NINE DOWN, THREE TO GO

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Thedwindling O.J. Simpson jury pool lurched closer to the minimal 12 todaywhen Judge Lance Ito dismissed two more jurors, leaving only two alternates in place. The defense immediately challenged one of the dismissals. Testimony was cancelled until an appeals court could rule on the matter. Judge Ito did not say why the two jurors -- a 28-year-old woman and a 54- year-old man -- had been dismissed, but it's believed that the woman was dismissed because she was taking notes for a book about the trial. It's the other juror whose dismissal the defense challenged, saysTIME Los Angeles correspondent Jim Willwerth. "Ito has dismissed three jurors in the past couple of weeks, and two of them were believed to be pretty pro-prosecution. But the defense must believe that this man, the third juror, must be very sympathetic to their case." (Both sides have hired expert jury consultants to handicap their progress by studying the faces and attitudes of the jurors as they listen to testimony.) While Willwerth doubts the court will reverse Ito's decision, he reports that the defense is positioning itself for future appeals if they lose the case, "in hope of getting O.J. off on a mistrial."