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O.J.’S Fate, Fortune Now In Hands Of Jury

O.J. Simpson’s reputation and fortune were placed Tuesday in the hands of 12 jurors charged with deciding whether he killed his ex-wife and her friend in 1994.

The panel of nine whites, one black, one Hispanic and one of mixed race was cautioned by Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki to carefully consider the verdict in the wrongful-death suit.

“The acquittal in the criminal case has no effect on this case,” Fujisaki said, referring to Simpson’s 1995 acquittal on murder charges. “You can still find him liable for killing Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in this case.”

Tensions were high on both sides, as no one knew whether the jury would render a quick verdict - like the nearly three-hour deliberation in Simpson’s criminal trial - or take days.

The closing arguments started late because Fujisaki called an unexpected recess. Sources said he interviewed jurors after two panelists reported receiving letters at their homes from someone offering to be their agent. Fujisaki apparently had no plans to dismiss any panelists, sources said.

The panel deliberated two hours before quitting for the night.

Unlike Simpson’s criminal trial, only nine of the 12 jurors have to agree on a verdict. The standard of guilt, “preponderance of the evidence,” means that jurors have to find it is more likely than not that Simpson was the killer.

Should the jury of seven women and five men find Simpson legally responsible for the killings, they will award compensatory damages at the time of the verdict.

They can award Goldman’s parents unlimited compensatory damages but cannot give such damages to Nicole’s family because of a technicality.

If Simpson is found responsible for the slayings, a punitive-damages hearing will be held in which the ex-athlete’s finances will be bared.

Jurors can award unlimited punitive damages to both sides, though anything they give to Nicole’s parents will go to her estate, which will benefit her children.