Closing arguments over, case headed for jury
Jan. 28, 1997
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ O.J. Simpson's fate was placed in the hands of a jury Tuesday after a final theatrical flourish from an attorney who waved a wad of bills at the football great and accused him of cheapening the lives of the victims.
The jury began deliberating at 2:26 p.m. to decide whether Simpson should be held responsible and made to pay millions for the June 12, 1994, knife slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. It was the same crime Simpson was acquitted of a year and a half ago.
Some jurors took notes as Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki explained that Simpson is not being subjected to double jeopardy:``Even though the defendant Simpson was acquitted in the criminal case, you can still find him liable.'' '
In contrast to the mostly black criminal jury that voted unanimously to clear Simpson in downtown Los Angeles, just nine of the 12 jurors on the mostly white civil panel must agree to find Simpson responsible
In his final words to the jury, plaintiff attorney Daniel Petrocelli responded to defense claims that the wrongful death claim was baseless and that anyone can file such a lawsuit by paying a $200 fee. He took out some bills and waved them in front of Simpson.
``In their zeal to get your verdict, have they become so insensitive to the greatest of human tragedies, the loss of life ... that they tell you it costs $200 to file a lawsuit?'' Petrocelli said.
``Mr. Simpson, here's $200. Give ... my client back his son!''
Simpson's lawyer, Robert Baker, rose from his seat and yelled back: ``Give it up! Give it up!''
``Give my client back his son and we will march out of here in a heartbeat,'' Petrocelli raged. Simpson showed no reaction.
Petrocelli's stirring end to the five-month case came in the fifth day of summations.
As the court day began, the case was further delayed by an hour because of an undisclosed jury problem.
Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said some jurors had been contacted by a person or agency offering to represent them after the trial for media deals. Jurors brought the matter to the judge's attention, and the judge interviewed all the panelists without dismissing any of them.
Once jurors returned to their seats, the plaintiffs unleashed a final volley of invective against Simpson. Petrocelli berated both Simpson and Baker for ``denying the undeniable'' and for underestimating the victims' lives.
``We heard Mr. Baker say Mr. Simpson is the victim in all of this _ not two precious human beings that are dead,'' Petrocelli said.
``Enough is enough,'' the lawyer continued. ``Two people lost their lives. ... They deserve their final peace. Their lives mattered ... and that man who took their lives should be held accountable.''
Petrocelli urged jurors to discount Simpson's easy demeanor and winning smile, quoting Shakespeare: ``One may smile and smile and be a villain.''
Petrocelli again attacked Simpson's alibi and his contention the 31 photos of him wearing Bruno Magli shoes are fake and noted Simpson has never given a clear explanation for cuts on his hand.
At one point, he showed a picture of Simpson's cut ring finger on his left hand and clawed at it with his own fingernails as if to show that's how the victims injured Simpson.
``These are the marks of a killer,'' he declared.
More than once, Baker objected that Petrocelli was not rebutting the defense argument but launching an entirely new line of attack. The judge overruled the objections.
He referred to Baker's argument that Simpson would never go out to kill in a ``big, white elephant'' of a Ford Bronco.
``You know what Mr. Simpson's other choices were? A Bentley and a Ferrari,'' Petrocelli said.
Relatives cried but there were some giggles from spectators as Petrocelli grimly derided Simpson's defense. Jurors stared back at him stonefaced, the same expression they have given throughout the days of summations by seven lawyers.
Petrocelli tried to simplify a somewhat complex legal decision for jurors, telling them: ``All you have to decide: Is it more probable than not that he did it?
``If you decide he did it, you will ask: Did he do it with malice or oppression? To get down to basics, did he do it on purpose?''