Former O.J. juror says she was victim of jury tampering
April 1, 1996
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EST
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A juror who was dismissed from the O.J. Simpson trial says she was wrongly accused by the writer of a fraudulent letter of pursuing a book deal during the trial, and that she was a victim of jury tampering.
According to a CBS "60 Minutes" report that aired Sunday night, former juror Francine Florio-Bunten may have been the victim of carefully constructed fraud.
The "60 Minutes" investigation revealed that records of meetings in Judge Lance Ito's chambers revealed he did not probe the authenticity of the letter which also accused Florio-Bunten's husband, Ed, of meeting with literary agents at the same hotel as the sequestered jury.
Florio-Bunten had served on the jury for five months before being dismissed late May 1995. She was taken off the jury for reportedly lying to Judge Lance Ito about reading a note passed to her by another juror.
But the CBS report implies that the real reason for her dismissal was the letter sent to Ito.
"Someone wrote that letter and tried to get me off the jury," Florio-Bunten said.
The letter was supposedly written by a woman who claimed to be a receptionist for a book agent who negotiated with Florio-Bunten's husband.
Simpson case prosecuting attorney Christopher Darden and defense attorney Johnnie Cochran both said Monday on CNN that the letter seemed to be fraudulent.
"I knew nothing about it ... I was quite surprised along with the other members in Judge Ito's chambers when that letter was produced. I knew nothing about the letter... (or) the origins of the letter," Cochran said on CNN's legal show "Burden of Proof." (147K AIFF sound or 147K WAV sound)
Darden contradicted Cochran, saying that he and lead Prosecutor Marcia Clark had suspected that the letter was a fraud all along, but were ordered by Ito not to examine it. (120K AIFF sound or 120K WAV sound)
Ito's critics say the burden of the investigation fell on the judge. Most believe he could have discerned possible fraud if he had investigated the letter carefully.
"Judge Lance Ito had ordered both the defense and the prosecution to refrain from investigating any issues having to do with the jurors, and so it was Judge Ito's responsibility to investigate that letter," Darden said.
Florio-Bunten already had been dismissed from the jury when the controversy over the letter was raised.
Florio-Bunten, 35, said she is glad people are beginning to believe her but disappointed that she was thrown off the jury before she could make a difference in the trial's outcome.
She said she considered Simpson guilty when she was thrown off the jury and would have fought to convince the other jurors to convict.
"It probably would have been a hung jury," she said. "I don't think I'd be able to see it any other way."
Any new revelations about the letter won't make a difference for O.J. Simpson, who was cleared in October of the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
O.J. Simpson can never be retried in a criminal court for the crimes, but some experts think the letter controversy could impact the wrongful-death civil lawsuit filed against him by the families of the victims.
"Some people who end up on the civil jury may say this is my chance to even things up ... let me find him liable," said Milton Grimes, a criminal defense attorney.
Someone who also could be potentially affected by the letter is Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, who faces a tough run for re-election, partly because of losing the Simpson case. Proving the letter is a fraud could enhance his chances.
His office is investigating the letter's authenticity.
From Correspondent Jim Hill
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