The Fate of the Jury—Part III, The OJ Simpson Robbery Trial

Long ago I promised Mr. Paul Connelly, foreman of the 2008 jury in the trial of O. J. Simpson for robbery and kidnapping, that I would publicly apologize for my ignorant post about him. The time is long past for that, so I not only apologize profusely for mischaracterizing him in this blog but also for taking so long to correct my stupid mistake.

I hope Mr. Connelly knows that Google searches no longer turn up my uninformed post about him (and after I’m sure this blog article is posted, I will unpublish the earlier posts and comments). In fact, Google searches no longer turn up much at all about the O. J. Simpson trial except to list Simpson’s prison address and to state that in 2011 the Nevada Supreme Court denied Simpson’s appeal and all of his reasoning, including his complaint against the jury and jury foreman specifically. In addition, Google has recently redesigned YouTube so that it is impossible to find anything on it other than paid advertising, so none of the videos of the Nevada trial that YouTube once featured so prominently are easy to find.

I hope now Mr. Connelly is able to return to his private life. I know from personal experience how hard that is to do after serving on even an obscure jury. Serving on a jury is traumatic for anyone with integrity, a belief in the American system of justice, and a love of the Bill of Rights.

The Book

Mr. Connelly told me he had written a book about his experiences with O. J. Simpson’s lawyers, the press, and the judges. It still sits in a drawer somewhere, because he was wise enough not to make it public. I believe I told him I had once considered writing a true-crime book about a case involving a woman convicted of murder whom I believe to be innocent. I contacted the attorneys at the Author’s Guild (of which I am a member), and they kindly informed me that I would need not only liability insurance but also to find an attorney who specializes in vetting manuscripts before publication.

Naturally, I decided against writing the true crime book. Since that time, I have also decided not to blog about the case any further, because really I know very little about the people involved. Most of their behavior is more inexplicable than any fictional character I have ever dreamed up. I wish them all well, but it’s best for a juror or other bystander in these matters just to keep quiet and try to go on with their own lives.

The Fate of the O. J. Simpson Foreman

Mr. Connelly posted public comments on this blog. I have researched and confirmed what he told me. Here it is:

After the verdict was in, the foreman, Mr. Connelly, agreed to speak to the media in the courtroom. BIG MISTAKE. The reporters, cameramen, and sound crews were—as usual—unruly.

Mis-speaking to the Media

Someone asked a question about what sentence was appropriate for Simpson.

Mr. Connelly replied: "That is up to the judge and the court to decide. It is not up to this panel of jurors."

The reporter pressed on, saying,"Many people are of the impression that OJ Simpson should have been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison 13 years ago and that surely every one has opinion on this case."

Mr. Connelly mistook the reference of the pronoun “this” as “opinion”, and replied, "and that was my opinion, that it is up to the court and the jury to decide."

I told Mr. Connelly that it was legitimate to interpret his statement to mean that he thought OJ Simpson was guilty and ought to have been sentenced to life (the former English teacher in me speaking, not the former juror). However, I do believe him when he says that was not what he meant. The Nevada Supreme Court also agree that was what he meant.

This is an object lesson for all future jurors: Never speak to the media. Jurors are not trained to address the media. It takes years of formal education to be competent to deal with the media.

False Rumor

The media reported that the foreman, Mr. Connelly, had pressed the jury to continue deliberating late into the night in order to deliver a verdict on the 13th anniversary of Simpson’s famous not-guilty verdict.

Mr. Connelly swears that no one on the jury, not even he, knew that the date was the anniversary. The reason they pressed on was that they had first deliberated over Mr. Simpson and had reached agreement on his guilt, but they had not deliberated on Mr. Stewart. If they had adjourned for the evening, they were worried that the Simpson guilty verdicts would leak out; so rather than risk that they pressed on.

To quote Mr. Connelly’s comments on this blog:

“As for the foreman deciding to press on into the night on the 13th anniversary, not a single juror had a clue as to the significance of the day. Certainly the defense attorneys did, and they could have postponed closing arguments another day. . . . We had no idea that it was the 13th day of the trial; we deliberated 13 hours; and it was the 13th anniversary of his [Simpson’s] famous trial. He also committed the latest crimes on the 13th of September the year prior. My original juror summons number was 32, which is his jersey number, [and] he was also once jailed here in Vegas in cell 32. Is this my fault?”

