SIMPSON-INSPIRED JUDICIAL REFORMS WILT IN LEGISLATURE.
Byline: Mark Katches Daily News Sacramento Bureau
The verdict in the O.J. Simpson case spawned more than a dozen bills aimed at fixing a criminal justice system that polls showed the public believes is broken.
Despite the tough rhetoric, however, most of the high-profile reform ideas - ranging from banning cameras in the courtroom to authorizing nonunanimous jury verdicts - have withered or died in the Legislature in the seven months since Simpson was acquitted.
Other far-flung legislative proposals - one that would ban Armani suits worn by attorneys in court and another that would prohibit defense attorneys from urging jurors to send a political message to law enforcement - never got past the concept stage.
The final verdict? It appears the system is headed for a slap on the wrist instead of an overhaul.
``I think people have had time to reflect on this case and put it in proper perspective,'' said Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro This article is about the lawyer. For the economist, see Robert J. Shapiro.
Robert Leslie Shapiro (born September 2, 1942 in Plainfield, New Jersey), is a high-profile attorney who is most notable for being part of the defense team which successfully defended . ``They understand it's not typical of cases in America, and that reforming a system based on one case is not appropriate.''
Advocates for reform blame the lack of progress on internal splits deep inside each major party, reluctance to overhaul an institution that has survived intact for more than 200 years, and strong lobbying efforts by attorney groups and civil libertarians.
But polls during the Simpson trial and after showed that there is public discontent with the system, and a sense among many that somehow the verdict was wrong.
Two Field Polls during the trial showed strong support for nonunanimous verdicts and extraordinarily low confidence in the justice system.
In May 1995, midway through the prosecution's case, 34 percent of respondents said the Simpson case had lowered their opinion of the justice system.
In September, less than a month before the verdicts, 71 percent said they favored at least a 10-2 verdict in cases that did not involve the death penalty.
After the trial a majority of the public disagreed with the verdict, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. a USA Today/CNN/ Gallup Poll Gallup Poll
a sampling of the views of a representative cross section of the population, usually used to forecast voting [after G H Gallup, statistician]
Gallup poll n → taken the day of the verdict.
Many people later said they assumed the brevity of the deliberations pointed to a case of ``jury nullification A sanctioned doctrine of trial proceedings wherein members of a jury disregard either the evidence presented or the instructions of the judge in order to reach a verdict based upon their own consciences. It espouses the concept that jurors should be the judges of both law and fact. ,'' where jurors disregard the facts of a case and acquit To set free, release or discharge as from an obligation, burden or accusation. To absolve one from an
obligation or a liability; or to legally certify the innocence of one charged with a crime.
acquit v. a defendant they think is guilty because they disagree morally with the law or with the government trying to impose it.
``The average guy on the street understands instinctively it's not working,'' said state Sen. Ross Johnson The name Ross Johnson can refer to:
As a result of the internal party rifts, Republican bills are being killed in Republican-dominated committees in the Assembly, and Democratic bills are floundering in Senate committees controlled by Democrats.
``I don't believe you change the judicial system with an ax,'' said Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle Curtis L. "Curt" Pringle (born June 27, 1959), is a politician from the U.S. state of California. Pringle, a conservative/libertarian Republican and onetime Speaker of the California State Assembly, is currently Mayor of Anaheim, California and runs his own public relations and .
Pringle, a conservative Republican, illustrates the divisions in his own party. He opposes the concept of nonunanimous verdicts and bans on cameras in the court - two issues Republican Gov. Pete Wilson For others named Pete Wilson, see .
Peter Barton Wilson (born August 23, 1933) is an American Republican politician from California. Wilson served as the thirty-sixth Governor of California (1991–1999), the culmination of more than three decades in the public arena that has endorsed.
``It's not happening because you have a Legislature that's not acting,'' said Wilson spokesman Jesus Arredondo.
Even with the string of defeats, the ideas keep coming. A blue-ribbon panel Blue-Ribbon Panel (sometimes called a Blue Ribbon Commission) is an informal term generally used to describe a group of exceptional persons appointed to investigate or study a given question. of the state's Judicial Council is expected to release a series of recommendations to the Legislature later this month.
