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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London