Simpson is 'not guilty' in mock trial reportedly monitored by prosecution

September 02, 1994|By The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX -- O. J. Simpson has already had a trial -- of sorts -- in Phoenix. The verdict was "not guilty."

Mock jurors selected by a consulting firm -- apparently at the behest of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office -- heard key details of the case against Mr. Simpson last month at a Phoenix hotel.

With prosecutor Marcia Clark reportedly monitoring the proceedings from the next room, the majority of the 17 men and women concluded that the circumstantial evidence against Mr. Simpson wasn't enough to convict him of killing his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald L. Goldman.

"There is no murder weapon, no eyewitness, nothing to really tie him to the scene," said Charles Scruggs, a Phoenix truck driver who reported that he was paid $125 to participate. "More or less, it's inconclusive."

The mock jurors were asked questions about numerous aspects of the Simpson case, including the DNA tests, the bloody glove, the stiletto Mr. Simpson bought several weeks before the slayings, as well as suicide notes and Mr. Simpson's attempt to flee.

"They asked if we could find him guilty of Murder 1 if there was just circumstantial evidence," said Lance Kingston, a Phoenix real-estate agent. "They asked, if we found DNA and it was this and that, could you find him guilty?"

The consensus was "no," Mr. Kingston said.

"It would be hard for me to find him guilty from what they told me in that room," Mr. Kingston said.

During the session, consultants sought reactions to various prosecution arguments and tried to gauge the effect of news media manipulation by defense attorney Robert Shapiro and others in the Simpson camp.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office declined to confirm that Ms. Clark and consultants were in Phoenix conducting a mock trial.

"Anything like that goes to prosecutor's strategy and tactics, and we're just not commenting," spokesman Mike Botula said.

Mr. Botula did say that his office had hired a Torrance, Calif., consulting firm, DecisionQuest, to help with the Simpson trial.

Ms. Clark was in Phoenix on the weekend in question. A photographer snapped her picture at a Rusty Pelican restaurant Aug. 18, the day before the mock trial was held.

The mock jurors were selected by a local firm, Response Research, and were picked according to demographic data provided by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. Nine were black and eight were white, and the women outnumbered men, Mr. Kingston said.

Jurors were asked whether police acted properly in the case, whether they thought Mr. Simpson wrote the suicide notes, and the significance of Mr. Simpson's having $10,000 and a passport with him when taken into custody.

The jurors were asked to give impressions of Ms. Clark and Mr. Shapiro. Ms. Clark apparently did not fare well; some jurors found her style too aggressive.

Barnett Lotstein, a deputy Maricopa County attorney, said mock juries are common in significant civil cases and often are used by defense attorneys in high-profile criminal cases.

"It's relatively rare for prosecutors to either employ jury consultants or mock juries," Mr. Lotstein said.

"It's simply a matter of budgetary restraint."

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