It’s an interesting observation, don’t you agree? And surely it is no coincidence that “the defense attorneys” later cited Mr. Connelly’s remarks and behavior as grounds for their appeal.

Mr. Connelly also wrote:

“As for no black jurors on this trial: 18 jurors sat through this trial. Juror #13 is an African American male, and juror#17 is an African American female. The judge wanted to do a lottery of sorts to decide the 12 deliberating jurors. This method would have certainly given one of the African American jurors a chance to deliberate. However, the defense lawyers did not want the lottery, as they asked the judge to have jurors 1 [through] 12 as the jury and 13 [through] 18 as alternates.”

In Mr. Connelly’s opinion, the defense attorneys did this in order to guarantee an all-white jury and, so, provide another grounds for appeal if the verdicts were guilty. I’m sure he is correct.

Media Are Destroying the Jury System

Mr. Connelly was forced to testify before the court about his alleged misconduct. Simpson’s lawyers tried to have him charged with perjury for his answers on the juror questionnaire. His family was harassed by the media. I can’t begin to imagine how horrible all this was for his family.

The State of Nevada owes him an apology, in my opinion.

You know this is true: in every high-profile trial, the only verdict the media will accept is “Guilty.” Any “Not Guilty” verdict is blamed on the jury system and the ignorance, stupidity, or corruption of the jurors.

Pray you are never the defendant in a high-profile trial of any kind. I say “pray,” because your fate is out of your control. Perfectly innocent people are arrested all the time.

But you can do something to help yourself from serving on a high-profile jury. If you don’t feel it’s ethical to ask to be excused from jury duty, then be very sure you don’t ever talk to the media.

 

Let Me Lend You an Ebook for the Holidays

My mystery short-story collection, THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, is now available for borrowing from the Amazon Kindle Lending Library. Most of the stories were previously published in hardcopy and e-magazines, and most are fairly tongue-in-cheek, so the evil isn’t entirely out-of-character for this season. Only one, “At the Foot” is definitely a horror, rather like most of the murders I discuss in this blog.

Recently, the Authors Guild and other writers’ organizations have criticized Amazon for its lending policy. As a result, Amazon has established a generous fund to compensate authors for royalties that would otherwise be lost through its lending library. So, you don’t have to feel guilty about borrowing any author’s books, let alone mine. More than royalties I’m looking for readers–believe it or not. And if you read my work and like it, I would appreciate an email from you.

In addition, the ebook will be FREE for downloading between December 22 and December 26, so you can buy it for $0.00 and email it as a gift to someone else. Please take advantage of this offer.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free app for Smartphones, iPhones, and iPads, as well as computers.

To borrow a copy from Amazon, you don’t need a Kindle and you don’t need an email from me, although I would love it if you would email me at ccm@ccmambretti.com to let me know you’ve borrowed it.

Sinister Bigotry

On Tuesday, a headline graphic above the Wall Street Journal’s masthead read, “The Power of Lefties.” Naturally, being a proud lefty myself, I turned immediately to page D1 where I was slapped in the face with this headline: “The Health Risks of Being Left-Handed.”



Sidebar: If any business but a newspaper had been so misleading, this would have been an instance of illegal bait-and-switch.


I have read a great deal about the health hazards of left-handedness: the worst, IMHO, is the tendency of a left-handed driver to swerve into on-coming traffic in an emergency, rather than to the right, out of harm’s way. But there’s also a huge risk of cutting yourself when you use a knife (which you have to use with your right hand because of the bevel on the blade, which is right-biased).


The WSJ article claimed, however, that lefties face a greater risk of ADHD, dyslexia, and even schizophrenia than right-handed people. Supposedly, “researchers” have conducted statistical studies to this effect and have also concluded that lefties have 10% lower IQs than righties. They claim the only possible cause of the disease of left-handedness is pre-birth trauma to mothers, who apparently suffer from surges of nasty chemicals in their systems. “Proof” of this comes from studies of identical twins who do not share the same “handedness.”


One such pair of identical twins are my maternal aunts. I have always attributed their divergent brain wiring to the original split of the embryo, which produced what my mother called “mirror twins.” I guess that idea is beneath modern “scientists.”


