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THE SIMPSON LEGACY: LOS ANGELES TIMES SPECIAL REPORT : Twist of Fate / HOW THE CASE CHANGED THE LIVES OF THOSE IT TOUCHED : KIM GOLDMAN : 'Nothing Will Ever Be Right After This--Never'

October 11, 1995|NORA ZAMICHOW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two searing images remained after the verdicts were read: a jubilant O.J. Simpson clenching his fists and Kim Goldman collapsing in sobs.

By the trial's end, Kim Goldman had become, in the words of author Dominick Dunne, the conscience of the trial.

The younger sister of murder victim Ronald Lyle Goldman, she had endured the spectacle in near silence, clearly wounded yet quietly dignified. In a case that seemed to tarnish almost everyone it touched, the 23-year-old woman appeared unsullied.

When she heard the two words she had been dreading, "not guilty," she went numb, emotionally reeling.

"In my heart, I know Simpson was guilty," she said three days later. "I am very disappointed in the verdict. I never in a million years thought they would acquit him."

It was the most bitter ending to a demeaning drama in which, as Kim and her family saw it, Ron was treated like a bit actor while the star roles were played by the football legend and his glamorous wife, Nicole. Ron was just the good-guy Mezzaluna waiter, a handsome young man unlucky enough to have volunteered to bring forgotten eyeglasses to Nicole.

"I called my brother all the time, saw his face all the time, wore his clothes all the time. I can't believe that's never going to happen again," she told Court TV. "I would give anything to have him back, to just be able to look at him one more time."

Unlike her father, Fred, Kim mostly shunned the press. She clung to her self-appointed mission, attending the trial every day. She took a leave from her banking job and her psychology studies at San Francisco State University. She sat with her father and stepmother Patti on the hard courtroom bench. It was as though by being there she could better understand this unthinkable event that had shattered her family and her life.

Often she stared at Simpson. What was she thinking?

"Hate. Absolute hate. Rage. Disgust. Pain. Sadness. Helplessness," she replied. "Takes everything in me not to fly over the side of that wall."

She felt angry when she heard the Simpsons say that they, too, were victims, equally swept up in a nightmare that consumed the Goldmans, Browns and themselves.

"I've heard them say that, you know, they feel bad because they have lost their brother," she said before the verdict. "Don't say that. Your brother, you see him every day. You see him lift his glass and drink water. You see him walk in there and smile at everybody. You see him in those Armani suits. I don't get to see that anymore.

"You didn't lose your brother. You can see him and talk to him whenever you feel like it. They didn't lose him. I lost my brother. I'll never be able to see him or talk to him again. That's losing a brother. That's losing someone you love."

So for nine months, she listened attentively in court, sickened by the testimony detailing how her brother and Nicole had been stabbed, how they had lain in a pool of their own blood.

During the course of the trial, she felt sure the jurors would see and hear the evidence the way she did.

Then came the Fuhrman tapes.

She felt betrayed. This man, this racist cop, was a wrench tossed into what already seemed like complex machinery.

"Why did he lie?" she demanded. "Why would he jeopardize the case? I believed in him. And I trusted him. And I, I feel like he let me down."

The trial seemed to take a hellish turn. Her father, unable to corral his emotions, began speaking out more and more. Many times he faced a gantlet of cameras, on the verge of tears.

"I don't know how my family is going to get through this," she said. "I can't stand to look at my dad and you see the pain in his face. You see his lip trembling. You see him shaking when he sits there.

"I don't want to have to look at my dad for the rest of my life and know the pain, and to feel the pain because I'm going through it. It's not fair. And I feel like a little kid crying, 'It's not fair,' and it's not."

While jurors and the public believed the trial dragged on and on, she felt it was over before she knew it. "It feels like yesterday that this happened," she said.

Through it all, she missed Ron. She found herself wanting to call him, tell him what had happened that day. To talk as they always had, frankly, warmly, using one another as sounding boards.

"The only thing I can do is go to the cemetery."

She placed her faith in the legal system. Despite the tapes. Despite the masterful web that she believed the defense had spun. She figured that Simpson would not be acquitted. "I think the jury's too smart. I think they are not going to be played like a fiddle, like the defense wants them to be," she said as August ended.

But the night before the verdict, her confidence was demolished; she was depressed. When asked why she anticipated the worst, she replied, choking with grief, "I can't really talk about it."

The verdict was the moment that she had waited for, longed for. Yet the closer it came, the sicker she felt. She wanted to believe in the system. She had heard the same evidence that the jurors heard. And she had reached her own conclusion.

When the verdict was announced, she keeled forward, sobbing. Incredulous. One hand covered her mouth, the other shielded her eyes, as though what she might say was almost as bad as what she had seen in the nine months of the trial.

She had been deprived of her brother and now, it seemed, she was to be robbed of the only consolation she could fathom: the opportunity to see the punishment of the man she believed killed him.

"Nothing will ever be right after this--never."

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