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Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Prospective juror can't put Simpson's past behind her

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- With other prospective jurors listening, a woman lectured O.J. Simpson on his behavior as a celebrity Tuesday and declared, "I felt he got away with murder."

Like others questioned for service in Simpson's robbery-kidnap trial, the woman said she would try to be fair. But she became increasingly adamant, disclosing the disenchantment of someone familiar with Simpson's triumphs and disappointed in his fall from glory.

"I'm very opinionated," said the woman. "I don't have any problem giving my opinion and sticking to it."

The exchanges on the second day of jury selection showed the enduring influence of Simpson's 1995 acquittal on charges of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and friend Ronald Goldman. Since Monday, 20 of 248 prospective jurors have been dismissed for various reasons.

The 61-year-old former University of Southern California and pro football star is now accused with co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart, 54, of kidnapping, armed robbery and other crimes for allegedly stealing items from two sports memorabilia dealers in a confrontation in a hotel room last year. They have pleaded not guilty.

Under questioning by District Attorney David Roger, the prospective juror recalled Simpson's impact on her life.

"I have seven brothers," she said. "Mr. Simpson has been around my life. He's always been there. I don't know what team he played for but I know about the Heisman Trophy. I'm from Southern California. My husband loved him."

Looking at Simpson, she said she thinks celebrities need to watch their behavior in public.

"He chose to put himself in the public eye," she said. "He should be a little more self-conscious of his actions. It's different than it would be for me."

Asked whether she was going to treat the case differently because of Simpson's past, the woman said, "I think as far as the first trial, I felt he got away with murder."

She told Roger she could judge the current case on its own terms. But later, questioned by defense attorney Gabriel Grasso, she said, "I can't be 100 percent sure."

He asked to remove the juror and after a few more questions from the prosecutor and judge, she was dismissed.

Reactions to Simpson's first trial and celebrity status dominated the day. Some prospects said they thought celebrities generally got preferential treatment in court.

One woman rejected the idea that Simpson had a "special aura" of privilege but recalled once sitting behind him at a football game. Another woman said she had expected a guilty verdict in Simpson's murder trial, but insisted, "His past has nothing to do with this case." She remained in the prospective jury pool.

The court is seeking 12 jurors and six alternates. Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass has said she wants a pool of 40 prospects who have been thoroughly questioned and not challenged for cause. At that point attorneys will start using peremptory challenges in which they need not state a cause for removing a juror.

By day's end 12 prospects had passed muster on cause. Since Monday, 20 have been dismissed for various reasons. Sixty-five more prospects were waiting to be questioned.

The judge has barred publication of the names of prospective jurors and in court they are only identified by numbers.