As for dyslexia, the fact is that I do believe it is related to left-handedness. When I was first learning to read and write, I wrote backwards and had a very hard time reading words with certain letter combinations. For instance, I remember that the word “scissors” baffled me, and it took me forever to figure out the difference between p’s and q’s. Once I realized that the rest of the world read in a different direction than I did, I was able to sort it out. However, to this day I can write backwards like Leonardo da Vinci, and I can also write upside down and backwards simultaneously with both hands. (I guess that makes me either an idiot savant or schizophrenic or both.)


As for the IQ of lefties, anyone who’s left-handed will tell you that he or she has never met another left-handed person who wasn’t brighter and more creative than average. Please don’t forget that our current president is left-handed and so is Bill Clinton. Tell them that the Bush righties are 10% smarter than they are.


Ancient Bias Against the Sinister Side


The word “sinister” derives from the Latin word for the left side. A “bar sinister” on a medieval coat of arms indicated that the owner was descended from a nobleman’s bastard son. I’ve been told by someone who has lived in Moslem countries that it is taboo to use one’s left hand in public, especially for eating, because the left hand is supposed to be used only for certain filthy, self-maintenance tasks.


I  have just completed a novel set in 1929, the Year of the Stock Market Crash, tentatively titled Snow Ghost, in which the protagonist is a left-handed typesetter. She explains to another character that parents and teachers often try to force a left-handed child to change hands, because left-handedness is highly suspect, not healthy, and improper. When I wrote that, I thought contemporary readers would be surprised to learn that left-handedness was once so despised. Foolish me.



Now Available: The protagonist of The Juror Hangs, Iris Ginge, is also left-handed. Now available on the Kindle, iPad on the iBookstore, as well as the Nook and the Sony Reader.


The Fate of the Jury—Part II, Genetically Inferior Classes of Jurors

When recently, after the Casey Anthony acquittal, legal pundits called for “professional jurors,” they probably didn’t know it, because they probably aren’t well-enough educated to know it, but the idea of a superior class of American individuals who are more-capable than the average American is a concept first articulated in the early 1900s (I won’t say ‘early 20th century,’ because legal pundits think the latter era is right now) by Social Darwinists, and ‘ “[e]litists, utopians and so-called ‘progressives,’”as Edwin Black explains in “Horrifying Roots of Nazi Eugenics,” a chapter from his War against the Weak.


Eugenics


Until very recently I naively believed that eugenics had been thoroughly debunked as quackery decades ago. Then someone very close to me made this chilling statement about a little girl we know:



“You have to understand: some people are just worthless; nothing can save them; nothing can even help them. They’re born that way.”


The person who said this claims to be a scientist, to understand Darwinism and genetics—thus giving him the right to make such statements. (As I have asserted before, many people who claim to be scientists are nothing but very superstitious—their superstitions involve bogus statistics rather than mysticism.)


If you have any doubts that the U.S. has long been a hotbed of eugenics, please read Wikipedia’s article on the topic, which correctly notes that one “darling” of contemporary progressives, Margaret Sanger (promoter of the birth control pill and abortion and founder of Planned Parenthood, which is now a government-funded NGO), was a eugenicist.



Sidebar: I am a proponent of “a woman’s right to choose” as a privacy issue. I’m not arguing against the right to abortion. Nor am I disparaging religious opposition to abortion on moral grounds. What I’m saying is that there have always been a large number of people who favor abortion as a means of genetic engineering. Is it a mere coincidence that, according to the Center for Disease Control in 2000, the ratio of abortions-to-live-births for African-American women is 3 times that of white women?


Eugenics in Law and Literature


Margery Allingham (1904-1966), British author of the Albert Campion mysteries, was also a eugenicist. As late as 1963, she wrote a mystery novel about a series of crimes committed by a genetically flawed child born during the Nazi bombing of London in 1940-1941. The novel is The China Governess.


In The China Governess, the mystery kicks off with a young man’s search for his genetic roots. An orphan (adopted by a gentleman of the landed-gentry, whose roots extend back to the Norman Conquest) learns just before his marriage to a wealthy heiress that he was born in the worst slum in London. Until then, he had thought he was the wealthy adoptive father’s “bastard,” as he puts it. It  panics him to think he might have inherited “tendencies, weaknesses” from an unwed, poverty-stricken mother.


