After spending two court days dealing with their personal concerns, jurors in the O.J. Simpson trial are shifting their attention back to murder.
Police criminalist Andrea Mazzola was to return to the witness stand Tuesday to continue discussing how she and supervisor Dennis Fung collected and stored evidence.Mazzola last testified Thursday, when jurors apparently became angry at the absence of three sheriff's guards from the courtroom. Superior Court Judge Lance Ito had reassigned the deputies, who watch over the sequestered jury, following complaints from a dismissed juror that guards gave preferential treatment to white panelists.
The reassignment prompted a protest by 13 members of the jury, who resisted coming to court Friday. When they grudgingly appeared, most wore black or dark colors.
Ito spoke privately with seven jurors Friday and seven more on Monday, as well as several sheriff's deputies, including those who were reassigned.
Simpson, charged with murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, was not present at the meetings.
The bizarre jury revolt came just as Ito, described by commentators as patient to a fault with the acid-tongued attorneys, had started to take a firmer hand in his courtroom.
"He is the type of person who had infinite patience and was very nice to everyone. Then people started to take advantage of him," said Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson. "Now he's got the problem of the jurors to contend with. You don't seize control of the jurors. You've got to work with them."
If appearances were any clue, Ito had some success Monday. Even before the conclusion of the private interviews, the panelists arrived wearing spring colors and smiles.
As they left for the day, attorneys said the judge had ordered them not to comment about the juror interviews. But sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said it appeared no panelists would be dismissed at this time, including the flight attendant who said last week, "I can't take it anymore."
Ito has not yet completed his inquiry, and he plans to interview more sheriff's personnel and inspect the hotel where the jurors are staying, his office said. A date for the hotel visit wasn't given.
Prospects were called to court for jury selection on Sept. 26, and the chosen panelists have been sequestered since Jan. 11. They heard their first words of testimony Jan. 31. In all likelihood, several months of testimony still remain.