Jury selection for O.J. Simpson's robbery-kidnap trial began Monday with the judge trying to head off any influence from the former football star's 1995 acquittal on double-murder charges.
Outside the presence of prospective jurors, Judge Jackie Glass rejected defense attorney Yale Galanter's request to ask if they thought Simpson was a murderer; and, when the panel was brought in for questioning, she sternly lectured the group.
“If you are here thinking you are going to punish Mr. Simpson for what happened in Los Angeles in 1995, this is not the case for you,” she said. “If you're looking to become famous because of your service in this case, write a book, then this is not the case for you.”
Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart are accused of robbing two sports-collectibles dealers at a Las Vegas hotel last year.
In the Los Angeles case, Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson later was found civilly liable for their deaths.
“A significant issue is if you disagreed with that verdict in the criminal case, can you put aside your feelings about that verdict?” Glass asked the prospective jurors.
During initial questioning, two prospects said they could not put aside what they knew about the case and were dismissed. A dozen others were dismissed from service in the projected five-week trial because of hardship. They included students who had just begun new semesters and a man starting a new job.
Simpson's arrival at the courthouse Monday morning was much more subdued than previous appearances there, with no protesters and few people to greet him.
He declined to answer questions, but smiled and waved when one person called out, “Good luck!”
Simpson, 61, and Stewart, 54, chatted amiably with each other and with acquaintances in the courtroom before proceedings began.