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Ex-juror predicts Simpson conviction

Published Oct. 4, 2005

In the latest word from what has surely become the most loquacious jury in history, a former juror in the O.J. Simpson case has predicted in a book that despite their instinctive sympathies for a black hero, the largely black jury will convict Simpson of murder.

The juror, Michael Knox, also said that while racial divisions existed on the panel, they were grossly exaggerated by Jeanette Harris, another former juror, who, he said, had her own self-aggrandizing, divisive agenda. Blacks were nearly as divided among themselves as they were with whites, Knox said in the book _ torn by everything from class differences to jealousy, sexual orientation and even bad breath.

Knox, who like Ms. Harris is black, took particular issue with her bleak picture of racial tensions within the Simpson jury and between black jurors and white sheriff's deputies. He called Ms. Harris "manipulative, even malevolent," and said she fabricated racial slights where none existed.

"I never saw any deliberate racial attacks by white jurors or deputies against any black jurors," Knox wrote. "In my experience, the white people on that jury bent over backwards to be friendly. I know that some African-Americans will be angered by that, but that's how I saw it."

Knox, a 47-year-old Federal Express driver who was dismissed from the panel in March, wrote that as of now, he is "leaning" toward a guilty verdict. "I hope O.J. can prove his innocence," he said. "But if he's guilty, I'm not going to consider it some kind of defeat for the black race."

In a 265-page paperback book, The Private Diary of an O.J. Juror, written with Mike Walker of the National Enquirer, Knox also described the oppressive, bizarre and infantilizing life of sequestration, in which no doors can be locked, jurors cannot even enjoy a beer, and, even during conjugal visits, jurors worried about having their conversations monitored.

"Thank God for telephones," he wrote. "Without them, we'd all be in straitjackets."

Judge Lance Ito removed Knox from the jury for failing to disclose on his jury questionnaire that he had once been charged with kidnapping, a charge Knox dismissed as a momentary spat with a girlfriend. That fact surfaced, Knox recalled bitterly, because prosecutors were convinced he was in awe of Simpson and started an investigation designed to remove him from the panel. Knox wore a San Francisco '49ers jacket and cap while touring the crime scene and stared intently at the photographs in Simpson's home.

And he suggested that prosecutors pegged him incorrectly. He wrote that he was wary of Simpson, even though "his charisma hits like a hammer."

"The charm was undeniable, yet came up short of feeling completely natural," he wrote. "O.J.'s like a salesman selling a product he believes in totally _ himself."

Racial divisions on the jury were apparent, Knox wrote, from their first communal meal. "One minute we were a melting pot; the next, three separate tables, islands segregated by race," he recalled. Blacks sat at two tables, whites and Hispanics at a third.

After what he called the prosecution's "devastating" opening statement, he said, those divisions were starker. At dinner afterward, whites and Hispanics talked animatedly among themselves. But blacks, stunned and saddened by what they had just heard about a cultural icon, sat silent for half an hour.

But for all their sincerity and the strength of their case, Knox said, the prosecution was ineffectual. "Mostly their presentation was truly pathetic: sloppy, badly organized, and rarely eloquent," he wrote. "When the prosecution came up to bat, We the Jury started fidgeting."

He was particularly hard on Christopher A. Darden, whom he characterized as a "big baby." More impressive to him was Simpson's chief trial lawyer, Johnnie Cochran Jr. ("They don't get any smoother.") and the rest of Simpson's lawyers.

While mentioning fellow jury alumni by name, Knox refers to incumbents by pseudonyms and numbers. For all jurors, he also used nicknames: "the Manipulator," "the Bully," "the Health Nut," "the Timid Beauty," "the Lesbian," "the Bitter Old Man," "Mister Bad Breath," and "the Sexpot" among them.

He is particularly critical of Ms. Harris and other black women on the jury for their harsh treatment of Tracy Hampton, a 25-year-old flight attendant who left the jury last month. Ms. Harris led other jurors to shun the naive and hypersensitive Ms. Hampton, ultimately driving her off the jury and into the hospital, he wrote.

Others, most recently Ito, have characterized some former jurors as egomaniacs and self-promoters, a position Knox anticipated. "Writing a book is the most complete way to tell the story of the O.J. jury from the inside _ and so what if I make a few bucks?" he wrote.

Not to be left out of Knox' criticism were some white jurors. He called another former panelist "an arrogant, obnoxious boor" and a "total jerk" who, touting his managerial experience and familiarity with computers, lobbied to become foreman even before he was officially selected.