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Archive for Monday, January 30, 1995

NEW BOOK PLACES READERS INSIDE SIMPSON COURTROOM

January 30, 1995

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A new book expected to be available Wednesday in Lawrence lets readers sort through possible evidence and arguments in the O.J. Simpson trial.

Looking for the ultimate remembrance of the trial of century?

Well, the item you're awaiting may soon be as close as the neighborhood bookstore.

"Trial of the Century -- You Be the Juror'' is expected to make its debut in one local bookstore this week. The book, an interactive trial guide, written by attorneys Robert J. Walton of Phoenix and F. LaGard Smith, a law professor at Pepperdine School of Law in Malibu, Calif., is designed to give readers an insider's look at the Simpson trial, as well as the attorneys and witnesses.

Using a set of alleged ''facts'' that are based on general news sources, the authors lay out possible arguments that may be made by the attorneys, questions that may be asked of witnesses and evidence that may be presented.

Interspersed with that information are facts about the court system and trial procedures to help readers better understand the trial as it unfolds.

Also included are sections where readers can reflect on what they have seen, heard and read about the trial before they are asked to fill out sample verdict forms.

During an interview last week, Walton said he hoped the book would enable middle Americans to understand the complexities of a criminal case. Such education is needed to dispel Hollywood's depictions of criminal trials, he said.

Information contained in the book was presented in a format that enabled readers to consider possible arguments and evidence from both the prosecution and defense, he said.

"There were literally hundreds of twists and turns that could be fantasized or programmed before you decided the way you were going to go.''

Walton said he didn't expect similar trial guides to be published on future high-profile criminal trials, primarily because they wouldn't have Simpson as a defendant.

"I think there was really something distinct about O.J.,'' Walton said. "We've watched him win the Heisman Trophy. We've watched him play professional football. We've watched him rent a car for us. We've watched him in the movies. He was almost like a member of the family.''

Roscoe Howard, associate professor of law at Kansas University, said that while he found the book interesting, he doubted that it could re-create the experience of being a juror in the Simpson trial.

"A lot of being a juror is evaluating the credibility of the witness,'' he said. "A lot of that is doing it live. ... The key to the trial is the trial itself. It's being there and actually watching the witness from the witness stand.''

Howard, a former federal prosecutor, likened the book to a "Cliffs Notes'' on criminal procedure and said in that respect it could educate the public on courtroom terminology and procedures.

One concern Howard raised about the book is how it reflected on the seriousness of the Simpson trial.

"It's more like a board game,'' he said of the book's offering to make the reader a juror. "It's (the trial) a fairly serious event. O.J. Simpson is looking either at spending the rest of his life in jail or being acquitted. Either way his life will be profoundly affected. ... It just doesn't give (the trial) the sort of respect I think it should be afforded.''

Roxanne Hall, book manager at Hastings Books, Music and Video, 2000 West 23rd, said she expected 25 copies of the interactive trial guides to be delivered on Wednesday.

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