The judge in the O.J. Simpson armed robbery-kidnapping case plans to release redacted jury questionnaires once the trial ends and is defending her decision not to release the full surveys immediately.
"If juror questionnaires were released during this trial, there is a substantial probability that the defendants' right to an impartial jury would be prejudiced by the publicity that releasing such would generate," Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto argued in a response filed Tuesday on behalf of Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass.
Masto was responding to an emergency motion filed earlier this month by media organizations asking the Nevada Supreme Court to review Glass' decision not to release the questionnaires.
The Associated Press and Stephens Media LLC, the owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, are seeking immediate access to the questionnaires completed by the 12 jurors and six alternates seated in the case.
They also sought access to the blank questionnaires during the jury selection process.
Promised confidentiality to jurors
Glass initially refused both requests, saying she had promised 500 prospective jurors that their answers would be "kept in confidence, under seal."
She later amended the decision, opting to release a blank questionnaire after the jurors and alternates had been sworn in.
Glass' latest shift to releasing completed questionnaires at the conclusion of the trial renders the media's motion "moot," according to the Tuesday filing.
Donald Campbell, lawyer for the news outlets, said he wanted a court ruling.
"This is a matter in which Judge Glass stated we had no right to intervene. We want that decided under Nevada law," Campbell said.
In its filing, the media argued the public has a right to the information.
"Prohibiting access to the completed questionnaires runs afoul of the First Amendment's guarantee of access to voir dire proceedings in criminal trials and precludes the media from reporting newsworthy events in a timely manner," the document said.
Simpson is accused of robbing two memorabilia dealers at gun point in a Las Vegas hotel room. The 61-year-old former football star and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart have pleaded not guilty to armed robbery, kidnapping and other crimes.
Case could got to jury
The prosecution rested Monday and court was closed Tuesday. The case could go to the jury this week.
The 26-page, 116-question surveys were used to identify prospective jurors with biases and to reduce the jury pool. The questionnaire asked potential jurors if they knew Simpson was once acquitted in the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, and to describe their opinions on that case. Completed questionnaires also provide a juror's age, education level and race.
Glass' filing notes the significant publicity surrounding both Simpson trials and said releasing the questionnaire before the case concludes "would add unnecessary fuel to the potential jury tampering fire."
It cites three Web site taking bets on the verdict and argues "the fact that money is being wagered" increases the incentive for tampering with the jury.
Campbell said such a concern does not rise to the standard set by state law.
"The reported threat that offshore bookies might engage in an effort to contact the jurors, there's absolutely no showing of that in the record, and even if there were, it would not rise to the level of a compelling state interest under established Supreme Court dogma," he said.