Sacked OJ juror denies racial chasm on panel

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The Independent Online


in Los Angeles

A dismissed black juror in the OJ Simpson murder trial yesterday contradicted suggestions that the jury is fraught with racial tension, and said prosecutors had so far presented a "pretty strong case" against the former American footballer.

The remarks by Michael Knox, 46, who provided the first direct account of a juror's personal reaction to the evidence, came after he was sent home by Judge Lance Ito, becoming the fourth juror to leave the case.

The remarks were a surprise because of widespread suspicions that some of the predominantly black panel may already be leaning Mr Simpson's way. The defence has mounted an unrelenting attack on the Los Angeles Police Department, a force loathed by many blacks.

His comments were also unexpected, given the prosecution's concern about his personal conduct as a juror. During a recent visit to Mr Simpson's Los Angeles mansion, lawyers from the LA District Attorney's office were alarmed to observe Mr Knox, a courier, wearing a cap bearing the logo of the San Francisco 49ers, one of Mr Simpson's former teams.

Although Judge Ito did not supply a reason for dismissing Mr Knox, Los Angeles was abuzz with reports that it was because he failed to reveal personal experience of domestic violence - an oversight seen as relevant, as Mr Simpson is accused of repeatedly abusing his wife.

Asked about his departure, Mr Knox would only say that there had been "a lot of allegations made, but they are false, a lot of lies."

The loss of four jurors is giving rise to predictions that there will be more departures. The panel and the remaining eight alternates are under great pressure, sequestered under police guard in an hotel, and facing frustrating delays in the trial.

Yesterday, Judge Ito sought to cheer them up by revealing that movie producers had sent them videotapes of Oscar-nominated films for them to watch.

Mr Knox was replaced by a 38-year-old white woman, drawn by lottery. This has produced a slight change in the jury's racial make-up, which now comprises eight blacks, two whites, one Hispanic and one person of mixed-race.