LAS VEGAS (AP) _ It is not the jury of O.J. Simpson’s dreams, but neither does it shape up to be his nightmare.
The all-white jury that on Monday, Sept. 15 will begin judging him and a co-defendant on robbery and kidnapping charges was culled from an initial pool of 500 who answered questionnaires, and the remaining dozens who were later quizzed in the courtroom.
Prosecutors removed two prospective African-American jurors with their challenges.
Simpson’s lawyers managed to eliminate those with the strongest opinions about his 1995 acquittal on murder charges. Prospective jurors who said Simpson got away with murder have been thanked and told to go home.
The ones who remained when jury selection ended late Thursday night said they could put aside any residual opinions about the slaying of Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
“All in all, I can’t imagine that an all-white jury is what O.J. or his lawyers were hoping for,” said Michael Shapiro, a New York defense lawyer who has followed the Las Vegas case and provided commentary during Simpson’s 1995 murder acquittal in Los Angeles.
Most of the jury members said they didn’t care that much about Simpson’s “Trial of the Century” when it was televised gavel to gavel.
“One woman who said she had a toddler and a job at the time said, “I had my own drama going on in my life.”
All the panelists said they won’t let Simpson’s earlier case influence them when they judge him and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart on allegations that they robbed two sports collectibles brokers at gunpoint a year ago in a Las Vegas casino hotel room. Each man could face life in prison with the possibility of parole if convicted of kidnapping, and mandatory prison time if convicted of armed robbery.
“These 12 jurors are really going to have to rise to the occasion,” Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter said Friday. “They must set aside their feelings about O.J. Simpson and judge him on what they see in the courtroom.”
“Would I rather have had a more diverse group? Absolutely. But I do have faith in the system,” he said.
The nine-woman, three-man jury panel comes from a mix of occupations: engineers, computer experts, a pharmaceutical saleswoman, a food and beverage manager, a preschool teacher and a bank teller.
Most have connections to law enforcement. One juror’s son is a Las Vegas police officer. Some have been victims of crimes _ mostly thefts. And almost all of them distrust what they see and hear in the media.
They have all come to Las Vegas from other places including one who emigrated from England 31 years ago.
It’s a different city and a different century than when Simpson first went on trial in Los Angeles.
Then, Simpson was still gilded by his glory days as a Hall of Fame football player, movie star and commercial pitchman. He had a predominantly black jury.
Now, with his fame and fortune long past, he has no African-Americans sitting in judgment save two alternates who would weigh in only if a regular juror dropped out.
Shapiro said that might ultimately help Simpson.
“The defense now has a substantial appellate issue in the exclusion of the African-American jurors,” he said. “Even the present Supreme Court has expanded the rights of defendants when it comes to Batson (Batson v. Kentucky) challenges claiming improper systematic exclusion of certain jurors based using impermissible criteria such as race, religion, gender and national origin.”
Opening statements are scheduled Monday in the trial that is expected to run about five weeks.
In-depth information on the jurors and six alternates and their answers to written questions were kept secret by Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass, who denied a motion by The Associated Press and Stephens Media LLC, owner of the Las Vegas-Review Journal, to release the 26-page, 116-question forms.
On Friday, the Nevada Supreme Court ordered Glass to file a response to the media petition within 15 days, citing legal authorities for her decision. It said the petitioners “set forth issues of arguable merit.”
Associated Press Writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.
Pictured above is O.J. Simpson.