The courtroom was packed, so Michelle Lyons watched O.J. Simpson receive his sentence from an overflow room set up on the 10th floor of the Regional Justice Center.
She could have stayed home and watched it on television, but Lyons said she wanted to be there to see “exactly what was happening when it was happening.”
“I feel I needed to see this through to the end,” she said.
Two months ago, Lyons sat on the jury that convicted Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart on armed robbery and kidnapping charges.
As she listened to Simpson’s emotional plea for mercy on Friday, Lyons said she “felt sorry for him and his family.”
But she also felt like Simpson and Stewart received the sentences they deserved.
Lyons was afraid the wrong sentence might lead to a backlash against the jury — too light and it would anger Simpson haters; too harsh and it would enrage Simpson supporters.
“I was worried either way,” she said.
Watching Friday’s hearing also reminded her how glad she is that judges, not juries, hand out sentences in criminal cases: “I would not have wanted to be called back for sentencing, that’s for sure.”
This was the first jury Lyons ever served on, she said with a rueful chuckle. The experience and what came after it were “very disruptive,” she said. “You definitely felt you were in a fishbowl.”
Lyons said she hoped no one would recognize her at Friday’s hearing, but there seemed little chance of that. A few days after the verdict was announced on Oct. 3, she and six fellow jurors held a news conference to answer accusations that they convicted Simpson as payback for his 1995 acquittal on murder charges.
The news conference was carried on CNN, and afterward she was contacted by several people she hadn’t heard from in years.
Lyons is bewildered by all the interest in Simpson and celebrities in general.
“I don’t understand the fascination. I really don’t,” she said. “It’s probably why I was selected for the jury.”
Now she just wants to put it all behind her and “get back to a normal life,” she said.
But even after Friday’s sentencing, Lyons just couldn’t seem to make a clean break from the O.J. Simpson case.
After the hearing ended and the place cleared out, Lyons had to find someone to unlock the overflow courtroom so she could retrieve her travel coffee mug.
She might have left it, but it has sentimental value. It’s the mug she brought to court with her each day of the four-week trial.
Review-Journal writer Adrienne Packer contributed to this report. Contact reporter Henry Brean at email@example.com or 702-383-0350.