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THE SIMPSON TRIAL AFTERMATH : Fred Goldman Deluged by Offers of Help : Outpouring: People angry over verdicts say they will give money or legal expertise in civil suit against Simpson. Victim's father hopes to reveal his plans soon.

October 13, 1995|NORA ZAMICHOW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a groundswell of support, hundreds of Americans disgruntled with the Simpson verdicts have phoned or written Fred Goldman, father of murder victim Ronald Lyle Goldman, offering condolences, expertise and, perhaps most importantly, money for his wrongful-death lawsuit against O.J. Simpson.

But the outpouring has remained unchanneled because Goldman has not yet made key decisions, such as whether to expand his legal team, according to his current lawyer.

"If something is not decided in the next few days, we'll lose a lot of momentum," said Goldman attorney Robert Tourtelot. "We're waiting for Mr. Goldman to give us direction."

So far, offers include pledges of assistance from several high-powered attorneys and jury consultants, as well as technical support such as computers and cameras for video deposition.

Goldman, known to be consulting with several attorneys, says he hopes to release his plans within the next several days. The announcement will probably include the formation of a Ronald Lyle Goldman Justice Foundation to accept public donations for the civil trial.

"We haven't really done anything official," said Goldman, an Agoura Hills businessman. "But the momentum is beginning to build."

Separate wrongful-death suits have been filed by Nicole Brown Simpson's family, by Ronald Goldman's father and sister, and by Sharon Rufo, Goldman's mother, who is divorced from Fred Goldman.

In the criminal case, prosecutors had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Simpson killed his ex-wife and Goldman, her friend. But in a civil case, the threshold for judgment is lower: a preponderance of the evidence. The plaintiffs need only prove that it is more likely than not that Simpson was the murderer. And while a criminal case requires a unanimous verdict, a civil case normally requires only nine of the 12 jurors to agree.

To those outraged by the Simpson acquittal, the civil suits represent a last chance to force Simpson onto the witness stand and obtain a judgment that he was responsible for the deaths. Simpson's acquittal on the murder charges does not release him from liability in the civil suits.

Tourtelot moved swiftly on Goldman's behalf, scheduling a deposition of Simpson for Monday. But because Simpson just hired a new civil attorney, Robert Baker, that is certain to be delayed.

Since the verdicts, calls from across the nation have lighted up the switchboard of Tourtelot's Westside office. Letters, some with checks enclosed, have poured in there as well as to Goldman's home. And local talk show host Bill Press launched a radiothon that raised more than $5,000.

Goldman's legal battle against Simpson has quickly assumed a David vs. Goliath aura. Simpson spent almost $6 million on his defense in the murder trial, pitting Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. and the rest of the "Dream Team" against the county district attorney's office. And Simpson's recent comments indicate he has ample funds to wage his battles in civil court.

While Tourtelot is currently Goldman's lawyer, his role is by no means certain. Tourtelot's greatest claim to fame was the year he spent vigorously defending former Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman--a stint that abruptly ended after tapes revealing Fuhrman to be a racist were played in court. Some experts have speculated that Goldman might not be best served by Tourtelot, who handles a wide variety of civil law cases.

"This is a very winnable case," said one highly successful Los Angeles civil litigator, speaking on the condition he not be identified. "And the Goldmans would be better off with someone other than Robert Tourtelot, who isn't a wrongful-death specialist."

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Tourtelot acknowledges that it is necessary to expand Goldman's legal team. "I sure poured my heart, guts and soul into this case for a long time," he said. "I just hope I'm part of it."

Sympathy for the Goldman family has come from many corners, cutting across party and class lines. Recently, billionaire investor Marvin Davis and his wife, Barbara, ran into Fred Goldman at a restaurant. "We felt sorry for the man and his family and expressed our condolences," said Marvin Davis. (A spokesman for Davis said no donation was made.)

Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) told reporters last week that he was so incensed by the trial and verdicts that he would donate $1,000 to Goldman.

Radio talk show host Press, who is also chairman of the state Democratic Party, quickly raised more than $5,000 in pledges during two shows, one the night of the verdicts and one during his regularly scheduled Sunday show.

"I think O.J. had his day in court and now it's important that the family have its day in court," Press said. "I am not going to go out and burn buildings, throw stones at cops, but I can write a check. I had a feeling there were other people like me, looking for a way to respond."

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