Judge Lance A. Ito capped another week of tumult-as-usual in O.J. Simpson’s double-murder trial Friday by seating still another new juror and rejecting a defense request to introduce into evidence parts of a tape-recorded statement the former football star gave police before his arrest.
The newest juror is a 71-year-old black woman who lists her occupation as “retired cleaning officer.” She told attorneys before she was empaneled as an alternate that she had never heard of O.J. Simpson.
But while another halting week of testimony may have lurched to a close, the controversy about the dwindling jury panel escalated. In fact, sources said a ninth juror is under investigation for misconduct and may be dismissed as early as Tuesday morning.
The allegations against the ninth juror, according to sources, grow out of the sequence of events that led to Thursday evening’s dismissal of 38-year-old Francine Florio-Bunten, a white telephone worker. The sources say Florio-Bunten was excused “for lack of candor.”
Another dismissed juror, Jeanette Harris, a black, also has alleged that Florio-Bunten demonstrated racial bias and received special favors from deputies guarding the jurors.
She also played a major role in the now-celebrated jurors’ revolt.
Florio-Bunten’s dismissal, sources say, came after Ito received a letter from an employee of a literary agency, who said the agency had been approached by the juror’s husband Edward.
According to the agency employee - who reportedly wrote to Ito as “an act of conscience” - Edward Florio-Bunten said his wife intended to write a book about her experiences, titled “Standing Alone for Nicole.” The title apparently reflects sympathy for Nicole Brown Simpson.
Florio-Bunten denied it when Ito confronted her with the allegation Thursday afternoon. She was told to return to the jury room and not to discuss the matter with the other panelists. They, in turn, were summoned to Ito’s chambers, questioned and given similar orders to be silent. At some point during the procedure, other jurors told the judge that Florio-Bunten was exchanging notes with juror 1427, a Latina county employee.
Sources said Ito confronted both women with evidence of their covert communication, but they denied it. That, the sources report, led to Florio-Bunten’s dismissal and may force the removal of the other juror, as well.