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Simpson Dreamed of Killing, Witness Says : Courts: Ex-officer says he is a longtime friend of the defendant. His account is attacked in cross-examination.

February 02, 1995|JIM NEWTON and ANDREA FORD | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A former police officer and self-described friend of O.J. Simpson testified Wednesday that the defendant said he dreamed about killing Nicole Brown Simpson, an explosive allegation that Simpson's lawyers vehemently denied and that legal experts fiercely criticized the judge for allowing into evidence.

Late in the day, defense lawyer Carl E. Douglas began his cross-examination of the former officer, Ronald G. Shipp, portraying him as a liar with a drinking problem and suggesting that he had manufactured the conversation in order to boost his acting career. Douglas also questioned whether Shipp really was a close friend of Simpson, and at one point Shipp admitted that he considered himself more of a "servant" than a confidant.

That cross-examination still was under way at the end of the court day, and it capped an electrifying session in which Shipp infuriated members of Simpson's family even as he held the jury spellbound. Speaking softly and often looking directly at Simpson, Shipp said his friend of 26 years had spoken to him about the murders on June 13, the day after the bodies of Ronald Lyle Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson were found slashed and stabbed in Brentwood. Simpson has pleaded not guilty.

"He kind of jokingly just said: 'You know, to be honest, Shipp . . . I've had some dreams of killing her,' " the former officer recalled Simpson saying.

Under questioning from Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher A. Darden, Shipp said Simpson did not specify how often he had had such dreams but stressed that Simpson had used the plural "dreams." According to Shipp, that conversation occurred after 10 p.m. at Simpson's house on June 13; although Douglas suggested that other witnesses will testify Simpson was asleep by that time, Shipp did not budge from his testimony.

Throughout his time on the stand, Shipp sought eye contact with Simpson, who mostly avoided him, huddling with his attorneys or jotting notes as Shipp answered questions posed by the attorneys. Once, when one of Simpson's lawyers suggested that Shipp told Simpson where a bloody glove had been found by police, Shipp directed his answer directly at the defendant: "This is sad, O.J. . . . really sad."

Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito interjected at that, warning Shipp not to speak to Simpson and asking the jury to disregard the comment.

As the court day began, it was not even clear whether Shipp would get the opportunity to testify, at least about the alleged conversation regarding Simpson's dreams. Defense lawyers argued that the testimony should not be admitted, but they were overruled by Ito.

That cleared the way for Shipp to take the stand. Once he took the oath, Shipp began by telling the jury that he considers himself a friend of Simpson even though he was appearing as a prosecution witness.

"I still love the guy," said Shipp. "But I don't know, I mean, this is a weird situation I'm sitting in here."

Despite his alleged devotion, however, Shipp spent three hours on the stand, first describing events related to a 1989 incident in which Simpson beat his wife--the former officer said he tried to intercede between O.J. and Nicole Simpson in the wake of that incident, at one point meeting with O.J. Simpson to describe for him the characteristics of a batterer.

After detailing those conversations, often over defense objections, Shipp then told the jury about the alleged conversation on the day after the murders. His testimony was all the more powerful because it was delivered by someone with a long relationship to the defendant who nevertheless now believes Simpson is guilty.

But Shipp was subjected to a pointed, sarcastic and confrontational cross-examination in which Douglas wrested from the former officer an admission that he was not a close friend of Simpson. At one point, Shipp referred to himself more as a "servant" who ran police errands for the former football star. As the day ended, Shipp also acknowledged once having suffered from a drinking problem.

"You drink a lot, don't you?" Douglas asked.

"I used to," Shipp said.

"You've had a drinking problem, haven't you?" Douglas continued.

"In the past I have," Shipp replied.

Shipp also acknowledged that he had failed to mention the conversation between him and Simpson during his initial meeting with police and prosecutors, as well as in an interview with Simpson's attorneys. Douglas repeatedly characterized Shipp's failure to disclose that information as a lie, a description that Shipp resisted but nevertheless acknowledged was at least partly true.

At one particularly gripping moment, Shipp brusquely shrugged off defense suggestions that he was testifying in order to energize his acting career.

"I'm doing this for my conscience and my peace of mind," he said. "I would not have the blood of Nicole on Ron Shipp. I can sleep at night--unlike a lot of others."

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