What It Was Like When O.J. Simpson Jury Spent 8 1/2 Months Sequestered

OJ2Tuesday night’s episode of FX’s American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson focuses on the jury. The group – made up of 10 women, and 2 men — spent 8 1/2 months sequestered — half as long as the time O.J. Simpson himself was incarcerated before and during his trial.The episode depicts the jurors growing frustrated, suffering from cabin fever, and growing upset after barely having any contact with their friends and families. Yes, all of that happened in real life.

What were the living conditions like?

Jurors were sequestered for 8 1/2 months. They stayed at a hotel five blocks from the courthouse. According to the ABC report (below), jurors could never lock their rooms, never go for a walk alone, never talk on the phone without a deputy listening. They ate cafeteria style — with no alcohol allowed. They watched from only two television sets, and were only allowed court approved movies.

Here is reporter Tom Foreman’s report on the jurors following the conclusion of the trial:

Did the jurors really show up to Judge Ito’s courtroom dressed in black?

Yes, they sure did. An April 22, 1995 article in The New York Times described what happened:

In one of the strangest turns yet in the murder trial of O. J. Simpson, a clear majority of jurors staged a virtual insurrection today, sparked by Judge Lance A. Ito’s decision on Thursday to replace three of the sheriff’s deputies assigned to protect them…

The judge’s move prompted today’s protest, when a majority of the jurors refused to leave their hotel until Judge Ito talked with them. Told that the judge would do so only in court, at least 13 of the panelists arrived dressed partly or totally in black. In one of the most extraordinary spectacles of the trial, they wound their way into and out of court, looking like a funeral procession in a Mediterranean village.

Who were the jurors?

See the list below from an a USA Today Article from 10/18/1996

  • 28-year-old married black woman, worked for the post office, high school graduate; said as a young child, she watched her father beat her mother and “as an adult I don’t go for any man being abusive to me”; said she wasn’t familiar with DNA; was “shocked” to hear Simpson was a suspect.
  • 24-year-old single black woman, worked at a Los Angeles hospital, one year of college; said she has had no experience with domestic violence; said of both sides in the case: “Everybody has a lot to lose or gain.”
  • 50-year-old divorced black woman who worked as a county collections vendor, two years of college; said she “respects (Simpson) as an individual based on his past accomplishments.”
  • 32-year-old single Hispanic man, delivered Pepsi, high school graduate; said Simpson was “a great football player.”
  • 37-year-old married black woman, worked in a post office, high school graduate; said she doesn’t think Simpson “acts too well” in movies and described the freeway pursuit that ended in Simpson’s arrest as “stupid.”
  • 38-year-old single black woman, environmental health specialist whose father was a police officer, college graduate; said the 911 tapes of Nicole Brown Simpson calling for police help as Simpson broke through her door in October 1993 “sound frightening.”
  • 52-year-old divorced black woman, postal worker, high school graduate; described Simpson as “only human.”
  • 22-year-old single white woman who handles insurance claims, college graduate; said she was shocked when she heard Simpson was a suspect.
  • 43-year-old married black man who works as a phone company salesman, high school graduate; said he thought Simpson was a good football player; alternate juror until Jan. 18.
  • 60-year-old divorced white woman who is a retired gas company clerk, one year of college; said she was the lone holdout in another murder case and managed to get other jurors to change their minds; alternate juror until March 17.
  • 44-year-old single black woman who fixed computers and printers for county Superior Court, high school graduate; said Mr. Simpson “wasn’t a saint”; had no opinion about whether Simpson is innocent or guilty; said in jury selection, “If I’m not picked, I can look at it and say, they let a good one go;” alternate juror until April 5.
  • 71-year-old married black woman, retired cleaning worker, completed 10th grade; said of the case: “I haven’t come to no conclusion one way or the other. … I don’t know nothing about no O.J. Simpson;” alternate juror until May 26.

Did the jurors ever speak out after the trial?

Yes, on many occasions. Watch this very interesting special that Geraldo Rivera conducted which includes an interview with jury foreperson, Armanda Cooley. Also, you might notice, a much younger, Nancy Grace in there.

[screengrab via NBC News]

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