Published Monday, Sept. 8, 2008 | 7:57 a.m.
Updated Monday, Sept. 8, 2008 | 7:13 p.m.
Simpson enters judicial center
O.J. Simpson looked calm and collected today as he began his first day of court proceedings nearly a year after he walked into a casino hotel room intent on reclaiming some sports memorabilia.
The former football star arrived at the Clark County Regional Justice Center at 7:31 a.m. and said little to reporters as he made his way from a black SUV into the court.
His co-defendant, Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, a 54-year-old Simpson golfing buddy from North Las Vegas, arrived at 7:19 a.m. and was similarly silent on his way in the doors.
Both men are facing a dozen robbery, weapons and kidnapping-related charges related to an alleged Sept. 13, 2007, raid of sports memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley’s Las Vegas hotel room.
The Nevada Supreme Court last week rejected a bid from Stewart’s lawyers to have the two men tried separately.
As jury selection for the trial continued Monday afternoon, Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass experienced a moment from her own past as a defense attorney.
While Glass questioned a potential juror about 4 p.m., she realized she once defended his son in juvenile court. Glass practiced law for nearly two decades before she won her seat on the bench in 2002.
The juror candidate revealed the coincidence after Glass asked him whether he or anyone in his family had ever been convicted of committing a crime. He responded by saying "yes" and went on to explain his son got into legal trouble years ago and Glass was involved in the case.
He said the fact that she helped defend his son would not impact his ability to serve as a fair and unbiased juror. He also assured that he would not pass judgment on Simpson nor on Stewart until all evidence and arguments were presented.
After the potential juror explained his connection to the judge, Glass admitted that when she saw his name, she thought it sounded familiar.
While the two acknowledged their connection from years ago, the possible juror’s identity was not revealed. The identity of his son and details of his juvenile case also were kept secret.
Jury selection continued into the early evening. The process will resume at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The court is working to establish a 12-member jury for Simpson and Stewart’s upcoming criminal trial. Six people also will be assigned to serve as alternate jurors.
Jury selection began Monday morning. A court spokesman said the judge hoped to form a jury by Wednesday. However, the time-consuming process could take much longer than that.
Glass told possible jurors that, if selected, they could expect to begin hearing testimony next week.
Simpson’s lawyer, Yale Galanter, said in November that jury selection could last longer than the trial itself. The chances of that, however, are unlikely.
A review of the preliminary juror questionnaire narrowed the pool of 500 potential jurors to 248 before proceedings began today.
The defense and prosecution each have eight pre-emptive challenges and three alternate challenges to use during jury selection if they feel an individual is not suitable.
They jury selection process will see 100 jurors every day, split into groups of as many as 40 potential jurors at a time. On the first day of selection, 18 prospective jurors were AWOL, which delayed the process for more than an hour and a half.
Selection got underway at 9:40 a.m. Monday, as Glass began hearing various reasons why potential jurors wouldn't be able to serve.
“I’m in school.”
“I just started a new job.”
“I have a flight booked … it’s already paid for.”
“I just had surgery.”
By 10:30 a.m., Glass had questioned and heard from a dozen potential jurors, leaving 236 more to go.
Earlier in the day, the judge threw out a motion by the defense that requested jurors be asked whether they considered Simpson a murderer.
The Heisman Trophy winner was acquitted in 1995 of the murders of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. A subsequent civil suit, however, ruled he was responsible for their deaths and fined him $33.5 million in damages.
While the motion was thrown out, Glass made it clear that jurors would have to be impartial and fair, and specifically asked prospects about their interest and opinions regarding Simpson’s previous case.
She also stressed that jurors would have to shun radio, television and the Internet during the trial to remain unbiased.
After a jury is selected, the freedom of Simpson, 61, and his co-defendant will rest in their hands. If convicted of all 12 counts, the men could spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
The pair face two counts of first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, a state felony that carries a possible life sentence without parole for at least five years. Other charges, including the two counts of robbery with use of a deadly weapon, two counts of coercion with use of a deadly weapon, and burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, carry two-year minimum sentences.
Meanwhile, the two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit robbery all carry one-year minimum sentences.
The final charge, conspiracy to commit a crime, is a gross misdemeanor that, if convicted, could add an additional year in county jail to a guilty sentence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.