(The following article ran on The Huffington Post on July 4th 2017.)
If you are old enough to remember the OJ Simpson trial, the Ford Bronco chase that preceded it and perhaps, even the football career before the crime story, questions linger in your mind. Unless you are of some rare breed, it is not OJ’s guilt you ponder. Rather, it is what the jury who acquitted him thinks of their verdict almost 22 years later. In The Jury Speaks, a new Oxygen TV series by award-winning producer, writer, television and radio host Nancy Glass of Glass Entertainment Group, you will hear from jurors who served on some of the most high profile cases in the last two decades.
Covering the OJ Trial Has a Lasting Impact on a Journalist
Glass tells The Huffington Post: “I was always writing, producing and interested in ‘getting the story,’ and back then I covered the OJ trial… Every. Single. Day. At that time, the jury was thinking about their specific instructions and the fact thatthey were sequestered! It was a jail sentence for them. The judge went on vacation at one point and they were still sequestered. I knew there was a great story there about this jury and I went to Oxygen and proposed this as a show. It was the network that said ‘What about other juries?”
Robert Durst. Robert Blake. Michael Jackson. George Zimmerman
The Jury Speaks offers fascinating accounts of what other high profile juries experienced in the courtroom and behind the scenes on an interpersonal level.Robert Durst. Robert Blake. Michael Jackson. George Zimmerman are among the recognized names attached to cases (in addition to that of Orenthal James Simpson) that the series will explore episode by episode.
Interpersonal Dynamics of Jury Members on Famous Cases
“Jurors don’t always like each other and what you also realize from this show is that you have no idea what really happened,” Glass explains. “In the Robert Blake trial, prosecutors promised to put the gun in his hands, but that’s the ONE thing they didn’t do at the trial. The Durst jurors got into a huge, loud argument. It’s fascinating to hear the dynamics, what jurors saw and heard and how being in a courtroom is so different than what we thought.”
‘Do-Over’ Time for Famous Juries
Despite high tensions during these famous cases, some members of the juries reconvened for the Oxygen series to say what their verdict would be today. They also recorded individual testimonials about the juror experience and really opened up, according to Glass, because production made it clear they were listening with zero judgement. “With some cases’ verdicts, people fault the defendant, with some they fault the system and some they fault the jurors. You don’t necessarily agree or disagree with a jury as you watch, but you say to yourself ‘NOW I get how they came to their decision!’”
Without A Reasonable Doubt
What an outside observer must remember about a jury is that its task is to consider all the evidence presented in court and be certain without a “reasonable doubt” when declaring a guilty verdict. We hear this rule time and again, but how often do we consider the impact of it when we dissect high profile cases? Do we ever really think of the individuals that comprise the group deciding a defendant’s fate?
“The Fat Juror” and the Lothario
In The Jury Speaks, we learn other things we never knew about famous juries. One woman was referred to as “the fat juror” in the media during the Michael Jackson molestation case. It was a life-changing label for her and she underwent gastric bypass surgery after the trial. A young male juror on the George Zimmerman trial was known as the flirty Lothario among the female jurors, an annoyance and distraction during a serious case.
The OJ Juror who Had a Heart Attack During the Trial, Lon Cryer Speaks
In the series, we also hear from Lon Cryer who was in his mid 40s and survived a heart attack while in sequestration for 265 days on the OJ Simpson jury. He suggests that the verdict finally came when it did because after other jurors were dismissed due to concerns about personal conflicts and biases, his presence was too critical for the court to lose. He says there was also the consideration – due to what was erroneously presumed about his health – that he would not live to decree OJ’s fate. Luckily, the attack was a minor one and Cryer is alive to reflect on his experience today for the series and The Huffington Post.
Lon Cryer and David Aldana previously spoke with CNN to explain exactly what was required of them as OJ jurors. They both participated in The Jury Speaks.
“The heart attack was more or less triggered by the stress that I was under – way more than you could ever believe,” Cryer recalls in a phone interview, “Living in LA at the time, it was the biggest story so for anyone to claim they weren’t aware of who OJ was, that was just impossible. The Bronco chase happened in June – and it was not something for discussion and consideration at our trial – but we were aware of OJ in the media prior to jury selection in September.”
When asked what he thought of the notable mostly-black jury, Cryer (who is a black man himself) admits “I want to be careful as I respond to this because I really don’t want to offend anyone, but I was a little taken aback seeing the jurors that were picked at the end of the process. It was a misjudgement on the part of the prosecution (to think that black women would be ideal jurors for the case because OJ had married Nicole Simpson, a white woman), but that’s just my personal opinion on that.”
