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THE SIMPSON VERDICT : Simpson Not Guilty : He Is Freed After 15 Months in Jail : Trial: Defendant is cleared in the killings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. Prosecutors are stunned by the verdicts. As Goldman's sister sobs, his father mutters, 'Murderer.'

October 03, 1995|STEPHANIE SIMON and JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

O.J. Simpson was acquitted Tuesday on charges of killing Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman, free after a wrenching trial that ranged from explosive accusations of police misconduct to the dry science of DNA technology. Within minutes of his release, he was driven away from the courthouse after more than 15 months in jail.

Simpson let out a long, shuddering sigh when Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito's clerk pronounced the verdicts. Lead defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. clapped him on the back and pumped his hand in the air. And his longtime friend Robert Kardashian pulled him close for a hug, wiping away tears.

Meanwhile, prosecutors sat stunned.

Goldman's sister, Kim, sobbed in gulping moans that rang throughout the tense courtroom. His stepmother, Patti, crumpled forward on the wooden court bench, murmuring "Oh my God, oh my God." And his father, Fred, raised his eyes to the ceiling and muttered. As he left the courtroom, Fred Goldman turned toward Simpson and muttered one word: "Murderer."

The Brown family, dressed in black, showed less emotion, although Nicole's sisters and mother trembled in their silence. Lou and Juditha Brown have taken care of their grandchildren, Justin and Sydney Simpson, in their Orange County home since Nicole Simpson's murder June 12, 1994. Now they will probably relinquish custody to Simpson, who had agreed to turn over the children only until he was "able to resume his legal and physical custody."

Minutes later, in a scene reminiscent of the famous slow-speed flight from police on the day of his arrest in June, 1994, Simpson left the courthouse in a white van and rode past a few cheering fans to his Rockingham Avenue estate, where he embraced Al Cowlings and other joyous friends.

Jurors had taken three hours of deliberations to agree with Simpson's forceful declarations of innocence--first, at his arraignment on July 22, 1994, when he pleaded "absolutely, 100% not guilty," and later, when he addressed the judge at the end of the trial to say, "I did not, could not and would not have committed this crime."

The verdicts arrived in a swift, electrifying courtroom session. Ito opened the morning with his customary greeting to attorneys: "Back on the record in the Simpson matter." But despite his effort to maintain calm in the courtroom, Kim Goldman started crying almost immediately. The tension built as Ito's clerk, Deidre Robertson, handed the verdict envelope to the jury forewoman and asked her to certify the forms. She did, and Robertson took back the envelope to begin reading.

Cochran clenched his hands on the table, then raised them to his lips in a gesture of prayer. Simpson raised his eyebrows and clenched his jaw, though his mouth shook with emotion. As Robinson prepared to announce the verdict, Simpson and his entire team of lawyers stood to face the jurors. Prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher A. Darden remained seated.

Jurors Polled

As viewers nationwide watched, breathless, Robertson began reading. "In the matter of the people versus Orenthal James Simpson," she said, "we find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder." After rattling off the same not-guilty verdict for both charges, Robertson turned to the jurors and polled them individually.

Darden wheeled in his chair to glare at the panelists who had so soundly rejected his case, while Clark stared straight ahead, lips pursed.

After the verdicts, defense attorneys and members of Simpson's family spoke at a news conference.

Prosecutors and members of the Goldman family spoke briefly at a news conference about an hour after the verdicts were read.

'I deeply believe the country lost today. Justice was not served," Goldman said, brushing away tears and gazing glassy-eyed at the defeated prosecutors clustered grimly around him.

The Brown family retreated to their Orange County home immediately without commenting.

Building a Case

For nearly six months, prosecutors had painstakingly tried to build a case against the former football great.

Presenting witnesses who talked about everything from Simpson's allegedly murderous dreams to the microscopic characteristics of his hair, prosecutors tried to prove that Simpson had the motive, the opportunity and the strength to kill his ex-wife and Goldman.

They built their case around the "trail of blood" they contended linked Simpson to the gruesomely slashed bodies found early in the morning of June 13, 1994, outside Nicole Simpson's Brentwood condominium.

Their witnesses testified that five drops of blood at the crime scene, found to the left of the size-12 footprints, all matched Simpson's DNA characteristics. So did a bloodstain on the back gate of the Bundy Drive condominium, as well as drops on Simpson's driveway and in the foyer.

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