Simpson case stirs jury bias issue at court

Tue Dec 4, 2007 4:28pm EST
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By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday considered whether a Louisiana prosecutor who compared a black murder defendant to O.J. Simpson used racial bias to engineer an all-white jury.

The defendant, Allen Snyder, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1996 for killing a married male friend of his estranged wife, who was injured in the same knife attack.

During sentencing in the New Orleans trial, the prosecutor told jurors that circumstances resembled the highly publicized murder case against black football star O.J. Simpson, who "got away with it."

Snyder's lawyers later cited that comment as evidence the prosecutor had tried to inject race into the trial and wrongly used his powers to keep black people off the jury.

"They (excluded) all the blacks they could in this case," Snyder's attorney Stephen Bright told the nation's highest court, which heard arguments in the case on Tuesday.

"I think what this prosecutor learned from O.J. Simpson ... is that you don't let blacks on the jury."

A racially mixed jury in 1995 acquitted Simpson in the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. He was later found liable for Goldman's wrongful death in a civil trial before a mostly white jury.

The issue before the eight white and one black Supreme Court justices is whether the Louisiana Supreme Court failed to properly weigh the charges of racial bias in jury selection. Snyder is seeking a new trial.   Continued...

<p>File photo shows former NFL football star O.J. Simpson ducking into a car outside the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada September 19, 2007 after being released from jail on bail of $125,000. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>