O.J. Simpson was a wife-beater who killed ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson because he could not control her and killed her friend Ronald Goldman because he got in the way, the prosecution said Tuesday.
Simpson “beat her, humiliated her and controlled her,” lead prosecutor Marcia Clark said in her opening statement. “After he took her youth, her freedom and her self-respect - just as she tried to break free - Orenthal James Simpson took her very life in what amounted to his final and his ultimate act of control.”
Earlier, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Darden said the murder was “merely a final link in a progressive chain of abuse and controlling conduct. It was a chain that consisted of fear and intimidation and battery and emotional and mental abuse and economic abuse and control and stalking … It was all designed just to control her.
“Control was a continuing thing, the central focus of the entire relationship,” Darden said. “By killing Nicole, the defendant assumed total control of her. By killing her, nobody could have her. He killed Ron Goldman for another reason. He killed Ron Goldman because he got in the way.”
The portrayal of Simpson as a batterer came as the prosecution outlined its case for the jury of eight women and four men, telling them that there was an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that points to Simpson as the murderer.
The drama of the opening statements was quickly halted, however, as Superior Court Judge Lance Ito threatened to terminate camera coverage of the trial because the face of an alternate juror had inadvertently been included in a nationwide broadcast in violation of state law.
A seething Ito immediately cut off the audio feed from the courtroom and said, “This is unbelievable.”
The television media “have demonstrated an inability to comply with the court’s order,” he said. “My inclination is to terminate all television coverage at this point.”
The defense team argued that the camera should remain, but that if he were to remove it, he should do so after its opening statement is broadcast, as the prosecution’s was. Ito ordered a hearing on the camera issue for today and put off the defense’s opening statement.
Cynthia Glozier, supervising producer for Court TV, which was operating the camera, said, “We made a mistake. We’re sorry for that mistake.” She said the image was shown for eight-tenths of a second and occurred because the alternate juror leaned forward as the camera panned the courtroom. In addition, a person working a delay box failed to stop the image from being broadcast.
Darden, who addressed the jury first and spoke for about an hour, outlined what he said was the “why” of the case. “It is not the actor who is on trial here today, ladies and gentlemen,” he said in his opening statement. “It is not that public face. It is his other face … The side you never met before … the face he wore behind the locks and the gates and the walls at Rockingham (Simpson’s estate); that other face, the one that Nicole Brown encountered almost every day of her adult life, the one she encountered during the last moments of her adult life, the same face Ronald Goldman encountered during the last moments of his life. When we look … behind that … public face of the man who sits here in court today, you’ll see a different face.”
Clark laid out the “how” of the crimes, telling the jury that the murders happened between 9:35 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. June 12, a 70-minute period for which Simpson could not account.
Clark said that at his daughter Sydney’s dance recital earlier that day, Simpson had appeared to be “in an ugly mood, morose, depressed and clearly fixated on his wife.”
Relatives of Simpson and the victims were in the courtroom Tuesday, occasionally breaking down in tears when grisly photographs from the bloody crime scene were displayed for the first time in open court.
Clark pointed out that bloody shoe prints leading away from the bodies were made by a size 12 shoe, the size Simpson wears.
Clark said a knit hat found at Goldman’s feet had fibers similar to those found on the carpet of Simpson’s Ford Bronco and hair similar to his. That on Goldman’s body was a hair similar to Simpson’s. That a bloody glove found at Simpson’s estate - a match to one found at the scene - had hairs similar to Nicole Simpson’s and Goldman’s, as well as fibers similar to Goldman’s shirt and from Simpson’s car, and blood from all three.
Simpson seemed upset by parts of Darden’s presentation, especially when he described a 1989 assault on Nicole Simpson and a 1992 stalking in which he watched through a window as she “made love” with a boyfriend. At one point he mouthed some words, and one of his lawyers, Robert Shapiro, grabbed his arm as if to calm him.
The murder, Darden said, was “merely a final link in a progressive chain of abuse and controlling conduct. It was a chain that consisted of fear and intimidation and battery and emotional and mental abuse and economic abuse and control and stalking, and you’ll see that there was a common scheme, a common plan in all of this. And that was to control, to control her. It was all designed just to control her.”
Opening statements began after Ito denied a defense request that Simpson be allowed to address the jury prior to Johnnie Cochran’s opening statement. But he said Simpson could show scars on his knees, the results of surgery to repair football injuries.
MEMO: See also sidebar which appeared with this story under headline “Simpson trial”