Mistrial looms as judge expels more OJ jurors

Los Angeles - Odds that the OJ Simpson case will end in a mistrial, and that a second murder trial will have to be held, arose yesterday after two more jurors were thrown out of the courtroom, writes Phil Reeves.

Testimony was on hold after the former American footballer's lawyers filed a writ challenging the dismissal of one of the two, reportedly for intimidating other panellists. Ten jurors or alternates have left since January, reducing the pool to 14 in a case expected to run at least another four months. Although previous trials have carried on with fewer than 12, after both sides agreed, Californian law is contradictory on the issue and fraught with perils for Mr Simpson's prosecutors.

Some analysts say there could be a risk that if prosecutors, fearing they are losing the case, refuse to continue with fewer than 12 panellists, they would have failed to prove that there was a "legal necessity" for a mistrial. Although the District Attorney has vowed to try Mr Simpson again if a mistrial is declared, a further attempt to do so could violate his constitutional protection against double jeopardy, they warn.

Judge Lance Ito gave no reason for throwing out the jurors beyond citing "good cause" but it was reported that the other panellist, a Hispanic, left after being accused of passing a note to a colleague on the jury bench, which she denies.

The juror's departure is likely to revive defence complaints that prosecutors are secretly investigating jurors they believe to be sympathetic to Mr Simpson, a tactic which they believe is denying him a fair trial.

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