Simpson's alternate jurors: four down and eight to go

March 03, 1995|By ROGER SIMON

Since the O. J. Simpson trial began, Judge Lance Ito has dismissed one third of his original jury.

Ito has replaced them from his pool of alternates and still has eight alternates left.

The latest alternate to go from the minors to the majors is Juror No. 353, who became a favorite of the Simpson press corps when she revealed to the world Judge Ito's policy on conjugal visits.

Conjugal is from the Latin "conjungere," which means to join together or unite in marriage. And, technically, it does apply to marriage only.

But seven of the 12 Simpson jurors are single (as are four of the eight alternates).

So here's the dilemma: Do single jurors have a right to state-sanctioned sex?

Well, yes, they do, Ito decided.

Conjugal connotes marital "relations." Which means instead of having sex with their loved ones, the jurors could be arguing with them.

Whatever they do, the Simpson jurors get to do it one day a week. (Which may be more than they were doing it before being sequestered.)

The press learned about all this through Juror No. 353, who, like all the jurors, was brought back into court after selection but before the trial began to see if she had been tainted by publicity.

The jury had been sequestered for seven days at the time Ito began his questioning:

The Court: Everything OK?

Juror No. 353: Yeah, as best as can be expected I guess.

The Court: Anything I can do to help you on that?

Juror No. 353: I just heard about the conjugal visits. So that will help. It's nice, just intimacy, you know, having somebody that loves you, cares about you, hold you. I'm a real kind of a touchy-feely kind of person. So I really need that.

The Court: Now you tell us that.

Juror No. 353: I guess I should have told you that before. I thought you guys would have to know (about the need for intimacy).

The Court: No. 353, that was just a misunderstanding between the Sheriff's Department and me, and we'll take care of that. . . . It will happen. It may not happen this week.

Juror No. 353: That's all right . . . as long as I have hope. And that's what I keep saying, you know, as long as there's hope of things happening, I'm OK. I'll tell you, the first couple of days were real rough. I, you know, I thought, you know, the sheets are 6 1/2 feet long and if I tie four of them together, go down three floors, you know.

3' At this point, not only those of us

the press room, but No. 353's fellow jurors broke up in laughter.

Keep in mind that she had been sequestered for seven days in a trial that could take three or six or nine months. And she already was plotting to knot the sheets together to escape!

Ito is almost sure to lose more jurors as the trial goes on due to illness, family emergency, etc.

But what if he uses up all his alternates and then loses a juror and is left with only 11?

Usually a mistrial is declared, which means the state would have to try O. J. Simpson all over again.

But if the defense agrees, they could proceed with just 11 (or fewer) jurors.

Why would the defense agree rather than demanding a new trial? A new trial, after all, would be helpful for a couple of reasons: The defense now knows the entire prosecution case and, more importantly, it would get a second chance to exclude key evidence, including the bloody glove.

So why on earth would Simpson want this trial to continue?

Because he is running out of money, for one thing.

The recent delays are costing him thousands. His Dream Team lawyers, each of whom may be charging him around $400 an hour, have their meters running.

Simpson almost certainly will not have the money to pay the Dream Team a second time around. (If he becomes indigent, which is very possible, the state would have to pay for his new lawyers. But the Dream Team might not like state rates. Besides, they have book and TV careers to get on with.)

So O. J. Simpson might very well accept this jury, no matter what its size.

If he doesn't, however, there is one huge problem in a new trial:

Remember how hard it was to find this jury, a jury untainted by pretrial publicity?

Now, with all the additional publicity, where on earth would they find a second one?

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