January 23, 1997 in Nation/World

Liars Out To Get O.J., His Lawyer Contends Both Sides Let Emotions Fly; Jury Could Get Case Today

Knight-Ridder
 

O.J. Simpson’s lawyer accused police of lying and tampering with evidence Wednesday after a gut-wrenching finale from attorneys for the victims’ relatives that brought many in the courtroom to tears.

“I didn’t hear one word about political malfeasance in this case,” said attorney Robert Baker, who had not been permitted to raise theories of a police conspiracy during his defense of Simpson. “But witness after witness came here. They contradict each other, and they lie. They lie from the witness stand.”

Contending there was “police misconduct all over the place,” Baker told the jury that police had colluded at taxpayer expense with plaintiffs in the wrongful death civil suit.

“It’s law enforcement vs. Orenthal James Simpson,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it. They’re joined at the hip.”

In a wide-ranging, sometimes rambling summation, Baker touched on many points he is expected to delve into more when he continues today. The jury could get the case today.

Baker accused the media of being out to get Simpson because the story is their “gravy train.” He said plaintiffs’ attorneys had sought to demonize his client, and police assisted them in making their case while Baker could not even get them to return his phone calls.

After accusing the plaintiffs of “character assassination,” Baker tore into Nicole Brown Simpson, telling jurors she had acted so erratically during their 18-year marriage that Simpson at times feared she was suffering a nervous breakdown. He mentioned her 1992 abortion and said she had consorted with hookers and used illegal drugs.

Even Fred Goldman, the father of victim Ron Goldman, came under Baker’s attack.

“I would feel terrible if I lost my son,” Baker said. “But I would never take a $450,000 book deal.”

At times, Baker acknowledged that his client had mistreated his ex-wife and later misrepresented their fights, but said it did not add up to murder.

Baker argued there was no discernible motive for Simpson to have committed the 1994 murders of his ex-wife and her friend.

“There was no obsession,” he declared. “It’s an attempt by plaintiffs to demonize and manufacture a motive. You can’t get your arms around it because it doesn’t exist.”

Baker also argued his client was not implicated by the time line outlined by witnesses in the four-month case. He cited a neighbor’s testimony that he had seen a white sports vehicle leaving the vicinity about 10:45 the night of the murders. Simpson was seen at his home by a waiting limousine driver nine minutes later.

Earlier Wednesday, Daniel Petrocelli, representing the Goldmans, tried to walk jurors through the days and hours leading up to the murder to suggest a motive for the murders.

He painted Simpson as a largely lackadaisical, self-obsessed father who attended his daughter’s recital only to avoid incurring his ex-wife’s wrath. Petrocelli described Simpson as humiliated by the Brown family’s treatment of him.

Petrocelli cited testimony from several witnesses who said Simpson told them that his girlfriend, Paula Barbieri, had broken up with him because he would not let her attend the recital and because he had told her he still loved his ex-wife. He also recalled telephone records suggesting Simpson had called his answering machine to retrieve Barbieri’s breakup message, even though Simpson testified he had never received it.

As he had on Tuesday, Petrocelli portrayed Simpson as a liar, who could not be believed in the face of conflicting evidence and testimony.

“In the end, it all comes down to this,” he said. “There’s blood, and there’s hair, there’s fiber, there’s cuts. There’s the sweatsuit, there’s pants, there’s no alibi, there’s plenty of time, there’s motive. That’s on our side. What’s on his side? His word. His credibility. His truth-telling. Did he tell the truth to you? He lied to you about everything.”

After Baker and his co-counsel finish their summations, the plaintiffs will have another chance to address the jury for rebuttal. Jury instructions are expected to take about one hour.

Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki scheduled court to start a half hour early today. He is to attend a conference all day Friday. However, he has said if the jurors are deliberating by then, he can be reached by telephone for advice and will return to the courtroom if a verdict is reached.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email