Long Isolation Ahead For Simpson Jurors As Sequestration Nears

LOS ANGELES - First thing tomorrow morning, the 24 jurors and alternates for O.J. Simpson's trial officially get the word: They'll be spending the next few months sequestered, isolated from the outside world.

They'll have two days to pack.

Legal analysts said they've never heard of a jury being sequestered before the start of opening statements. But a hearing this week on domestic violence is expected to be so highly charged that Superior Court Judge Lance Ito apparently felt he had no choice.

Conventional wisdom dictates that a sequestered jury is a prosecution jury. Jurors in isolation are said to sympathize with their guards - in this case sheriff's deputies who could be seen as an extension of the prosecution - and tend to develop personal relationships that could thwart a hung jury, an outcome many legal analysts say is the best Simpson could hope for.

Simpson's lawyers, however, have shown no fear of straying from convention in defending their client, accused of killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman last June.

Legal analysts said the defense apparently feels concerns that a sequestered panel could turn hostile are outweighed by worries that nonsequestered panelists could be lost to media exposure or other hazards.

Until Wednesday, the defense opposed a sequestered jury. Simpson's attorneys had said panelists who could put their lives on hold for several months tended to be older, more affluent and white.

But after two months of jury selection, the final group looked nothing like that. The panel is predominately black. Opinion polls have shown that blacks tend to believe more in Simpson's innocence than whites.

Also, the defense has been reeling from recent anti-Simpson publicity, including statements from victims' relatives and a National Enquirer cover that shows computer-simulated bruises on the face of Nicole Simpson.

In other high-profile cases, including the Reginald Denny beating trial and the first Rodney King beating case, jurors were sequestered only during deliberations, and that was mostly for their own protection.

Ito has said he would try to make sequestration as humane as possible for Simpson's jurors, suggesting a Disneyland trip and possible weekend visits with family members may be in the works.

In an early motion, prosecutors estimated it would run $3,446 a day to feed and house jurors.