The O. J. Simpson Trial: The Jury

The Simpson jury (sketch by Bill Robles)

Final Jury Composition
Selection of the Jury
The Jury Questionaire

Final Jury Composition

The Jury By Race: 9 Blacks, 1 Hispanics, 2 Whites
The Jury By Sex: 10 Women, 2 Men
The Jury By Education: 2 College Graduates, 9 High School Graduates, 1 Without Diploma

Some other facts about the final jury: (1) None regularly read a newspaper, but eight regularly watch tabloid TV shows, (2) five thought it was sometimes appropriate to use force on a family member, (3) all were Democrats, (4) five reported that they or another family member had had a negative experience with the police, (5) nine thought that Simpson was less likely to be a murderer because he was a professional athlete.

The racial composition of the initial jury pool differed considerably from the racial compostion of the final jury.  The pool was 40% white, 28% black, 17% Hispanic, and 15% Asian.

For detailed descriptions of Simpson's jurors, jump to: Simpson Criminal Jury or to Simpson Civil Jury

Selection of the Jury

The racial composition of the jury was strongly influenced by the decision of the prosecution to file the Simpson case in downtown Los Angeles rather than--as is usually the case-- in the judicial district where the crime occurred-- in this case, Santa Monica. Had the case be filed in Santa Monica, the Simpson jury would have been mostly white instead of, as was the case, mostly African-American.  With poll data showing that most whites believed Simpson to be guilty and most blacks believing him to be not guilty, the decision to file the case in Santa Monica may have been the biggest mistake the prosecution made.  Vincent Bugliosi, the celebrated prosecutor in the Charles Manson case, said the mistake "dwarfed anything the defense did."

Jury selection got underway on September 24, 1994 in Judge Ito's courtroom.  Present that day were 250 potential members of the jury and the judge, Simpson, and lawyers for both sides.  Participating for the defense in the jury selection process were attorneys Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran as well as highly respected jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius.  The prosecution was represented by Marcia Clark and Bill Hodgman and jury consultant Don Vinson.  Judge Ito explained procedures to the potential jury members and warned them that the trial might last several months.  The remark about the expected length of the trial prompted Simpson to moan loudly, "Oh, God, no--my kids, my kids."  Ito told jurors they must complete a 79-page, 294-question questionaire including questions proposed by both the prosecution and defense.  In addition, they were to complete a one-page "hardship" questionaire designed to determine jurors who could be intially excluded from the selection process.  Potential jurors complained about the lengthy questionaire, which took about four hours for many people to complete.  They also were overheard muttering complaints about the personal nature of many of the questions--questions about their beliefs concerning the causes of domestic violence, about their feelings concerning interracial marriages, about whether they "ever provided a urine sample to be analyzed for any purpose."

Jury selection continued for two months.  Judge Ito excluded from consideration potential jurors who violated his strict rules relating to exposure to the media.  One juror was excluded for watching cartoons with her children, another for waking up to a clock radio.  On October 18, Faye Resnick's book on Nicole Simpson's relationship with O. J. hit the bookstores, causing Ito to order a temporary halt to jury selection and to tell potential jurors "I forgot to tell you to stay out of bookstores."

A week later Ito dealt with another controversy, this one brought on by prosecutor Marcia Clark who had publicly complained that potential jurors were "lying" to get on the Simpson jury and that they all ought to be given lie-detector tests.  Possibly seeing her remark later as potentially prejudicing jurors against the prosecution, she then asked Ito to dismiss the entire jury panel, citing "recent publicity."  He refused.

During the voir dire process, each potential juror took a seat at a conference table.  Also seated at the table were lawyers for both sides and Simpson--sitting not more than six feet from the people that might soon judge him.  The object of voir dire, from each side's perspective, is not to get a fair jury, but rather a prejudiced one--one prejudiced in their favor.  In theory, what results is a fair jury, one from which both sides have excuded potential jurors that are least likely to be sympathetic to their cause.  Jurors who give answers that indicate that they have prejudged the case can be challenged for cause, others can be excluded using a limited number of peremptory challenges.  Attorneys can exercise their peremptory challenges for almost any reason--body language, appearance, dissatisfaction with answers--but not for reasons of race or sex.  Every challenge by the prosecution of a potential black juror caused Cochran to approach the bench and suggest that the challenge may have been racially motivated.  This tactic may have worked to dissuade the prosecution from challenging some black jurors.  It was no secret that the prosecution wanted white jurors and the defense wanted black jurors.  Despite defense survey data suggesting that women generally made better defense jurors than men, Prosecutor Clark willingly accepted a disproportionate number of women jurors.  She reportedly believed--wrongly, as it turned out--that female jurors responded well to her courtroom style.  The defense's simulated jury tests had indicated that black females disliked Nicole Simpson--believing that she was irresponsibly milking money from a famous black man--and that they would also likely be hostile to a hard-edged female prosecutor such as Marcia Clark.

