LAS VEGAS – The O.J. Simpson armed robbery-kidnapping trial has taken a large step toward picking a jury in Las Vegas.
After four days, the pool of prospective jurors was narrowed to 40 finalists Thursday.
From those, prosecutors and defense lawyers are expected to quickly seat 12 jurors and six alternates.
"The end is near, folks!" exulted Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass yesterday at the end of three grueling days of jury questioning. "There are people who thought it would take weeks to pick a jury. It will take only a week, maybe less."
A few of those remaining have been challenged for cause, including bias against Simpson, but the judge rejected the moves.
One man's angry outburst against Simpson led to a defense motion to dismiss the entire jury pool because everyone had heard it. But the judge refused.
The man, who had been waiting for three days to have his say, blurted out a comment that stunned the courtroom.
"I feel the case down in Los Angeles — if someone got away with that, you would keep yourself clean and you wouldn't come back and commit another crime," he said.
The judge quickly dismissed him and asked other jurors to disregard his words. She told them they would have to put aside negative feelings about Simpson's murder acquittal.
"Conversely, if you are a super O.J. fan and think Mr. Simpson is the best thing that ever happened in football, can you set that aside?" she said.
Most prospective jurors have said they disagree with the 1995 verdict to acquit Simpson on charges of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and friend Ronald Goldman, though many have said they still believe they can fairly consider the Las Vegas case.
Simpson, 61, is accused with co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart, 54, of kidnapping, armed robbery and other crimes for allegedly stealing items from two sports memorabilia dealers in a hotel room confrontation last year. They have pleaded not guilty.
On Wednesday, there was a mix of those with strong feelings against Simpson and a few who paid little attention to the murder trial and said they were neutral. Some were teenagers when the trial happened and one man said he was 8 years old but remembered his parents denouncing the acquittal verdict.
"My parents had very strong opinions against the verdict," said the young ponytailed man. But he said he could put that aside and judge the Las Vegas case anew.
Wednesday's session was marked by a contentious verbal contest between Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter and a man who had shown anger against Simpson's acquittal in his written jury questionnaire. The man acknowledged he had written some strong, emotional opinions but said his three days in court had convinced him he could put those feelings aside.
One woman said she didn't follow the previous trial but was critical of Simpson for participating in an ill-fated book called, "If I Did It."
"The title alone is going to cause negative feedback, and I don't know who wants to invite that into your life," she said.