Sep 09, 2008

O.J. Simpson Meets Jury # 3

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The terms "O.J. Simpson" and "jury selection" go together like peanut butter and jelly. In the mid-1990s, one jury decided that Simpson was not guilty of brutally killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. (Had they had the chance, this group of jurors might also have decided that gravity ceases to exist on Tuesdays.) Shortly thereafter, in a civil trial, a second jury decided that Simpson had killed his ex-wife and Goldman, and held Simpson liable for millions of dollars (of which he has paid little or nothing). 

Now Simpson is on trial in Las Vegas, accused (with a co-defendant) of breaking into a hotel room and robbing two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint. Simpson admits entering the hotel room, but denies that guns were involved, and also claims that he was only trying to recover personal memorabilia that had been stolen from him.

This is one of those cases in which it may take almost as long to select the jury as to try the case. Simpson's notoriety requires the judge and the attorneys to question potential jurors carefully. During the process called "voir dire," they'll try to eliminate potential jurors who might be inclined either convict or acquit Simpson based on their attitudes stemming from his possible involvement in the deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman. Similarly, they want to eliminate people who might want to get selected for the jury so that they can later go on a TV talk show and chat about their experiences as an O.J. Simpson juror.

It's not necessary to impanel people who can honestly say, "I've never heard of O.J. Simpson." But it should be reasonably possible to find impartial jurors who can honestly say, "I can disregard what I've heard about O.J. Simpson and decide whether or not he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing the crimes with which he is charged." Right?