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THE SIMPSON CIVIL TRIAL

Simpson Lawyer Delays Questioning His Client for Now

Courts: Robert C. Baker says he will query ex-football star during defense case. Also, the judge dismisses a juror.

November 27, 1996|STEPHANIE SIMON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

O.J. Simpson stepped down from the witness stand Tuesday without ever answering a friendly question, as his lawyer deferred examining him until the defense puts on its case next month.

Defense attorney Robert C. Baker had initially told the judge that he had plenty of questions to put to his client as soon as the plaintiffs finished their interrogation. But when his turn came, Baker stood up and announced: "I'm sorry, I've changed my mind. I will call Mr. Simpson and go through all of his testimony in our [portion of the] case."

With that, Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki declared the trial adjourned until 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to allow for a long Thanksgiving break.

It was an anticlimactic ending to Simpson's much-anticipated appearance on the witness stand.

After enduring two days of fierce attacks by lead plaintiff attorney Daniel M. Petrocelli, Simpson faced just an hour of questioning Tuesday.

Attorney Michael Brewer, who represents the mother of murder victim Ronald Lyle Goldman, asked him about the despairing letter he wrote June 17, 1994, hours before fleeing arrest in a friend's white Bronco. Quoting from a passage in which Simpson urges people to "remember the real O.J., not this lost person," Brewer asked: "Who is the real O.J.?"

That question--which legal analysts described as a blunder--allowed Simpson to paint a sympathetic portrait of himself as a devoted friend, a trusted confidant and a generous contributor to charities. "My basic philosophy is 'Do unto others. . . ,' " he said. "I like to think I treated everyone the way I wanted to be treated."

Attorney John Q. Kelly, who represents Nicole Brown Simpson's estate, took the podium next to question Simpson about a domestic flare-up in 1989. Kelly suggested that after a nasty fight with Nicole, Simpson left his house by jumping over a neighbor's fence, dropping his car keys in the process. Years later, Kelly said accusingly, Simpson again vaulted the fence and dropped something--this time, a glove stained with the blood of his ex-wife.

"Isn't this exactly what happened on June 12, 1994?" Kelly demanded.

"That's incorrect," Simpson responded.

His best friend, Al "A.C." Cowlings, testified in a pretrial deposition that Simpson told him he climbed the fence after the 1989 fight. But Simpson emphatically denied it Tuesday, saying he walked through his backyard and onto his neighbor's property.

Before Simpson took the stand Tuesday, Fujisaki announced that he had dismissed a juror for trying to communicate with lawyers and their staff. Sources said the juror had praised a tie that a young man working for the plaintiffs wore one day; she also reportedly told fellow panelists that she thought defense attorney Baker was good-looking.

The judge's action did not change the demographic makeup of the panel because the ousted juror and the alternate randomly selected to replace her are young white women.

During the jury selection process, the new juror said she had once regarded Simpson as a hero and a role model, likening him to basketball star Michael Jordan. But she said that by the end of the criminal trial, she was no longer sure he was worthy of admiration. "I started out with, 'He couldn't have done it because I grew up with him being a hero,' " she said. "I ended with complete confusion, saying, 'I don't know.' "

Five alternates remain on the panel. The plaintiffs have said they plan to wrap up their case next week after calling a series of witnesses they hope will impeach Simpson's credibility.

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