Lon Cryer on Evidence Presented at the OJ Trial
“I received medical training when I was in the army so when it became obvious that the blood evidence presented might have problems with it, I had to discount it. I think it was a mistake by the prosecution to bombard us with all that early on. According to what we heard, there were likely issues with the way the blood was transported, gathered and even analyzed. With the defense poking holes in this all the way though the rest of the trial, the results of that evidence became suspicious.”
“I never questioned how it identified the people involved, but I questioned the integrity of the samples themselves. There was also the fact that (former LAPD detective) Mark Furhman was exposed as a perjurer. That undermined his credibility and affected our opinions and ability to convict a man based on what was presented at that particular trial.”
Jason Simpson?! He was Never Under Scrutiny at Our Trial, What an Outrageous “True Crime” Show
When asked if he’s able to watch true crime programs after serving on such a famous case, Cryer says: “I’ve watched forensic shows and I find it funny that a few months ago there was a program pointing the finger at Jason Simpson (OJ’s grown son). I sat there, watched the show and thought about how ridiculous the whole concept was! I can’t believe they actually put that mess on television. It brought up some weird things about OJ and Jason, painting them as co-conspirators. During the trial, I had no concept whatsoever about who possibly could have committed these crimes and there certainly was no focus on Jason.”
So, What Would OJ Juror Lon Cryer Decide Today?
Cryer is the only OJ juror in The Jury Speaks to decline convening with former fellow jurors and re-deliberate the verdict.
“Going back to the trial, I participated in nothing about it that would change how I came to my decision. However, over the years seeing what OJ did, I always refer to the one thing that initially broke my heart – when he came out with his ‘fictitious’ book If I Did It. I thought that was awful and how hard it would be for his children to deal with. At that point I started thinking this was a heartless man and he probably did it. Until that point, I didn’t have a reason to think that way.”
“Also, many things were left out of the criminal trial and later presented at the civil trial. We were never provided with any of OJ’s statements to the police. The Bruno Magli shoes were never put on his feet at our trial. Had we heard and seen those things, maybe we would have convicted him.”
Why a Private Man Comes Forward and Speaks to the Media About Being an OJ Juror
Cryer explains that he’s a naturally private man who has no interest in social media or attention, but after the media hounded him and undermined the intelligence and decision-making abilities of OJ jurors, he had to speak out: “You have to understand that in a case like this the media has their own way of finding out information about people. From the moment I was released from jury services, I could not get to my home because reporters were all staking out where I lived. I couldn’t spend the first night out of sequestration in my home because people were all out in front of my residence. I don’t even live in LA anymore so it’s really interesting that people still find me. I participated in this series because I heard so much criticism and the media had cast aspersions about the characters of people on our jury.”
“It was down to the point where I was being accused (of bias) because I was a former Black Panther party member. This reflects people not understanding why someone could do something and rationalizing it in their own minds saying ‘This is why this person thought this way.’ It was totally wrong and totally irrelevant.”
“When I started doing interviews, I wanted to state how I saw things at that time from the perspective of the trial that I was on and what we were instructed to deliberate. I always wanted people to know we weren’t stupid people on this jury. It wasn’t that we didn’t understand what we were up against and what our mandates were. We had to work with what was presented to us in court to come to a very difficult decision. And it’s not that we thought he was innocent: We just couldn’t convict anyone because we couldn’t say there was ‘no reasonable doubt.’”
Television After OJ
Over two decades after the Dream Team triumphed by winning “the trial of the century,” people wonder if winning is even the correct word. OJ now sits in a jail cell for armed robbery in a heist to abscond with his own memorabilia. There is no doubt, however, that the case riveted many a Gen Xer in the 1990s factoring greatly into why this demographic (specifically) became more avid followers of true crime and reality television. The Ford Bronco chase was a reality event that garnered a massive viewership, a point often mentioned in conversations about reality TV history. It is of course a sad fact considering a double homicide brought attention to cable television, as Nancy Glass explains:
“The OJ Simpson trial actually changed television because it made cable TV dominant. There were the major networks that most people were watching, but E! was covering this trial gavel to gavel as well as CNN. The trial ended and people realized: Cable is pretty interesting! Reality TV really took off in the years that followed because as someone once said ‘Nothing is more fascinating than the shock of reality’ and that is true.”
The Jury Speaks aired in July of 2017 on the Oxygen channel. The show is now available On Demand, or through the Oxygen app for iPhones.