Of course, in the end we learn the hero isn’t a defective after all. His mother and father were married, middle-class, and educated. His mother died in child-birth, and his father was separated from the infant during the London evacuation. The criminal in the mystery is revealed as the true child of the slums, “a poor type. . . not necessarily an imbecile. . . ,” though barely human, more “reptilian” than anything.


Now, since many modern murderers seem barely human to me, too, you might think I would find this attitude acceptable. But, saying that someone doesn’t behave up to the standards of humanity is very different from saying there are classes of humanity, some of which are inherently, grossly inferior to others. No, I would not have thought this villain was genetically inferior just because he was born in a slum or that he was destined for a life of crime.


Worse yet, Allingham also extended her class of genetic inferiors to the working classes. Here’s how the heiress fiancée of the hero describes her unexpected encounter with the masses in a tobacconist’s shop:



“Many of the women were factory workers. . . . They were . . . all hot, and laughing aloud. The brutal noise, meaningless as a bird call, reached an intensity which stunned her. . . . The uniformed factory women were imitating their men folk and swearing as they never did in the normal way when each was as it were a private person. The trickle of dirty fantasy threading through the crackle produced a shocking sound which she had not met before, and which gave her the illusion that there were no individuals present, only a single merciless personality. As the queue fed her relentlessly into the dark shop the stale, sweaty smell of leather and newsprint met her in a wave . . . .”


That’s right. She had never been inside a shop that sold tobacco and magazines before. I repeat: this was written in 1963. John F. Kennedy was President until November of that year—the heyday of liberalism, one would have thought.


Another eugenicist was poet Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) (The Spoon River Anthology), a lawyer and Clarence Darrow’s law partner in Chicago, when Darrow was accused of jury-tampering (a Los Angeles jury hearing a case of union violence against a newspaper).


EdgarLeeMasters Edgar Lee Masters wrote two epic-length, blank-verse works on the subject of eugenics, crime, and juries: Domesday Book (1920) and The Fate of the Jury (1929). In my quest for literature about juries and jurors, several years ago I found copies of these (first and only editions) at an online antiquarian bookseller’s website. Inside the front cover of the Domesday Book was the slip of paper reproduced to the left: it is Masters’ autograph. It reads: “For Alice Woodward’s copy of Domesday Book. Edgar Lee Masters  September 25-1933.” (If I were a graphologist I think I would call his handwriting rigid and say that the cross on his T looks like a whiplash.)



Sidebar: I don’t know why he called it the Domesday Book, rather than the Doomsday Book, but he did. Frankly, my guess is he pompously thought the spelling was more authentic and medieval.


The Domesday Book is a murder mystery in blank verse, which, as far as I know, makes it unique in literary history. A young woman is found dead in Illinois’ Starved Rock State Park (which has had its share of notorious murders, including “The Starved Rock Murders” of 1960.) The detective in the story, so to speak, is a coroner who calls together a jury of the leading professional men of the community to determine whether she died accidentally or as a result of homicide. In the end, it turns out that the young woman was genetically inferior and promiscuous. Her behavior had so horrified her father that the thought she might bear him a genetically inferior grandchild out of wedlock drove him to kill her. In Masters’ mind, the tragedy seems to be what the father was driven to do to save the bloodline from contamination. (Hmm, maybe that’s what George Anthony was trying to do by testifying against his daughter.)


In The Fate of the Jury, Masters follows up on how the jurors were impacted by their experience on the coroner’s jury (something that more writers ought to pay attention to). The coroner himself, unfortunately, ultimately falls in love with a “neurotic” young woman who ought not to have children for fear she would produce equally defective children.


Professional Jurors


The idea of professional jurors is an abomination. Everyone who signed the Declaration of Independence and everyone who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would roll in their graves if we permitted a class of professional jurors to decide guilt or innocence. As a consequence, I imagine there would be another earthquake on the East Coast where, as far as I know, all the Founding Fathers are buried.


Just imagine what such a class of people would be like: They would be well-educated in the law and little else, like lawyers. Paid by the state, they would be obliged to side with the state. They would feel duty-bound to make sure justice was meted out to every guilty person, and they would be able to recognize a guilty person from a mile away.


I’ve always thought lawyers were people who chose their profession so they could tell other people what to do. I’ve never been to law school, but I’m beginning to think that Law 101 must be a course in the inborn superiority of people who can tell other people what to do.