As testimony in O.J. Simpson’s trial on robbery charges gets underway in Las Vegas, it’s clear that when the former football star enters a courtroom, so does a debate about race, says the Los Angeles Times. In jury selection, defense attorneys repeatedly tried to dismiss the mostly white jury pool and accused prosecutors of systematically excluding blacks. The allegation prompted Clark County District Attorney David Roger to insist that his choice of jurors had “nothing to do with race.”
The 12-member panel chosen Thursday includes no African Americans, though one black man and one black woman will serve as alternates. What effect, if any, the absence of African Americans on the jury will have remains to be seen. The charges Simpson faces have no obvious racial overtones. “If it’s just a simple robbery case, then it really doesn’t matter if the jury is all white,” said Osvaldo Fumo, a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney. “But the problem is it’s O.J. Simpson. And then it does matter.” Legal observers said it was hard for people to look at Simpson without remembering his past legal troubles, which polarized black and white America.