LAS VEGAS (AP) _ The case against O.J. Simpson was won when the jury was chosen, said the consultant who helped prosecutors pick the Nevada jurors who found the former football star guilty of kidnapping and robbing two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint.
“That was the best possible jury prosecutors could ever have,” Howard Varinsky said Saturday, after jurors found Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart guilty of all 12 charges against them. Both men were taken into custody in a Las Vegas courtroom and jailed to await sentencing Dec. 5. Each could face up to life in prison.
Varinsky drafted a questionnaire for the prosecution that formed the basis of a 26-page survey used to cull 12 jurors and six alternates from a pool of 500 prospects.
“I was surprised that we got all the counts,” he said. “But it wasn’t an accident that the jury wound up looking like that.”
The jury of three men and nine women included one woman who identified herself as Hispanic on her questionnaire, a court spokesman said, and no blacks. Jurors declined interviews and avoided the media after the verdicts were read.
Judge Jackie Glass has not released the questionnaires despite a court challenge by The Associated Press and Stephens Media LLC, the owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Prosecutors have declined comment throughout the trial.
Lawyers and jury analysts recalled that prosecutors succeeded in removing two black jurors from the final panel, and tried to read into the minds of the people who sat through 13 days of testimony and closing arguments before finding Simpson and Stewart guilty.
“It’s impossible to say definitively that any case would’ve had a different verdict with a different jury,” said Sam Sommers, a Tufts University psychology professor who has written about race jury selection. “But it’s no accident that prosecutors are more likely than defense lawyers to try to eliminate black jurors during jury selection.”
Simpson lawyer Gabriel Grasso, who practiced law in Florida before moving to Las Vegas, emerged from the courthouse after the verdicts repeating what he said at the start of the case.
“Watch out for these Nevada juries,” he said. “The motto out here for juries is, ‘When in doubt, convict.’ It’s just the way it is.”
Simpson’s other lawyer, Yale Galanter, said the Las Vegas jury was “on an agenda” to make up for Simpson’s acquittal in Los Angeles in 1995 in the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
“This was just payback,” Galanter said.
“A lynching from the first second to the end,” agreed Thomas Scotto, a close Simpson friend who testified in the case and was overcome by emotion in the courtroom after the verdicts were read. “It’s a total injustice.”
Stewart’s attorney, Brent Bryson, said Stewart was hurt by what he called “the spillover effect” of being a defendant with Simpson.
“Absolutely, we will appeal,” Bryson said. “If there was ever a case that should have been severed in the history of jurisprudence, it’s this case.”
David Cook, attorney for the Goldman family, said he thought his hounding of Simpson for years to collect a $33.5 million wrongful death civil judgment drove Simpson to try a desperate gambit to recover personal items he lost after squirreling them away years ago.
“We drove him into that room to grab the sports memorabilia before we could seize the stuff,” Cook said. “Going to jail for beating Fred Goldman out of footballs and family mementoes. Is this closure for Fred Goldman? No. Is this closure for America? Yes.”
Varinsky insisted that Simpson and Stewart got fair trials. He said jurors answered several questions attesting to their ability to set aside their feelings about the Los Angeles case.
But he acknowledged the questions also reminded jurors about that case.
Michael Shapiro, a defense lawyer who followed the case from his office in New York City, called the verdicts no surprise.
“All of the facts were consistent with conspiracy to commit robbery,” Shapiro who provided television commentary during Simpson’s 1995 acquittal. “I predict O.J. will get somewhere from five to 10 years.
AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch and staff writers Kathleen Hennessey in Las Vegas and Christina Hoag in Los Angeles contributed to this report.