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As Both Sides Rest, Simpson Makes One Last Claim of Innocence

September 23, 1995

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Just as he did on the football field, O.J. Simpson had a glimmer of daylight and made the most of it.

Instead of merely stating his decision not to testify, he stood and launched into a dramatic plea of innocence, hammered home with the words: ``I did not, could not and would not have committed this crime.″

And though it came outside the jury’s presence before both sides rested Friday, enraged prosecutors and the father of one victim had little doubt it would reach sequestered panelists during this weekend’s conjugal visits.

``Are we nuts? Do we really believe that these people are sequestered to the point where they don’t know what’s going on in the outside world?″ asked Fred Goldman, whose son Ron was slashed to death along with Nicole Brown Simpson 15 months ago.

``This was part of the normal orchestrated defense,″ Goldman said, `throwing garbage out there on a regular basis to influence this jury above and beyond testimony.″

Even before Simpson spoke, prosecutor Marcia Clark suggested the defense was trying to manipulate public opinion and perhaps send a message to the jury. ``Please don’t do this, your honor, I beg you.″

Judge Lance Ito, remarking that ``the court can control the orderly process,″ allowed Simpson to speak.

``As much as I would like to address some of the misrepresentations about myself, and my Nicole, and our life together, I am mindful of the mood and the stamina of this jury,″ Simpson said in a strong voice.

`` I have confidence, a lot more it seems than Miss Clark has, of their integrity and that they will find as the record stands now, that I did not, could not and would not have committed this crime.″

``I have four kids. Two kids I haven’t seen in a year. They ask me every week, `Dad, how much longer? I want this trial over.″

Defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. argued Simpson had a right to personally waive his right to testify, and he told reporters his client merely blurted out what has long been bottled inside of him.

``He was speaking from his heart,″ Cochran said. ``That was spontaneous.″

But The New York Times, citing a defense lawyer it didn’t name, reported today that Simpson had worked on the statement for two weeks with the help of Cochran and another lawyer, Robert Kardashian.

``This was so well-rehearsed,″ said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor. `It’s O.J. making his case to the world, and to potential jurors and possibly to the jury itself.″

``It is certainly out of bounds,″ added Robert Pugsley, a law professor at Southwestern University. ``I’m at a loss to explain how Ito let that get out of his control. I just think this was a slip that was not excusable.″

After Simpson’s speech, Ito called the jury and read lengthy instructions. In clear, concise terms, he explained to them that if they acquitted Simpson of first-degree murder, they still could convict him of second-degree murder.

He told them closing arguments would begin Tuesday and he was considering longer court hours next week to speed things up.

The 10 women and two men on the jury, along with two alternates, have been sequestered at a hotel for more than eight months.

Fred Goldman, who sat in court and muttered ``murderer″ under his breath as Simpson spoke, was still shaking with anger in a news conference outside court.

``If he had a statement to make he should have gotten on the damn stand and said something and not been a coward and been unable to have the prosecution question him,″ Goldman said.

Then, referring to Simpson’s statement about missing his children, Goldman said: ``I will never see my son again.″

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