Ever since that slowspeed Bronco chase bumped a championship basketball game off television, O.J. Simpson has been a national obsession.
Or so we thought.
Turns out, however, that a surprising number of Los Angeles County residents under consideration to serve on the jury for Simpson’s civil trial say they’ve completely ignored the hubbub. They tuned out the media babble, walked past the water-cooler gossips, didn’t give the man, his trial or his acquittals so much as a thought.
Or so they say in court.
Confounding attorneys and legal analysts, at least six potential jurors insist they know nothing and more than a dozen others say they have no opinions on the subject.
One woman, a bill collector for a utility company, said none of her friends, family members or co-workers ever has expressed any opinion on any aspect of the Simpson case. Neither, she said, has she. Asked if she knows the name “Johnnie Cochran,” she paused. “I think he was one of the attorneys,” she said. “Wasn’t he?”
Explanations for ignorance or indifference range from the intellectual (“I was too occupied with the disintegration of Yugoslavia”) to the philosophical (“If he did it, higher powers will take care of him”) to the practical (“The news depresses me; I try to avoid it.”) Such excuses apparently satisfy Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki, who has kept most of these candidates in the jury pool.
But lawyers handling the case clearly wonder: Are these people for real?
Urging the judge to oust the bill collector from the panel despite her protestations of ignorance, attorney Paul Callan, who represents the estate of Nicole Brown Simpson, said he finds it “very, very difficult to believe that a person who reads, listens to the radio from time to time and watches television from time to time could know absolutely nothing about the case.”
Simpson attorney Robert C. Baker has said as much himself, though he did not challenge the bill collector. “Everyone has opinions about this case - you’d have to be living in a cave not to,” he said.
Still, given that polls indicate only three in five Americans can name Al Gore as our vice president, some legal analysts say they are inclined to give these would-be jurors the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re telling the truth.
One woman responded to most questions with a blank look. Asked about the relationship between O.J. and Nicole Simpson, she answered, “I didn’t even know Mr. O.J. Simpson was married.”
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