It may seem obvious, but District Judge Jackie Glass on Monday gave an instruction to attorneys in the armed robbery and kidnapping trial of Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson — now getting underway in her downtown Las Vegas courtroom — that should be taken to heart by all Las Vegans, especially any who end up on this jury.
“We are not here to re-litigate that case,” Judge Glass said, referring to Mr. Simpson’s acquittal on double-murder charges in Los Angeles in 1995. “A jury adjudicated that case. I realize a lot of people have really strong feelings about that case, but this case is about what happened in Las Vegas.”
Preserving the proper “default settings” of our justice system — especially the presumption of innocence — are far more important than any single case.
There are indeed people who believe O.J. Simpson killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman, and that justice was not served in that criminal case. But this isn’t the Academy Awards, where little harm is done when some long-in-the-tooth performer is honored for a lackluster performance “because we missed him last time.”
Judge Glass is right. Mr. Simpson should be tried solely on the evidence at hand.
Though the judge did then go too far when she set about ferreting out what she called “stealth jurors,” warning the pool of prospective jurors, “If you’re here looking to become famous for your participation in this case and write a book and be on TV, quite honestly folks, this is not the case for you.”
Has the court started accepting volunteers for jury service? We didn’t think so.
Prospective jurors report to the courthouse under compulsory process — they’re told (though we’d still like to see the list of people ever prosecuted for this supposed “offense”) that they must report under penalty of law.
Under those circumstances, the court should thank them for their willingness to serve — not insult their motives or intelligence by implying that any restrictions can or will be placed on what they can say, or write, when their service is concluded.
The judge has no such power.