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O.J. `ENVELOPE’ REMAINS OUT OF PUBLIC REACH

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The mysterious yellow envelope wriggled its way back into the O.J. Simpson murder case, only to remain tantalizingly out of reach.

In a hearing Tuesday dominated by discussions of secrecy, both prosecutors and defense attorneys allied themselves against the news media and decided the best place to talk about the envelope was behind closed doors.After about a half hour, attorneys emerged from the private session. The envelope's contents were still unknown to anyone but the defense, which turned it over last month amid speculation it contained everything from the missing murder weapon to surveillance tapes from the Simpson estate.

In minutes of the meeting released by Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, the judge said he will order a "first wave" of 1,000 prospective jurors, and his highest priority will be finding panelists who can put aside the immense publicity.

Defense and prosecution attorneys agreed that secrecy is essential if Simpson, 47, is to receive a fair trial in the June 12 slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend Ronald Gold-man, 25.

Both sides want items such as Nicole Simpson's hospital records and pictures of bloody bodies kept under wraps.

"This matter has been overtried in the press," Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro complained. "We ask for something simple under the U.S. Constitution - a trial by jury."

Not that attorneys didn't get in their jabs. Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark accused the defense and police of spreading "unfounded and outrageous" rumors in the case. She flatly denied that any leaks have come from the district attorney's office.

"There is an outcry by both sides that we cannot receive a fair trial because of the intensity of media coverage," she said.

Shapiro insisted he was not the source of leaks to the media, alluding to one in particular that was widely linked to the defense: that an allegedly racist detective may have planted a bloody glove at Simpson's house.

"Race is not and will not be an issue in this case, and any attempt by the prosecution to continue to put on us the mistakes they have made early on in this case by granting interviews should be put to rest once and for all," Shapiro said.

Shapiro complained that "in the history of the world, there has never been a case with greater scrutiny, greater access" for the press and public.

A media attorney begged the judge to differ.

Kelli Sager, representing the Gannett Co., asked Ito to allow reporters to see - but not publish or broadcast - grisly crime scene photos, and to consider releasing a transcript of the private discussions about the envelope. She said the intense interest in the case makes keeping proceedings open even more important, so that people can have confidence in the justice system.

Ito delayed ruling on all issues until he can study them further.

Simpson appeared dismayed by the media request to see the grisly crime photos, and grimaced when Ito said the trial could stretch through Christmas.