Ito Dismisses 2 More Jurors In O.J. Case Simpson Doesn’t Want To Be In Court When Photos Are Shown
A frantic defense bid to reinstate one of two jurors dismissed from the O.J. Simpson trial failed late Monday when an appeals court rejected claims that the ouster of a black man was racially motivated.
“He has been dismissed,” court spokeswoman Jerrianne Hayslett said of the juror. “There is no other appeal on this.”
The black man was removed along with a Hispanic woman who accused him of staring at her to try to intimidate her, the defense petition showed.
The jurors later were identified as Willie Cravin and Farron Chavarria.
“The prosecution is systematically attempting to target AfricanAmerican jurors for dismissal with the intention of reducing the jury panel to less than 12 so that a mistrial may be declared,” the defense papers said.
The double juror dismissal in the latest episode of alleged misconduct on the trouble-plagued jury left only two alternates for a trial expected to last through the summer.
Testimony was canceled for the day so the defense could try to save Cravin through an emergency writ of mandate filed with the state’s Second District Court of Appeal. A panel of judges took it up immediately but rejected it without comment. The ruling was signed by presiding Justice Paul Turner.
The defense papers accused Superior Court Judge Lance Ito of abusing his discretion in removing Cravin without proof he was unable to function as a juror and decide Simpson’s guilt or innocence.
The defense petition said Chavarria accused Cravin of staring at her and brushing against her in an elevator in an alleged attempt to intimidate her.
During an inquiry in the judge’s chambers, the man admitted staring at the woman, the defense papers said, but only after “she had begun staring at him.”
A declaration by defense attorney Carl Douglas disclosed the judge had been planning to dismiss Chavarria since last week. When he announced his intention, Douglas said, prosecutor Marcia Clark began arguing to remove Cravin.
Chavarria, Douglas said, at first denied passing a note to another dismissed juror, Francine Florio-Bunten, warning her she was about to be questioned about writing a book. But after intense questioning, Douglas said, Chavarria admitted her involvement.
The defense accused the prosecution of engineering the removal of black jurors to gain an unfair tactical advantage and “ultimately to secure a mistrial.”
In dismissing the jurors, Ito said only that he found “good cause” to remove the jurors. The ousted jurors are expected to be replaced when court resumes today, which will drain the pool of alternates to two, from the original 12. Jurors have been sequestered since Jan. 11, although opening statements didn’t begin until Jan. 24.
Chavarria, a 28-year-old real estate appraiser, and Cravin, a 55-year-old postal operations manager, had reportedly been under scrutiny for some time, and the judge spent hours in his chambers in recent weeks debating with lawyers whether they should be removed.
Leaving Ito’s chambers after the decision was made, prosecutors appeared ebullient. Defense attorneys were downcast, and Ito immediately announced their request for time to file an emergency appeal.
Legal analysts speculated the defense was trying to lay a foundation for a double jeopardy argument that would prevent Simpson’s retrial for the same offense. In a 1979 Ventura County case called Larios vs. Superior Court, the California Supreme Court ruled that the defendant could not be retried after a mistrial caused by a juror’s dismissal, without the defendant’s consent.
“Once a criminal defendant is placed on trial and the jury is duly impaneled and sworn, a discharge of the jury without a verdict is equivalent to an acquittal and bars retrial unless the defendant consents to the discharge or legal necessity requires it,” the Larios ruling said.
The action came on the same day that a poll showed 60 percent of California attorneys believe the Simpson case will end in a hung jury, requiring a retrial.
The disruption halted proceedings just as the case was to enter its most gruesome phase - coroner’s testimony and display of autopsy photographs. Defense lawyers disclosed Monday that Simpson doesn’t want to be in court when the autopsy evidence is presented. Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. said Simpson almost bolted from the courtroom Friday when a prosecutor graphically described how Nicole Simpson may have been murdered.
Cochran said it was difficult for Simpson to hear such details about the death of the woman he loved.