O.J. Simpson’s guilt or innocence in a double-murder trial that mesmerized the nation was about to be announced.
Phones stopped ringing.
School books were set aside.
Elderly residents at Coeur d’Alene Homes had warmed up by watching Perry Mason. They leaned forward and fidgeted.
“What’s happening?” asked a passing resident, peeking into the room.
“The verdict is coming in,” whispered a staffer.
At Lake City High School, students sat on the floor or perched on desk tops around the classroom television in Kent Scanlon’s senior government class.
Although almost every class in the school was tuned into the coverage, Scanlon’s was one of few that would devote the entire class period to the case.
Students hurriedly scribbled their predictions on slips of paper and passed them to Scanlon for a class poll.
“I just want to see O.J.’s face,” one student said, eyes glued to Simpson’s nervous mug on the TV screen.
Adolescent chatter turned to silence as the clerk read the verdicts. Jaws drops and gasps filled the room when the court reporter said, “Not guilty.”
“Unbelievable,” Jamie Landwehr muttered. Landwehr, like most of his classmates, had been sure Simpson would be found guilty.
“Oh my God,” said one student. Another thumped the floor with his hand.
At Sta-Fit athletic club in Spokane, David Labrucherie urged “Come on,” from his stationary bicycle.
Earphone wires dangled from his head as he watched coverage of the verdict on a television in the Cardio Room.
The few people without headphones suddenly realized they wouldn’t be able to hear the verdict. They dashed into the club’s day-care room, joining about 10 employees who crammed around a TV set usually reserved for cartoons.
Customers at Foothills Lincoln Mercury dealerships whispered and waited.
“It’s never this quiet around here; I haven’t heard a phone ring in the building for 10 minutes,” one salesman remarked.
At Coeur d’Alene Homes, the residents looked around at each other to make sure they’d heard right - Simpson was not guilty.
“NOT?” said one woman.
“How ridiculous!” said one man.
“How foolish they’ve been. Oh, my!” said Richard Phillips, a retired clerk.
“I thought he was guilty,” said retired farmer Earl Streeter. “And thou shalt not kill.”
Hundreds of Washington State University students jammed into the student center Tuesday morning to watch the coverage on a big-screen television.
A meeting to announce the results of a four-month, $60,000 study on Spokane’s economy was interrupted.
Katie Foster, an employee at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Spokane, was hoping Simpson would be found innocent.
Her 22-year-old son lives in Los Angeles and rides the school bus between Santa Monica and Compton. Foster said she worried about riots if Simpson was found guilty.
She held her breath as the decision was read.
“Yes!” she shouted, punctuating her relief with fists in the air. “Yes.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos