Hispanic juror speaks out on Simpson verdict L.A. man reiterates that acquittal was not influenced by race

October 10, 1995|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LOS ANGELES -- After six days of dodging reporters and watching some of his fellow jurors give interviews on national television, David A. Aldana, Juror No. 4, the only Hispanic member of the O. J. Simpson panel, decided to break his silence over the weekend.

The 33-year-old Pepsi truck driver reiterated what some of the jurors having been saying for days: that the jury's decision to acquit Mr. Simpson was based on a lack of evidence and that it was not influenced by race.

But he refused to say specifically how he had arrived at his decision, saying he feared ridicule by the public and criticism by the news media. In an interview on Sunday night at his East Los Angeles home, Mr. Aldana said he was troubled by the public reaction to the verdict.

"There was all this speculation," Mr. Aldana said. "How can they even say what we were thinking when they weren't in the same room?"

Mr. Aldana said that in the days that followed the verdict, he watched the televised interviews of his fellow jurors, on "Larry King Live," "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Nightline."

But he said he wanted no part of the initial media frenzy. In fact, after the verdict was announced Oct. 3, Mr. Aldana returned to his home in a working-class neighborhood of East Los Angeles, only once -- and under the cover of a van with tinted windows. But when he saw the horde of reporters, photographers and cameramen parked on his sidewalk, he quietly slipped away. He did not return home until Sunday.

Like some other jurors, Mr. Aldana is not ruling out the possibility of being paid later for his story. Gary Brown, a lawyer for Mr. Aldana, said his client was considering whether to appear in a television interview or a documentary. He said Mr. Aldana kept a diary during the trial that could be made into a book or a feature film.

"I'm not a rich man," Mr. Aldana explained. "But money isn't as important to me as it is to other people. I am a happy camper doing what I'm doing, and hopefully I can get back to it soon."

Only about half of the 12 jurors have spoken publicly since the verdict was announced.

Like the others, Mr. Aldana said his decision was based solely on the evidence -- or lack of the evidence -- in the prosecution's case. When asked if race played a role, Mr. Aldana said, "No way."

"Things just didn't add up," Mr. Aldana said of the evidence.

He recounted that the jury voted 10 to 2 for acquittal in a secret straw poll at 10 a.m. Oct. 6, 40 minutes into the deliberations, and that he was with the majority.

A 61-year-old retiree, Anise Aschenbach, one of two white jurors, was one of two whose votes later switched to not guilty. Ms. Aschenbach told ABC News through her daughter that she believed Mr. Simpson was probably guilty but that because of the possibility that evidence had been planted, she felt compelled to acquit him. The other dissenter has apparently not been identified.

Once the first straw vote was taken, some members of the jury still had unresolved questions, Mr. Aldana said. The jury asked to have the testimony of Allan Park, the limousine driver, read back.Jurors said they wanted to know exactly where Mr. Park saw the shadowy figure and where the cars were parked at the Simpson estate.

While they were waiting for the testimony to be read back, the jurors voted again, and this time it was unanimous.

In the end, jurors said they were just too troubled by certain inconsistencies in the prosecution's case. It was a very real possibility that physical evidence, including the infamous bloody glove, was planted, the jurors said. At the very least, they said, evidence was mishandled by members of the prosecution team and the Los Angeles Police Department crime laboratory. The testimony of Mark Fuhrman, who was labeled by both the prosecution and the defense as a racist police officer, was quickly discredited, they said.

During the short time the jury deliberated, Mr. Aldana said, there was "constant, nonstop" discussion of various points of evidence.

"On our last vote, we all agreed," Mr. Aldana said. "What do they expect us to do? Go back and fight the other way?"

Mr. Aldana said he still felt confident he made the right decision. "I can sleep at night, no problem," he said.

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