A mere 2 1/2 months after the selection process started, a jury and alternate jurors have been sworn in for the murder trial of O.J. Simpson. The trial will not begin before February. But Americans already have learned two things from the Simpson extravaganza:

1. The way juries are selected in this country, in high-profile cases especially, is outrageously expensive and damaging to respect for law.2. The promise engraved on the pediment of the Supreme Court building, "Equal Justice Under Law," is mocked by the reality of criminal justice: the grotesque disparity in what is done for rich and poor defendants.

The fact that it took 21/2 months to pick the Simpson jurors is alone enough to condemn the process. The cost in the time of lawyers and judges was many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But the social cost is what matters. The spectacle of lawyers and psychologists maneuvering to get on the jury people whose race or age or sex or employment supposedly makes them more likely to convict or acquit teaches citizens the lesson that criminal trials are a game having little to do with truth or justice.

-Anthony Lewis

New York Times News Service