could decide today whether the juror stays. If he bounces the juror
before the eight alternates are chosen, lawyers would have to agree on a
replacement. But because the last phase of jury selection would technically be
reopened, laywers could challenge any of the other 11 jurors.
Or Fujisaki could decide to seat the alternates before dismissing a sworn juror,
and one of them would take his place.
Earlier Thursday, Fujisaki rejected a call for a mistrial from Simpson's lawyers,
who accused laywers for the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron
Goldman of illegally dismissing black jurors.
The clerk swore in a jury of eight whites, two blacks, one
Hispanic and one man who is Asian and black. Santa Monica is more white and
affluent than the Los Angeles district where Simpson was acquitted of criminal
charges a year ago.
Fujisaki ordered the seven women and five men to return to the courtroom
Tuesday for opening statements. ``You have to be your own guardian
of your privacy,'' he said.
The racial breakdown of the jury is almost a flip-flop of the criminal jury that
acquitted Simpson last October in the June 1994 slayings of his ex-wife and
Goldman. Nine blacks, two whites and one Hispanic decided then.
Some analysts said the white majority is clearly an advan-
tage for the plaintiffs. ``This is one of those very rare times it's unrealistic to
expect the jury will base its verdict solely on the evidence presented to them,''
said UCLA law professor Peter Arenella.
But former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson warned against overplaying race.
She cited jurors like the elderly
black woman who told the judge ``I was in pain'' over Denise Brown's testimony
about her sister's domestic abuse.
And a middle-age white woman smiled at Simpson as she recounted a pleasant
chance encounter she had with the former football star 12 years ago.
Unlike in the criminal trial, Simpson will be forced to take the witness stand. The
families are seeking an award in the millions. ``For the first time, the jury will
hear what O.J. is expected to say, and that will be the highlight,'' jury consultant
Robert Hirschhorn said.
TEXT OF INFO BOXES BEGIN HERE:
Difference in the 2 trials
The estate of Nicole Brown Simpson and the family of Ron Goldman say O.J.
Simpson caused their ``wrongful deaths'' by stabbing them on June 27, 1994.
Differences between the criminal trial last year and the civil trial:
Evidence: The criminal trial required proof ``beyond a reasonable doubt.'' The
civil case requires a lesser ``preponderance of evidence,'' and certain hearsay
evidence such as Nicole Simpson's diary and details about the marriage will be
Verdict: In the criminal case, all 12 jurors had to agree on a verdict. In the civil
trial, only 9 of 12 have to agree. If they find against Simpson, the judgment will
be money damages, not prison.
Media coverage: No still or video cameras or courtroom sketch artists will be
allowed. They were allowed in criminal court.
Profiles of Simpson civil-trial jurors
Eight whites, two blacks, one Hispanic and one Asian-black man are on the jury
in the O.J. Simpson civil trial. Eight alternates also will be selected. Juror ages
were not available. The jury:
Seat 1: Juror 199 is a postal worker who appears to be in his 20s, was born in
Jamaica, and is of mixed Asian-black race.
Seat 2: Juror 341 is a white woman, who appears about 70, who said during
questioning that Simpson probably is not guilty.
Seat 3: Juror 427 is a married white man who appears to be in his mid-30s. He
said during questioning that Simpson probably committed the murders, but that
his opinion could be swayed.
Seat 4: Juror 78 is a white woman who sells jewelry and appears to be in her 20s.
She said she ignored the first trial. She doesn't believe celebrities get special
treatment from police.
Seat 5: Juror 266 is a white stage manager who appears to be in her 30s. She said
interracial marriages have a harder time than most others.
Seat 6: Juror 257 is a woman who appears in her 30s of Hispanic descent. She
said Simpson and his wife had 'a dysfunctional relationship' and was saddened by
photos of Nicole Simpson after she was beaten.
Seat 7: Juror 333 is a black woman who appears in her 60s or 70s. she said
testimony from Nicole Simpson's sister, Denise Brown, 'is the reason I chose not
to watch' the first trial.
Seat 8: Juror 290 is a white man who appears to be in his 40s who thinks
Simpson got preferential treatment during the famous 'chase' and arrest in 1994.
Seat 9: Juror 8 is a black man, married to a white woman, who appears to be in
his late 40s. He said Nicole Simpson may have provoked clashes with her
Seat 10: Juror 215 is a white woman who appears to be in her 50s who had a
10-minute conversation with Simpson 12 years ago in a shoe store. she said
Simpson was 'probably not guilty' of the murders.
Seat 11: Juror 88 is a white woman who appears to be in her early 30s. Her
husband believes Simpson is innocent. She thinks he was 'possibly guilty,
Seat 12: Juror 227 is a white man in his 50s or 60s whose father was a
policeman. He thinks interracial marriages are 'impractical.'
GRAPHIC,b/w,Marcy E. Mullins, USA TODAY ,Source: USA TODAY
research by Jonathan T. Lovitt (Illustration); PHOTO,color,AP; Caption:
Simpson: Will have to take the stand