CARSON CITY, Nev. – Two news media organizations intend to ask the Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday to rule that a judge in the O.J. Simpson robbery-kidnapping trial improperly withheld jury questionnaires until after the trial and then released censored versions.
The Associated Press and the Las Vegas Review-Journal contend that Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass gave no valid legal reason for delaying release of the documents and then redacting them, and erred in saying the matter was moot once the trial was over.
Attorneys representing the AP and Stephens Media LLC, owner of the Review-Journal, say the high court must spell out the constitutional rights of the media and public because of the inevitability of "similar closure orders in the future."
Simpson, a former pro football star, actor and advertising pitchman, and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart were convicted Oct. 3 of 12 charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping, in a hotel room confrontation last year with two sports memorabilia dealers.
The convictions came 13 years to the day after the legendary Simpson was cleared in Los Angeles in the slaying of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.
Simpson is serving a sentence of nine to 33 years at the Lovelock Correctional Center in northern Nevada. Stewart is serving a sentence of 7 1/2 to 27 years.
While judges normally are permitted to withhold jurors' personal information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers, Glass censored such information as where jurors were born and raised, their parents' occupations, whether they had children and whether they owned a home.
The media attorneys say the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that jury selection must be open, and that the questionnaires are extensions of in-court jury selection.
Glass argues that she withheld the questionnaires because three offshore gambling Web sites had been taking bets on the trial's outcome and she feared someone would want to tamper with the jury.
Jill Davis, a senior deputy state attorney general representing the judge, said immediate access to the questionnaires wasn't warranted given the "extraordinary" pretrial publicity. She said that in such a case a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial takes precedence over First Amendment rights of the press and public.
Tuesday's court proceedings will be broadcast on the Nevada Supreme Court's Web site.
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