LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Now O.J. Simpson has the ball.

With the prosecution case finished after five months of testimony, Simpson's lawyers are about to begin presenting his side of the story.

But first, attorneys return to court today to wrangle over which of the 488 prosecution exhibits will be entered into evidence. The defense may also argue for an immediate innocent verdict, a routine motion that is just as routinely rejected by judges.

Simpson's attorneys plan to call their first witness Monday morning. The next few weeks promise a lineup of Simpson's friends, family and golf chums testifying about his demeanor before and after the murders.

Still hanging in the balance is the crucial decision on whether Simpson will risk a brutal cross-examination and testify in his own defense. Most legal analysts call that idea folly.

Technically, Simpson doesn't have to put on any defense; he could just argue that the prosecution hasn't proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he knifed his ex-wife and her friend to death. But legal analysts said that with mounds of circumstantial evidence piled against him, a no-defense strategy isn't a viable option.

``The defense has to present a case,'' said Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor at the University of Southern California. ``So much depends on the jury believing that the police framed him.''

Southwestern University law professor Robert Pugsley said the defense also will probably want to show blunders by police technicians, put its own spin on damaging DNA evidence and stress the many mistakes made by Dr. Irwin Golden, the deputy medical examiner who could be called as a hostile witness.

All the while, the defense will be trying to keep things moving to appease its cooped-up client, who has been jailed without bail for more than a year, and the cabin-crazy jury, which has been sequestered for nearly six months.

``They have the clock on their minds very heavily, as well they should,'' Pugsley said.

Lead attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. estimated the defense case will last four to six weeks.

Prosecutors contend that a trail of bloody circumstantial evidence shows Simpson turned from jealous wife-abuser to murderer on June 12, 1994, slashing the throats of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman outside her condominium.

The defense says that Simpson was home alone at the time, and that the football great is being framed and has been victimized by sloppy evidence handling.

On Thursday, after 58 witness, nearly 500 pieces of evidence, the loss of 10 jurors, one juror revolt, a dramatic glove demonstration and the improbable rise to celebrity of an unemployed houseguest, the prosecution in the People vs. Orenthal James Simpson rested its case.

Prosecutors showed a flair for the anticlimactic by sending jurors back to their hotel for another long weekend after reading information into the court record.

Prosecutors decided against finishing with Ms. Simpson's mother on the stand, instead using an FBI hair and fiber expert. Then Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark read for the jury a dry stipulation in which both sides agreed Juditha Brown last spoke to her daughter at 9:40 p.m. on June 12, 1994.

Clark then showed two more charts of grisly photos of the slashed bodies of Ms. Simpson and Goldman. Across the courtroom, Simpson gazed at the ceiling and bit his lip.

Then, with Clark's words ``The people rest,'' it was over for the prosecution until a likely rebuttal case following the defense presentation.

Jurors sat as impassive as ever. But the panel, sequestered in a hotel since Jan. 11, did react to Judge Lance Ito's announcement that their court business was done until Monday. The three-day weekend comes on the heels of the four-day July Fourth weekend.

Ito tried to impress upon them that he would be working hard during their absence. But when he asked if any of them would be willing to trade places with him, a 52-year-old female postal worker vigorously nodded her head. Other jurors giggled.

The court session started under a cloud, 90 minutes late, as the judge revealed he had been questioning the jury behind closed doors about possible improper communications from an ousted juror.

He said the ousted juror ``had been dismissed for misconduct for communicating and writing notes to other jurors.'' He did not disclose the outcome of the inquiry.