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For Families, the $25 Million Is Anticlimactic


They had just won $25 million, but there was no exultation, no sign of joy on their faces.

Unlike last week, no one pumped their fists in front of television cameras. And their public comments Monday afternoon had a mournful tone.

The money was just not important, said the relatives of murder victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman. What was important was the civil jury's previous determination that football great O.J. Simpson was liable for the brutal June 1994 slayings.

"First and foremost, the jury's decision of last Tuesday was the only decision that was important to us," said a subdued Fred Goldman, father of the slaying victim. "Having the killer of my son found responsible was important to my family."

Flanked by his wife and daughter at a hotel near the Santa Monica courthouse, Goldman spoke calmly, and his eyes welled up briefly, as he praised his team of attorneys headed by Daniel Petrocelli.

"Ron would have been proud of them," he said.

Other relatives of the victims spoke of their lack of emotional closure--despite the civil jury's ringing denunciation of Simpson more than a year after a criminal jury acquitted him of murder.

"This has taken 2 1/2 years out of all our lives, and this will affect us for the rest of our lives," said Kim Goldman, Ronald's sister. "I don't know what that word 'closure' means. I have a real hard time with that."

She paused, sobbing.

"I will be glad when all the cameras are gone and when we can sort of sit and look at our family and be proud of what we have done and be able to go to the cemetery as a family and tell Ron that we did it," Kim Goldman added.

At a separate news conference later, Tanya Brown, Nicole's sister, also spoke of the lingering impact of the slayings.

"There will never be closure," she said. "Nicole is forever gone. Her kids will forever be without a mother."

For the sisters and parents of O.J. Simpson's ex-wife, the situation is particularly poignant--and complicated.

In December, Nicole's parents, Lou and Juditha Brown, had to hand over grandchildren Sydney, 11, and Justin, 8, to Simpson after losing a bitter custody battle in an Orange County court. The $12.5-million awarded Monday as a result of the Browns' lawsuit is due to go to the children, who are living in Simpson's Brentwood mansion.

The Browns said Monday that they have not yet decided whether to appeal that custody ruling, which gives them some visitation rights.

At their news conference, the Browns spoke of how the punitive damages awarded to the children's estate would not ease their pain over the custody decision and the loss of Nicole.

"They do have a grandmother, they have a grandfather, they have three wonderful aunts who really, truly care about them, who still carry the blood of Nicole with them," said Tanya Brown. "But as far as closure, there will never be. Nicole is not here anymore."

Dominique Brown said that dealing with her sister's death was doubly hard because of the children.

"We've dealt with seeing the pain and shielding the pain from the children, as we continue to do so."

Another sister, Denise Brown, speaking on the "Larry King Live" television show, said she did not understand why the judge in the custody case did not wait for a decision in the civil liability trial before awarding custody of the children to their father. "That's where I have a real big problem," she said.

The Browns said they told Simpson's two young children nothing about trial proceedings, even though the youngsters were living at the Browns' Dana Point home during both of Simpson's trials.

"We tried to protect the children in every way, shape and form from all of the bad news," said Lou Brown, chief executive of the Nicole Brown Charitable Foundation. "The children get most of their information from their father, I'm afraid. As far as information concerning the proceedings of the criminal trial and this trial, very little has come from us."

Still, Lou Brown praised the civil trial jury. "We are very, very happy with the reaction of a jury. They listened. They considered all the evidence."

Nicole's mother held back tears as she described her own struggle over her daughter's death.

"Every day is a step of healing," she said.

"I knew justice would be done some day," she added, "but I always said, 'I'd still like to hear it.' And I did."

The Browns also talked of their almost instantaneous feeling more than two years ago that their former son-in-law was responsible for the stabbing death of their daughter.

"I received a telephone call and I knew," Juditha Brown said.

"There was an immediate reaction," Lou Brown said. "I was still in bed. My wife reached over and took the telephone and said . . ."

"He killed her," Juditha Brown said, finishing her husband's sentence.

Ronald Goldman's mother, Sharon Rufo of St. Louis, did not attend Monday's court hearing. But her attorney, Michael Brewer, said Rufo was relieved that the 2 1/2-year legal saga had finally come to an end.

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