A draft of the recommendations released in April included another call for nonunanimous verdicts and limits to peremptory challenges to provide for a better cross-section on juries. It also would make jury service mandatory and pay jurors up to $40 a day instead of $5 for their time.
``We're not asking to tear down to demolish violently; to pull or pluck down.
See also: Tear the entire system because it doesn't need it,'' said Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. criminal defense attorney Gerald Chaleff, who served on the blue-ribbon panel. ``It really doesn't need it.''
Others on the 26-member task force say that even small, incremental steps could have a significant impact.
``There is no question there has to be substantial change in the jury system, and it begins with who is serving as jurors,'' said District Attorney Gil Garcetti Gilbert "Gil" Garcetti (b. August 5, 1941) served as Los Angeles County's 39th District Attorney for two terms, from 1992 until November 7, 2000. Background
Gil Garcetti received a bachelor's degree in Management from the University of Southern California and a Juris , a member of the panel.
``So many people simply don't make themselves available to serve,'' Garcetti said. ``People now ignore their summons and nothing happens. There will be contempt citations.''
Garcetti, a recent convert to the concept of nonunanimous verdicts, said he thinks the idea may eventually take hold, but not this year.
``It may carry more weight coming from the blue ribbon committee Noun 1. blue ribbon committee - an independent and exclusive commission of nonpartisan statesmen and experts formed to investigate some important governmental issue
blue ribbon commission , but I'm still not going to vote for it,'' said state Sen. Milton Marks Milton Marks, Jr. (1920-1998) was a California politician who served in the California State Assembly and California Senate, as both a Republican and a Democrat, for 38 years. , D-San Rafael, the influential chairman of the Senate Criminal Procedure Committee.
Victims rights groups say they are frustrated by the lack of action, especially since polls indicate the public's faith in the judicial system has diminished.
``People are scared to death to touch the jury system, and I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. why,'' said Kelly Rudiger, executive director of the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau. ``I think it is in shambles and the public doesn't trust it.''
The California District Attorneys This is a list of current district attorneys of California's counties.
Current California District Attorneys
Alameda Thomas Orloff
Alpine William Richmond
Butte Michael Ramsey
Calaveras Jeffrey Tuttle
Colusa John Poyner Association wants to see nonunanimous jury verdicts because it leads to higher conviction rates, but even some of the most conservative legislators are reluctant to support the change.
Johnson, the Irvine Republican, has joined Democrats who refuse to back calls for nonunanimous juries, citing his own experience on a trial where he was the lone holdout hold·out
One that withholds agreement or consent upon which progress is contingent.
Noun 1. holdout - a negotiator who hopes to gain concessions by refusing to come to terms; "their star pitcher was a holdout for six for acquittal before persuading five others to join him in a hung jury.
An Assembly bill requiring 10-2 verdicts has been dying a slow death in a Republican-held committee since last year. A Senate bill calling for 11-1 verdicts was pulled by its author, Sen. Charles Calderon, D-Montebello.
Calderon, an attorney, is one of the only Democrats in the Legislature who supports a change in the way jurors reach verdicts. But he said he withdrew his bill when he realized it was headed for certain defeat in the Democratic-controlled Senate Criminal Procedure Committee.
The same committee killed a bill last month by Sen. Quentin Kopp, I-South San Francisco, that would change not-guilty verdicts to ``not proven.''
``We need reform, but we're not going to get it,'' Kopp said.
Outside the halls of the Capitol, reform efforts also have met with resistance. A petition drive to place an initiative on the ballot calling for 10-2 verdicts gathered only 100,000 of the 770,000 signatures needed to qualify.
Organizers blamed the failure on inadequate funding and say they will try again in 1998.
Senate President Bill Lockyer, D-Hayward, said he believes that nonunanimous jury verdicts lost its steam when the Simpson case was decided in three hours.
``If it were a split jury, perhaps there would be some greater impetus for change,'' he said.
Lockyer published a Senate policy briefing this year that outlined ideas he expected to be introduced as bills, including the ban on ``flamboyant'' attire worn by attorneys prompted by an editorial in a legal newspaper suggesting Armani clothing be outlawed.