The defense poured great effort into the jury selection process.  Consultant Dmitrius coordinated massive data on each of the jury finalists, including their answers to the questionaire, responses and body language during voir dire, and other data the defense had managed to collect.  This data was put into a computer and each juror ranked according to their likely sympathy to the defense.

By November 3, an initial jury of twelve had been selected.  The jury consisted of 8 blacks, 2 Hispanics, 1 half-Caucasian, half Native American, and 1 Caucasian female.  Fifteen alternates were selected over the next few weeks.

On December 4, the jury was assembled and given cautionary instructions by Judge Ito.  They were told that the trial would begin on January 4, and that they could expect to be sequestered for the duration of the several-month trial.

Sample Jury Questions:

14. Where were you born?
39. While in school, what was your favorite subject?
40. What was your least favorite subject?
49. Spouse-partner’s place of birth?
142. Have you ever had any personal interaction with a celebrity (such as writing a celebrity a letter, receiving a letter or photograph from a celebrity, or getting an autograph from a celebrity)? Yes? No? If yes, please explain:
145. Please name the person for whom you are a great fan and describe why you are a fan of that person?
161. Do you have any affiliation with professional sports?
162. Have you ever experienced domestic violence in your home, either growing up or as an adult?  Please describe the circumstances and the impact it has had upon you.
172.  Do you think using physical force on a fellow family member is sometimes justified?
184.  How do you feel about interracial marriage?
186. Have you ever dated a person of a different race? Yes?  No?  If yes, how did you feel about it?
191. When you were growing up, what was the racial and ethnic make-up of your neighborhood?
193.  Before the Simpson case, did you read any book, articles or magazines concerning DNA analysis?
201.  Do you have a religious affiliation or preference?  Yes? No?  If yes, please describe. How important would you say religion is in your life? Would anything about your religious beliefs make it difficult for you to sit in judgement of another person?  Yes?  No?  Possibly? How often do you attend religious services?
202. What is your political affiliation? (Please circle) 1. Democrat   2. Republican  3. Independent   4. Other (please specify)
203. Are you currently registered to vote?  Yes?  No?
204. Did you vote in the June, 1994 primary elections?  Yes?  No?
205. Do you consider yourself politically: Active?  Moderately active?  Inactive?
211. Have you ever provided a urine sample to be analyzed for any purpose?  Yes?  No?  If yes, did you feel comfortable with the accuracy of the results?  Yes?  No?
212. Do you believe it is immoral or wrong to do an amniocentesis to determine whether a fetus had a genetic defect?  Yes? No? Don’t have an opinion?
213. Have you or anyone close to you undergone amniocentesis?
215. Did you take science or math courses in college?
222. Do you have (please check) Security bars?  Alarms?  Guard dog?  Weapons for self-protection?
230. Have you ever seen a crime being committed (other than where you were the victim)?  If yes, how many times and what kind of crime(s)?
244. What type of books do you prefer?  (Example: Non-fiction? Historical? Romance? Espionage? Mystery?)
248. Have you ever written a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine?  Yes? No? If yes, what was the subject matter of your comment:
249.  Do you watch any of the early evening "tabloid news" programs? Such as "Hard Copy," "Current Affair," "American Journal," etc.
251. Which television news shows do you enjoy watching on a regular basis?
252. What are your leisure time interests, hobbies and activities?
254. What accomplishments in your life are you most proud of?
255. What groups ore organizations do you belong to now or have you belonged to for a significant period of time in the past?  (For example, bowling leagues, church groups, AA, Sierra Club, MECLA, National Rifle Association, ACLU, YWCA, PTA, NAACP, etc.)
257. Are there any charities or organizations to which you make donations?  Yes? No? If yes,  please list the organizations or charities to which you contribute:
265. Are you a fan of the USC Trojans football team?
270. How many hours per week do you watch sporting activities?
271. Name the last three sporting events you attended.
273. What are your favorite sports?  Why?
274. Name the most significant sport figure, sport program, or sporting event scandals you recall.
275. Does playing sports build an individual’s character?  Yes? No? Please explain your answer whether you answer yes or no:
276. Do you seek out positions of leadership?  (Please check answer) Always?  Often?   Seldom?  Never?
277. Please name the three public figures you admire most.
281. Do you own any special knives (other than for cooking), such as hunting or pen knives?
285. Would you like to be a juror in this case?

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