As soon as O. J. Simpson was found not guilty of murder almost two decades ago, there were calls to reform the jury system because, the reasoning went, Simpson was “let go” because there were nine black jurors and Simpson himself was black, says NPR. That’s faulty reasoning, says Columbia University law Prof. Patricia Williams. She thought the prosecution did a “wretched” job of presenting its case. The collection of evidence and the chain of custody of the evidence was compromised. The addition of a key witness (Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman) who perjured himself in open court left room for reasonable doubt, many jurors said in post-verdict interviews.
That still didn’t stop calls for “better juries” and fewer “downtown juries” (code for black/brown/not highly educated juror pools). Laurie Levenson, a former prosecutor, teaches criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. She believes a more aggressive effort to recruit jurors came from the Simpson trial. “They did send out a wider net, try to get more people to jury service — and not let people go easily when they said they wanted to be excused,” Levenson says. To emphasize that, a lot of high-profile public officials have since answered the call — including the city’s mayor, the chief of police and the district attorney.