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From OJ Simpson to Kyle Rittenhouse: A Jury Counselor Uniting the Two


“In the case of OJ, because we’ve done a lot of previous research, we know that certain demographics are more open to what we advocate,” she told CNN.

At the time, it was an African-American woman with a high school education or less, she recalls. In Rittenhouse’s case, however, she said, “We didn’t find anything predictive.”

So they dug.

“Getting acquainted with guns is an important thing to explore,” she told CNN. “There’s generally a feeling if someone is a Second Amendment advocate who is also a First Amendment.” That includes both in real life and from their “digital footprints” on social media.

“When reviewing jurors’ records, it is looking for individuals who will be most receptive to whatever evidence is presented,” she added.

Before the trial, Dimitrius and the Rittenhouse team tested it in the form of three sets of mock jurors.

The defense knew the video would be paramount, but a central question quickly became whether Rittenhouse actually testified. “Everybody involved in the case is concerned,” Dimitrius said, especially given his age and attention to every move.

“We had three separate groups of twelve mock jurors,” Dimitrius said. “One of them just watched the video testimony and the other two not only watched the video testimony but saw Kyle actually testifying,” Dimitrius said. . “The result is very, very clear that his story needs to be told about what happened that night.”

Kyle Rittenhouse collapses in the stands while testifying at his trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, November 10, 2021.
Mark Richards, defense attorney for Rittenhouse, told CNN, “He scored much worse [with those who did not hear his story] than those who have heard his story. “

“That was cross-checked by a trained former prosecutor. And that made the decision, I don’t want to say easy, but it was done right… he needed to tell the story. mine,” he added.

On November 10, Rittenhouse finally stood up in his own defense, sometimes emotional, describing how August 25, 2020, ended with him killing two people and wounding a third.

According to Dimitrius, the “perfect juror” in the Rittenhouse case is someone willing to “listen to what is presented in court and base their decision solely on that evidence.”

“The rest is history,” she said.

Jury selection process ‘very frustrating’

Of the 179 potential jurors who turned up to attend the Rittenhouse trial, the final 20 needed for trial were reduced to a single day.

Judge (Bruce) Schroeder Dimitrius told CNN. the questions you want to ask, it’s a very, very short period of time. “

The juries are arranged dozens at a time, and the pace makes it sometimes difficult to keep up with what’s really going on.

“It was very frustrating,” said Dimitrius.

She was hired months before the trial and was present during jury selection, jury supervision, trial assistance and was often seen sitting next to Wendy Rittenhouse, the defendant’s mother.

Jury expert Jo-Ellan Dimitrius with Wendy Rittenhouse during the trial.

The jurors in the Rittenhouse trial overwhelmed whites not only on the initial pool of 179 potential clients but also on the 12-person final decision panel, where there was only one person of color.

“It should reflect the community where the trial will be held,” Dimitrius told CNN. “I found the demographic presentation to be very accurate to what Kenosha has.”

According to the United States Census, as of 2019, approximately 79% of the Kenosha population is white.

Dimitrius said: “I believe in my heart that we ended up with a very fair jury.

Rittenhouse protesters shut down the Brooklyn Bridge.  Portland protesters force prison to open

Rittenhouse faces charges of murder and reckless endangerment for the killing of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, and for shooting a man commonly known as “the jumping man”. The shooting came after the police shooting of Jacob Blake sparked protests in Kenosha.

During the deliberation, the jurors asked review more video evidence of the shooting. They eventually agreed with Rittenhouse’s testimony that he feared for his life and acted in self-defense. He was acquitted on November 19.

After the ruling, lead prosecutor Thomas Binger told the court, “The jury has represented our community in this trial and has spoken.”

Binger, in a statement, said, “While we are disappointed with the ruling, it must be respected.”

The judge commended the jurors, saying he “could not have asked for a better jury.”

Rittenhouse vs Simpson

There are certainly many differences between the OJ Simpson 1995 and Kyle Rittenhouse trials in 2021, mainly, as Dimitrius put it, “in 95 people remember to hope that the Internet wasn’t central.”

Another key difference, according to Dimitrius, is the lack of any demographics that are necessarily “predictable” in the Rittenhouse case like it is for Simpson.

“We are told that African-American women with a high school education or less, for whatever reason, do not believe that the next step in domestic abuse or domestic violence is necessarily murder. “, she told CNN. “I couldn’t explain it then, I can’t explain it now, but for whatever reason they’re things that are almost open to that component.”

At least half of them 12 jurors in the Simpson trial are black women.

That jury eventually acquitted Simpson of the murders of Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

OJ Simpson's defensive team.  From left, Barry Scheck, Howard Harris, Shawn Chapman, Carl Douglas, Johnnie Cochran, Robert Blazier, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius (behind Blasier) and Robert Shapiro

The case has been dubbed the “trial of the century” with themes swirling around celebrity, race, criminal justice, trust in the police and domestic violence. After nearly nine months of proceedings, jurors returned their not guilty verdicts in less than four hours.

Simpson was later found liable in a wrongful death civil lawsuit brought by the victim’s family. On the stand, he denied killing Brown Simpson and Goldman.

Dimitrius said one of the main similarities between the trials was the dynamics surrounding both being televised, including getting “important information because people were watching what was going on, on TV” and then they might know someone, they might feel obligated to come testify.”

Is this the dawn of the era of vigilance?
According to Dimitrius, that includes Drew Hernandez as “one of the people who contacted us after he saw it Richie McGinniss witness. The same goes for OJ “Hernandez is a freelance commentator who was the 10th witness called in by the defense to testify.

Hernandez, who filmed videos of the protests, testified that Rittenhouse tried to de-escalate tensions at one point on the night of the shooting. He told the jury that Rosenbaum – who was first shot – was “physically aggressive” even before his encounter with Rittenhouse.

While jury selection is important in a trial, Dimitrius stressed, “I don’t change the evidence,” as she admits she isn’t always right and views her position as “complementary.” complement the experience of a good trial attorney.”

During her decades-long career, she has been involved in many high-profile cases both criminal and civil, including the property in George Floyd’s civil case against the City of Minneapolis, a case sentence ends with one of the largest prehistoric settlements in history. The many cases she has been involved in are of a polarizing nature from Rodney King to Francis Ford Coppola, Kobe Bryant, and many more.

“What I’ve seen, particularly in the OJ and in Kyle’s case, is sadly there are some public bodies that find it an inconvenient truth if there is in fact an acquittal. And who those people are from trial to trial, matter Dimitrius told CNN.

She hopes the public learns from the results of the Rittenhouse trial.

“Whether it’s Kenosha, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, wherever it is. I believe everyone has a First Amendment right, to protest and have their opinion known where it is. crossing the line is where there is destruction of property or destruction of life,” she added.

“I hope that there is something to be learned from these kinds of cases and that we can move forward as a country and still exercise the constitutional rights we have but also accept the responsibility. when they cross the line.”

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