Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jurors with 'Agenda' Wory Both Sides in Simpson Case

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jurors with 'Agenda' Wory Both Sides in Simpson Case

Article excerpt

After three months of publicity about the O.J. Simpson murder case, 1,000 city residents must look inward and answer a question: Could I be a fair juror for this man?

Laurie Levenson, a Loyola University Law School professor, said, "People have a personal involvement in this case. Some of them may have been out there on the freeway that Friday afternoon. Both sides have to be scared of jurors with an agenda, people who want to send a message."

People who did race out to roadsides to cheer Simpson as he rode in a Ford Bronco with a gun to his head would be less than ideal jurors.

More than 95 million people sat glued to their TV sets on June 17 as Simpson led police on a bizarre, slow-motion chase. Since then, major networks have broadcast every court hearing live.

But as the first stage of jury selection gets under way today, lawyers on both sides know that no hope exists of finding jurors unaware of the case. Nor would they want such a jury, Levenson said. "You want someone on this jury who's at least heard about the case, because you want a functioning member of society," she said.

But jurors also need to be able to put all prior knowledge aside and decide the case on the evidence, she said.

At a minimum, prospective jurors will know that Simpson, a former football star whose fame extended into show business, is charged with the slashing murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. They will also know that Simpson has pleaded not guilty - and they may know that he has the best team of lawyers money can buy.

Issues beyond bias for or against Simpson also must be considered.

Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, the jury consultant working for the defense, has pinpointed a new phenomenon in the Simpson case: jurors who want to get on the case because of its notoriety and the chance that they will become rich and famous as a result.

"I've never seen it before," Dimitrius said. "Usually people want to know how they can get out of serving on the jury. …

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