Having cut off prospective jurors in the O.J. Simpson case from all media just before the California election, Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito said Friday he has directed his staff to compile campaign clippings so that the panelists can vote intelligently next month.
That unusual step grew out of Ito's equally unorthodox order to prospective jurors in the case: Rather than simply avoid publicity about the Simpson trial, they must have no exposure to any media on any subject.
That's an admonition that many prospective jurors have had difficulty obeying but one that Ito has rigorously enforced. Friday, he bounced one prospective juror for listening to traffic reports on the radio and another because she said she had a television set on while she was working around the house.
When one man told Ito that the bus he rode to work had a radio playing, Ito proposed a solution: "Go to the mall, go to the Savon, and get some earplugs."
But then it turned out that man had watched the Mickey Mouse Club on television one day, enough to violate Ito's order. "I'm going to save you the trip to the Savon," Ito said, and excused the man from further service.
Many prospective jurors have complained that they find Ito's restriction frustrating, and one who was questioned Friday said he was especially troubled by the order given the approaching elections.
"I'm not happy," the outspoken 66-year-old Brentwood woman said, "because I want to vote."
Ito assured her, however, that he had directed his staff to work with the Los Angeles Times and the Daily News to compile a booklet of all stories related to state and local campaigns, starting with the coverage on Oct. 20, two days after he imposed the admonition. The decision represents the judge's first acknowledgment that the Simpson case has distracted from California political races.
Simpson, 47, has pleaded not guilty to the June slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman, 25, on June 12.
After a salacious new book purporting to tell the story of Nicole Simpson's final months was released in mid-October, Ito ordered prospective jurors to avoid all media and to stay out of all bookstores. Jury candidates who have abided by the order have been forced into virtual isolation.