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'Juror Number 5' Looks Back to O.J. Simpson Civil Trial

May 26, 1999|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although the fifth anniversary of the Nicole Brown Simpson-Ron Goldman murders is just a few weeks away, people continue to hash over--and profit from--their association with the two trials related to the case.

The latest discussion came Monday night at the Directors Guild of America in West Hollywood, as Home Box Office screened its documentary "Juror Number 5: 58 Days of Duty on the O.J. Simpson Civil Trial," featuring Deena Mullen's first-person account regarding her service on the jury that found Simpson liable in those two deaths in 1997.

The hourlong film--mixing Mullen's "theatrical monologue," drawn from her copious notes, with news clips--recounts Mullen's reaction to the evidence, Simpson's testimony, the jury deliberations and even the notoriety that followed, from news organizations staking out her home to appearing on the "Today" and "Leeza" shows. The production begins showing on the pay channel June 1.

Mullen was joined on a panel after the screening by Fred Goldman, Ron's father; Daniel Petrocelli, Goldman's attorney in the civil trial; and Manny Medrano, a legal analyst for KNBC-TV who followed both trials. A half-dozen fellow jurors from the civil suit also attended the event, which focused on how the two juries could reach different verdicts, as well as the aftermath of the Simpson case.

"I think what happened in the first trial was the case got away from the judicial system," Petrocelli said. "The jury was a victim of that as well as a part of it."

Medrano, however, attributed the disparate verdicts simply to the quality of lawyering in the first trial, which he deemed "profoundly disappointing," especially in regard to presentation of the prosecution's case.

Mullen also lauded the plaintiffs' attorneys in the civil trial, saying, "These guys were telling a story that we could follow. . . . We were waiting to hear another story that made some sense."

Mullen said the jury did entertain the notion of a police conspiracy against Simpson but eventually dismissed it, feeling the intricate planning necessary was simply too elaborate to swallow. "If you're that creative," she said, "you're not working for the LAPD. You're working for Disney."

The panelists also debated whether those whose view of the judicial system was soured by the criminal trial would feel differently had the civil case been televised. Medrano suggested people would be less cynical had they been able to watch the second trial.

"High-profile cases are by their nature a perversion of the system," Petrocelli said. "We have to be careful not to judge our systems by what happens in these cases. They tend to be aberrations."

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