Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jurors in Open Revolt over Loss of Deputies O.J. Trial Halted as Ito Talks with Panelists

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jurors in Open Revolt over Loss of Deputies O.J. Trial Halted as Ito Talks with Panelists

Article excerpt

Rising tension on the O.J. Simpson jury erupted in open revolt Friday when 13 of the 18 members of the panel refused to go to court, halting the trial.

The angry jurors initially refused even to board the bus that takes them from their hotel to the courthouse. They demanded that Judge Lance A. Ito meet with them to hear their complaints, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

After the judge declined and ordered them to come to court, four jurors arrived dressed entirely in black, and nine wore some black clothing. Sheriff's sources said the black attire was intended as a protest against Ito's decision Thursday to reassign three sheriff's deputies who had been guarding the jury.

Some of the 12 jurors and six alternates were reported to have left the courthouse in tears Thursday after Ito told them he had removed the deputies. The deputies tended to the panelists for the three months they have been living at the hotel.

Ito canceled testimony for Friday and Monday and talked with seven jurors Friday. The judge's spokeswoman said the court would not release transcripts of any of the judge's interviews with the jurors until his investigation into a variety of jury problems is completed.

Simpson's lead defense attorney, Johnnie Cochran Jr., was among those present during the interviews Friday. "I couldn't characterize it as angry," Cochran said of the juror comments. "Some concerns were expressed on all sides, and we're trying to look at those concerns."

Cochran said he believed it was "highly improbable" that the jury rebellion would provoke a mistrial at this point.

Tension on the jury, including shoving matches and racial division, have been rumored since shortly after the panelists were sequestered in mid-January. The group began with 12 jurors and 12 alternates. Ito has dismissed six jurors for a variety of reasons, including lying on their court questionnaires, writing a book on the trial and having the same doctor as Simpson. The remaining panel includes 12 blacks, four whites and two Latinos; 14 are women and four are men.

Details of the dissension came into public view earlier this month when Ito excused juror Jeanette Harris, a black woman who claimed that the panel was divided by race and that the strife was made worse by sheriff's deputies who gave preferential treatment to white jurors. …

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