Media, Jury Experts Make Impact on Start of Simpson Trial Judge Still Wrestles with Glut of Media Coverage as Jury Selection for Costly, Sensational Trial Begins Series: Experts Say Intense Media Coverage Will Ensure O.J. Simpson One of the Fairest Trials in US History or One of the Least Fair Due to a Lack of Impartial Jurors., DAN GROSHONG/REUTERS

By Daniel B. Wood, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 26, 1994 | Go to article overview

Media, Jury Experts Make Impact on Start of Simpson Trial Judge Still Wrestles with Glut of Media Coverage as Jury Selection for Costly, Sensational Trial Begins Series: Experts Say Intense Media Coverage Will Ensure O.J. Simpson One of the Fairest Trials in US History or One of the Least Fair Due to a Lack of Impartial Jurors., DAN GROSHONG/REUTERS


Daniel B. Wood, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


FINALLY ... The Trial itself.

Jury selection scheduled to begin today in the O. J. Simpson case marks the long-awaited formal opening to the double-murder episode's actual trial stage, for which every legal proceeding to this point has been merely preparatory.

To meet federal and state requirements granting the right of a "speedy trial," juror interviews must begin 60 days after Mr. Simpson's July 22 arraignment. Today marks that deadline plus a one-week extension agreed to by defense attorneys.

Ironically, the 18 satellite uplinks poised to deliver coverage to Everytown, USA and beyond - more than for World Cup soccer - will not be allowed to broadcast pictures of the jury selection. To protect prospective jurors' rights to privacy, one designated pool reporter, Linda Deutsch of Associated Press, will be allowed inside to report visual descriptions.

Live audio will be piped to a press room where all other reporters can take notes but are strictly forbidden to carry or use tape-recorders. Large role of judge

While Judge Lance Ito reviews written questionnaires filled out by juror candidates, following up with verbal questioning, both defense and prosecution teams will help winnow a reported beginning pool of 1,000 down to 12 jurors and six alternates.

Judge Ito is also expected to complete unfinished business from last week's pre-trial proceedings, ruling on several defense motions to suppress evidence.

He may also rule on whether the jury will be sequestered during the trial and will hold a hearing to determine whether one or more electronic media will be barred from covering the trial live.

"{Judge} Ito has been angered by media shenanigans outside the courtroom," says Laurie Levinson, law professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. "But it is unlikely that he will vent that anger by taking cameras from inside ... they are the one good way to offset bad reporting."

At some point before opening arguments in the case are heard, Ito will also conduct hearings to determine the admissibility of DNA evidence.

Now that the media and public have a chance to reflect beyond the murders themselves - and the summer's tabloid barrage of subplots on police chases, mystery weapons, athletes and beautiful women - what can serious citizens actually look for as proceedings unfold?

"The world is being treated to a full-blown, no-holds-barred, no-stone-unturned examination of what the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury means under the US Constitution," says Myrna Raeder vice chair of the American Bar Association's Committee on Federal rules of Evidence and Criminal Procedure.

"From trial proceedings to forensics, you are going to see into every nook and cranny of the American justice system, strength and weaknesses alike. …

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Media, Jury Experts Make Impact on Start of Simpson Trial Judge Still Wrestles with Glut of Media Coverage as Jury Selection for Costly, Sensational Trial Begins Series: Experts Say Intense Media Coverage Will Ensure O.J. Simpson One of the Fairest Trials in US History or One of the Least Fair Due to a Lack of Impartial Jurors., DAN GROSHONG/REUTERS
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