OJ trial more about racial strife than double murder

FROM PHIL REEVES

in Los Angeles

Judge Lance Ito is not a happy man. Over the last few weeks, pundits across the United States have accused him of dithering, tantrums, and of losing control over the increasingly chaotic trial of OJ Simpson. And now matters seem even worse.

On Monday, he begins the arduous task of interviewing all 18 jurors and alternates in the case in an effort to establish if there is any truth to claims that they are now so racially divided that there have been physical confrontations between blacks and whites.

His investigation is the result of allegations by a recently ousted black juror which, if true, confirm the growing suspicion among many Americans that the so-called "trial of the century" now has less to do with double murder than deep racial differences.

On Wednesday, Judge Ito conducted a lengthy interview with the dismissed juror, Jeanette Harris, whom he threw off the panel for failing to disclose that she had been a victim of spousal abuse - a potentially important omission, as Simpson beat his ex-wife, Nicole. Hours after her departure, an evidently piqued Ms Harris appeared on television where she unloaded blistering allegations, including a suggestion that jurors may have been discussing the case.Understandably alarmed, and with predictions of a mistrial the judge issued a subpoena ordering her to appear in his chambers to tell him more.

Transcripts of their meeting show that she has now backed off her claims of possible misconduct. But she stood firm over her otherallegations. She described a jury that is fraught with racial divisions, and has split into bitterly antagonistic factions during the three months of being sequestered in an hotel. Whites and blacks even had separate video viewing rooms, and gyms, she said.

A group of white women had formed, which has had several show-downs with their black counterparts. At one point, she alleged, two of the women - a Latina and an Anglo-American - attacked a black juror, hitting him on the head. On another occasion, she and another black were kicked by a white woman. On a third, a Latina announced that she would not breathe the same air as a black juror.

The crisis was exacerbated by their guards from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, whom she accused of giving preferential treatment to whites - whites getting first pick of movies, telephone privileges, and longer shopping trips.

In itself, all this contains nothing sufficiently momentous to justify Judge Ito calling a mistrial. But in racially super-sensitive Los Angeles, no one treats such issues lightly, and there is a growing sentiment that no verdict can be reached.

It may not even reach that point. The jury - which now comprises eight blacks, three whites and one Latino - has already lost six members in 12 weeks. If the tension is as bad as Ms Harris claims, then there is every reason to fear that the case will run out of jurors,

While Judge Ito struggles to unravel the latest glitch, there are some who have cause to celebrate. For five days, the defence has been skewering Dennis Fung, who gathered evidence at the scene of the murders. He has conceded a handful of damaging points, including admitting that a blanket taken from Nicole Brown's flat to cover her body could have contained Simpson's hair and clothing fibres. An increasingly moody Mr Fung has also given a contradictory account of what he did with a vial of the sport's star's blood - a mistake which the defence will use to fortify their claim that the LA police tried to frame Simpson by planting traces of his blood.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn