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Prosecutors Ask Full Sequestering of Simpson Jury

September 03, 1994|ANDREA FORD and DAVID FERRELL | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

"Everything that is happening in this case is being looked at under a microscope," he said. "Every time you turn around, you find out things you didn't want to know. And the risk of (the jury facing) that kind of exposure is going to do nothing but grow."

In the papers prosecutors filed Friday, they even expressed concern that jurors might be followed home by aggressive reporters or be tempted to take the initiative in contacting the media.

"While the court's offer to collect articles and videotapes concerning the case for post-trial review is thoughtful and generous," the prosecutors wrote, "the truth of the matter is that it will not quench a juror's immediate thirst to learn how the public (or media) views a particularly critical day of testimony."

If full sequestration is ordered throughout the trial, the already daunting task of selecting jurors may become much harder, experts said.

Garland said he believes that the system will work, regardless. If potential jurors know in advance that they will be sequestered, it should be possible--at least in theory--to find candidates willing to endure the hardship and still apply themselves to reaching an impartial verdict, he said.

He disagreed with those who believe that sequestration would favor the prosecution. "One of the things we fear with sequestration is that the jury is going to get ticked off and reach a quick decision--and that could cut either way."

But Levin, the veteran defense lawyer, sharply criticized the proposal to sequester, maintaining that the bias it creates in favor of the prosecution would be exacerbated by the difficulty in finding a balanced mix of jurors.

"What kind of person could put aside their entire lives--financially, personally and professionally--and be locked up in a hotel room for three to six months?" Levin asked. The answer, most likely, would be retired people or those who are independently wealthy, he said.

Such jurors may be far different in background and attitude from Simpson--a black man of urban upbringing who, though wealthy, works for a living.

"You're not getting a jury of your peers," Levin said.

Upcoming evidence hearings--including one to debate the admissibility of DNA evidence--pose yet another problem in jury selection, UCLA's Arenella said.

If jurors were picked before those hearings, they could be forced to wait a month or so before being allowed to begin considering evidence.

If they were sequestered during that time, they would have to bide those weeks in hotel rooms with little to do and little contact with the outside world. On the other hand, if they were allowed to go home during that break, they might hear about evidence that ultimately was ruled inadmissible during the trial, Arenella said. This could force some panelists to be dismissed, which in turn would require selection of a new jury even before the trial could begin in earnest.

Times staff writer Jim Newton contributed to this story.

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