Simpson Jury Gets Case After Victim’s Desperate Voice Played Final Time
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A year after his murder trial began, the fate of O.J. Simpson was placed in the hands of 12 anonymous people Friday by a judge who ordered them to ignore lawyer warnings that ``the world is watching.″
The jurors were expressionless _ as they have been throughout the trial _ when they filed into the jury room, where they will have more than 50,000 pages of transcripts and 857 pieces of evidence to consider.
The beaten face and the desperate voice of Nicole Brown Simpson were the last pieces of evidence presented as prosecutor Marcia Clark implored the majority-black panel to find the sports legend guilty of murdering his ex-wife and her friend.
As crowds gathered outside the courthouse for the climactic turn in the case that has captivated the nation, Judge Lance Ito told the 12 jurors inside his courtroom that their sworn duty was to ``reach a just verdict regardless of the consequences.″
``You are not partisans or advocates, but impartial judges of the fact,″ Ito said. The panel quickly chose a foreman and then retired for the weekend without beginning formal deliberations. They were to reconvene Monday morning.
The two alternates remain under guard in case they are needed to step in.
Three minutes after the case was submitted at 4:08 p.m. PDT on the courtroom clock, a jury room buzzer sounded three times, signaling that the foreman had been selected.
``Maybe they’ve got a verdict and we can all go home,″ defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. quipped.
Laughter erupted, breaking a palpable tension that had built during the final moment of Clark’s argument as she let the victims speak for themselves through videotape and pictures.
The families of Ms. Simpson and Ronald Goldman dissolved in tears when Clark summoned up the beaten face and desperate voice of Ms. Simpson pleading for police protection from her ranting ex-husband and when an image of Goldman’s bloody body flashed on the 7-foot-high courtroom screen.
``Usually, I feel I’m the only one left to speak for the victims,″ Clark told jurors. ``But Nicole and Ron are speaking to you.″
She urged the 10 women and two men to hear the resignation in Ms. Simpson’s voice in a 911 call and consider the words she spoke to a police detective who responded to a domestic violence call at the Simpson home six years before the murders: ``He’s going to kill me.″
The tapes from a l989 call and a 1993 call were played over defense objections to what lawyers called `` a production″ unfairly mingling unrelated evidence.
As the tapes were played, Clark displayed a montage of her case up on the screen: Ms. Simpson’s beaten face in 1989, the crime scene, blood drops on Simpson’s driveway, Simpson’s white Bronco, a bloody glove and, finally, the slashed bodies.
She suggested that Goldman was a hero in the effort to convict his killer because, ``Ron, struggling so valiantly, forced the killer to leave evidence.″
``They told you with their blood, with their hair ... that he did it _ Orenthal Simpson,″ she said, turning to where Simpson sat impassively at the counsel table.
The judge’s final instructions and the jury’s departure to begin deliberations marked the end of a convulsive yearlong battle, which placed the justice system itself on trial and raised disturbing issues of racism within the Los Angeles Police Department.
The final session on Friday was as contentious as any, with Cochran and Barry Scheck peppering Clark with a fusillade of objections _ more than 60 in all _ which fragmented portions of her argument.
But in the final moments, there was silence among the participants. Ms. Simpson’s haunting voice filled the courtroom.
In the spectator section, her sisters Tanya and Denise Brown held their hands over their ears and wept with their mother, Juditha.
Goldman’s family was in tears.
To the end, jurors were expressionless.
In the hallway before the morning session began, Mrs. Brown walked over to Simpson’s frail mother, Eunice, leaned over her wheelchair and kissed her on the cheek.
Emotion also built outside the courthouse, where crowds gathered throughout the day and police put up barricades and tape. Some spectators cheered as defense attorneys arrived.
Supporters on both sides played on a theme of Cochran’s closing argument: There were shirts that read, ``If it doesn’t fit then you must acquit,″ and a sign that said, ``If they acquit, they’re full of (expletive).″
Two men were arrested on misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace for yelling at each other and causing a ruckus, police spokesman Don Cox said.
As planned, the Sheriff’s Department went on tactical alert putting deputies on call when jurors were handed the case.
During their rebuttals, Clark and prosecutor Christopher Darden summed up evidence yet again and told jurors the sum total of what they had presented pointed to Simpson as the murderer.
Darden drew furious objections when he said, ``Everybody knows he killed.″
Repeatedly, Clark incurred objections from defense attorneys by mentioning subjects they believed were off limits or interpreting evidence in a manner they suggested was unfair.
``Sit down!″ Ito barked repeatedly at the protesting defense lawyers but finally dismissed jurors from the courtroom in order to address attorneys.
He told Clark, ``You’re close to the line″ and warned her to stop expressing her opinions rather than argue the evidence.
She shot back that she was entitled to respond to the fiery oratory of Cochran, who, Clark said, had appealed to jurors’ emotions outside the evidence on Thursday.
Clark complained that Cochran had attacked the prosecutors and they should be able to respond.
``When counsel takes off the gloves and makes personal attacks and says basically we’re criminals, we have ethical obligations,″ she said.
Normally, final arguments proceed uninterrupted. Clark sighed deeply and rolled her eyes at the continuing volley of interruptions.
The judge at one point instructed jurors that they are ``the sole judges of the facts″ and warned them, ``If counsel chooses to argue in contradiction to the evidence, they do so at their own peril.″
The task of answering Cochran’s most incendiary demand _ that jurors acquit Simpson because a racist detective may have framed him _ fell to Darden, a black prosecutor who addressed jurors first.
``It’s time to stand up. It is time to stand up,″ he said in his quietly intense rebuttal. ``The Constitution says a man has no right to kill and get away with it just because one of the investigating officers is a racist.″
Darden reminded jurors of Cochran’s exhortation to return a verdict they could live with the day after.
``If you were to acquit him, what explanation would you give?″ Darden asked. ``Would you say it’s because of racism in the LAPD?″
While telling jurors he was ``eternally grateful that Mark Fuhrman was exposed for what he is,″ Darden also warned them: ``Don’t let them get you fired up because Mark Fuhrman is a racist.″
``Racism blinds you,″ he told the panel of nine blacks, two whites and a Hispanic.
The reverberations of Cochran’s thundering summation, which outraged Goldman’s father, continued as Police Chief Willie Williams demanded an apology. It was ``disgrace,″ he said, to allege that Detective Philip Vannatter was part of a web of conspiracy woven by Fuhrman.
In his final chance to win over jurors, Darden cast his low-key presentation as a calm, reasoned antidote to Cochran’s fevered defense of Simpson.
The prosecutor implied that defense lawyers were using Simpson’s status as a football legend to place him in a category that would not allow conviction.
``No one is above the law _ not the police, not the rich,″ Darden said. ``O.J. Simpson is not above the law.″