Just hours after a jury was chosen for O.J. Simpson’s civil trial, the case was thrown into chaos Thursday amid reports that one juror might have to be booted.
Two hours after the jury of eight whites, two blacks, one Hispanic and one person of mixed race was sworn in, Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki summoned lawyers from both sides to his chambers.
Also called into the closed-door session for questioning was one of the jurors, a black man in his 50s, as well as a female alternate jury candidate.
Sources said Fujisaki was ready to boot the male juror after a fellow juror told him that the man had lied during jury selection.
Simpson’s lead lawyer, Robert Baker, said he believed the dismissal would warrant a mistrial.
But lawyers for the families of murder victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman want simply to replace the juror with an alternate and asked the judge for time to research the proper way to do that, sources said.
The problem postponed the selection of eight alternate jurors, meaning that opening arguments - originally set for Tuesday - likely will be delayed.
Court spokeswoman Jerrianne Hayslett would only say: “It’s still a 12-person jury. Right now, we’re having jury problems.”
Earlier, selection of the seven-woman, five-man jury had concluded after Fujisaki rejected a second defense bid for a mistrial on grounds that the murder victims’ lawyers were booting blacks from the panel solely on racial grounds.
The panel will not be sequestered, and Fujisaki warned them: “Don’t tell anyone you’ll be serving on this case…. If anybody tries to approach you, inform them you are under court order not to discuss the case.”
The panel included a postal worker, a would-be firefighter, at least two retirees and a theater stage manager.
If the jury stands, it will be charged with deciding whether Simpson is responsible for killing his ex-wife and Goldman on June 12, 1994, and what, if any, monetary damages the victims’ families should receive.
In jury selection, the six-hour-long peremptory challenge process resembled a life-size chess game, as the plaintiffs plucked six blacks from the 12-seat box and the defense tossed aside four whites.
The racially charged juggling sparked defense outrage.
“All six challenges have been African-Americans….They are targeting African-Americans to get them removed from this panel,” said defense lawyer Robert Blasier.