Monday, September 15, 2008

Does O.J. Deserve an Unbiased Jury?

by Tina Dirmann

O.J. Simpson may not get a fair trial. That's what a lot of people are saying, right? That jurors will be stinging, still, from that February 5, 1997 verdict that allowed him to walk away from a double homicide charge. And jurors will be so outraged, apparently, that they will not be able to weigh the facts objectively now that he stands trial for kidnapping and armed robbery in Las Vegas.

My take? The talk is right. And, beyond that, my guess is that few people care if Simpson's right to a fair trial is violated.

As a career crime reporter, I know only too well that no matter what we think of Simpson—and I do think he brutally slashed to death ex-wife Nicole Brown and friend Ron Goldman—he still deserves an unbiased jury.

You know, the kind he didn't get the first time—only that worked out in his favor. But this time? Eh, my gut says probably not so much. Oh, forget my gut. Listen to the potential jurors directly.

"I feel the case down in Los Angeles—if someone got away with that," a male juror angrily reasoned, "you would keep yourself clean and you wouldn't come back and commit another crime."

That one led the defense attorney to try to have all potential jurors who even heard the comment dismissed. The judge refused. After all, it's taken all week to find 12 unbiased jurors. She wasn't about to allow such a setback. But she did allow others who agreed with him to raise their hands. A few did. All were sent home.

Another juror admitted on his questionnaire that he couldn't get over his anger about the 1995 acquittal (though he later said under examination that he had a "change of heart" about that). Right.

I can't help but wonder, in fact, if there are some folks out there who are so upset over that long-ago injustice, that they'll gloss over their feelings publicly just to get a seat on that jury and somehow finally seek justice for those old murders. It could happen. And we'd probably never know. No more than we knew the jurors in California all those years ago were incapable of setting aside feelings of bitterness over police injustice to the minority community and seek their retribution by letting an obviously guilty man go.

But all that aside, what I'd really love to know is . . . What is O.J. thinking as he sits there, listening to people call him a murderer. Unlike the last time, when he would roll his eyes at comments in court and famously proclaim himself "100% not guilty," Simpson remains passive, with not a flicker of emotion crossing his face as each day's proceedings roll on.

But I bet he is scared. He's 61 years old and once again facing life in prison, this time for kidnapping, armed robbery, and assault in connection to stealing items from two sports memorabilia dealers in a Vegas hotel room last year—memorabilia he claims were his. Such a dumb crime. And this time, he's alone, pretty much. No gavel-to-gavel coverage by all the media networks. No outraged black community. No Cochran and crew (a.k.a., Dream Team). No lenient Judge Lance Ito allowing the circus to dance on and on.

And I think Simpson knows the chances of getting 12 jurors and 6 alternates with absolutely no opinion, with no ax to grind against him, are pretty slim. I'm not saying it's right. Or fair. That's just the way it is.

And if I were O.J., I'd be plenty scared.

6 comments:

Leah said...

I heard that OJ's defense team was whining about there being no blacks on his jury, although one of the alternates is black. Maybe next time before he commits a crime he should get the demographics first.

Cicero Lost said...

I thought he only needed to get one juror out of the 12 with an unbiased opinion? Doesn't it take 12 to convict?

LadySheila said...

Love this blog.

Well, I think (you know how important my opinion is), that OJ will get off just about scot-free again. He certainly can afford a great salesman (excuse me, attorney)and according to everything I have read, when he lost in the civil suit he had friends everywhere replace everything expensive in his house with fakes (to be returned later they promised, and I'm sure they were paid for helping so he feels justified, once again, in his actions)and moved to Miami where the laws would be much more favorable to him. Is it really true he has only paid the Goldman family a mere 40,000 plus dollars? (and that coming from his famous trophy?)So, in his mind, these things are rightfully his, and as he believes this (Hallmark of the best salesmen), I think his good looks and charisma will work for him as he conveys this to the jury. After all, he is quite the charmer no matter what anyone thinks of him. We KNOW he did it, but when I look at him and listen to him, I just really can't believe it either.....Wouldn't it be great if practicing law was exactly that? He's a great saleman who knows how to find a great salesman. I wish I was wrong and since he got off scot-free in the criminal trial before, I believe it would be fair for him to get the death penalty for the new charges. Only fair....

A Voice of Sanity said...

And we'd probably never know. No more than we knew the jurors in California all those years ago were incapable of setting aside feelings of bitterness over police injustice to the minority community and seek their retribution by letting an obviously guilty man go.

When was the standard for conviction changed to "what is obvious"? The critical point you seem to have missed is that in the original OJ case police officers violated their own rules and standards for evidence collecting procedures. They violated rules set by the state and appellate courts. The evidence technicians also violated their own rules and standards for evidence collecting procedures. They then were both shown to have perjured themselves under oath in court. One officer even took the 5th when questioned.

When the prosecution comes to court with unclean hands the only verdict allowed is not guilty. No matter what the jury believed or thought 'obvious', the fact is that the prosecution failed to offer a case that had proof that went beyond a reasonable conclusion, or, as the British say, such a conviction would be unsafe.

It shames America that people still attack this jury for doing their duty. They stood up for justice. All too many of their fellow citizens fail this test.

D said...

I couldn't agree with you more, a voice of sanity.

Anonymous said...

I think it's poetry! Tried first in LA where he plays the race card and he gets away with murder. Next he's tried in Vegas with trumped up charges and he's got an all white jury and a judge who loves to give tough sentences!

Now that's justice!