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.
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.
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.