Simpson Jury Hears 911 Tape of Enraged O.J.
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ On the tape recording, his voice is only in the background. But O.J. Simpson’s presence is powerful as he spews profanity in an angry, ranting diatribe and storms in and out of his ex-wife’s house.
It’s the private face of Simpson that the prosecution wants the jury to envision. Not the sports hero and genial actor sitting in court in crisp, conservative suits, but a man capable of blind rage, of violence. A man capable of murder.
It’s that face, the prosecution wants the jury to believe, that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman saw the night they were killed.
On Thursday, jurors heard the 911 call Ms. Simpson made in October 1993 after Simpson broke down the door to her home. Less than a year later, Ms. Simpson and Goldman were stabbed and slashed to death outside her condo.
The tape was played at the end of the court session. Jurors left with Simpson’s curses and Ms. Simpson pleas for help ringing in their ears.
When testimony resumes today, witnesses are expected to include a police officer who responded to the emergency call. Ms. Simpson’s sister Denise Brown also was expected to testify about the Simpsons’ often-stormy relationship.
The attempt to demolish Simpson’s good-guy image is part of the prosecution’s effort to prove a motive. Prosecutors want to convince the jury that after years of abusing and degrading his wife, Simpson killed her in a jealous rage.
Parts of the 911 tape have been broadcast numerous times since police released it last summer, and jurors said during jury selection that they had heard at least portions of it. But it was nonetheless the most dramatic part of the day when jurors heard it for the first time in the trial.
Superior Court Judge Lance Ito allowed the tape to be played in its entirety, except for when Ms. Simpson tells the 911 operator: ``He’s going to beat the s--- out of me.″ Ms. Simpson was not hit during the confrontation.
``My ex-husband has just broken into my house and he’s ranting and raving outside in the front yard,″ Ms. Simpson told the operator. ``He’s crazy.″
At times, Ms. Simpson sounded frantic and her voice trembled, such as when she blurted out, ``He’s O.J. Simpson. ... He’s going nuts.″
At other times, she was relatively calm, even resigned. It’s Simpson who appears most out of control, although most of his words _ except for the profanities _ are unintelligible.
``The tone was more important than the content,″ Deputy District Attorney Christopher Darden told reporters.
Jurors gazed at the ceiling or closed their eyes. Some took notes. All were expressionless except a woman who appeared to wince as Ms. Simpson’s voice became more and more hysterical.
Simpson was impassive and appeared to be reading a transcript of the call as it was played.
Before the tape was played, former police officer Ronald Shipp finished his testimony. Shipp, who has known Simpson for 26 years, took shots at his old friend’s character and expressed disgust with him several times.
``Tell the truth,″ Shipp mouthed to Simpson at one point, prompting the judge to admonish the jury to disregard such outbursts.
Shipp testified Wednesday that Simpson told him he had dreamed about killing his ex-wife. On Thursday, he said Simpson showed no signs of grief during the week after her slaying.
In fact, Shipp said, Simpson seemed angry as he watched TV news reports. ``I saw anger at the news coverage that he was actually being accused of murdering″ them, Shipp said.
In a cross-examination much toned down from his attacks Wednesday, defense lawyer Carl Douglas portrayed Shipp as a starstruck wannabe friend who lusted after Ms. Simpson. He also questioned Shipp extensively about an alcohol problem; Shipp insisted he has overcome it.
At one point, Douglas asked, ``Isn’t it true you told your friends if Mr. Simpson wasn’t around you’d have a shot at Nicole Brown Simpson yourself?″
``No,″ said the witness with a slight laugh. ``Excuse me for smiling, but no.″
Even after his two grueling days on the stand, Shipp’s lawyer said, he’s got no regrets about coming forward, but it is time for a rest.
``Mr. Shipp is emotionally and physically drained. He wants to take a couple of days and spend some time with his family, get out of town, get some privacy and try to regain some normalcy in his life,″ lawyer Robert McNeill told NBC’s ``Today″ show this morning.
_ Defense jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius said there have been reports of possible juror misconduct. ``It’s serious enough that the judge has thought that it needs to be evaluated by another agency,″ she said without elaborating.
_ An investigator testified about finding Ms. Simpson’s safe deposit box evidence _ three letters, photos of her bruised body, her will, newspaper stories about a 1989 New Year’s beating and other items _ when he drilled the box open in December. The judge didn’t allow the newspaper articles to be entered as evidence, and the jurors weren’t immediately shown the photos.
Simpson pleaded no contest to wife beating after the 1989 fight and was placed on probation.
Letters in Simpson’s own hand, which he wrote after the fight, were projected page by page on a large courtroom screen.
``Let me start by expressing to you how wrong I was for hurting you,″ Simpson wrote to his then-wife. ``There is no exceptible excuse for what I did.″
``As we drove home New Years nite I felt great about everything and have never been more in love with you,″ he wrote. ``Thinking and trying to realize how I got so crazy?″