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Opening statements begin in Simpson civil trial

simpson October 23, 1996
Web posted at: 11:55 p.m. EDT

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SANTA MONICA, California (CNN) -- With O.J. Simpson's money -- not his freedom -- at stake, plaintiffs' attorneys Wednesday began his wrongful-death civil trial with a vivid account of the stabbing deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman outside her condominium.

Three of the lawyers forcefully fingered O.J. Simpson as the attacker. Attorney Michael Brewer called him a "cold-blooded killer."

"They were defenseless against a man -- large, powerful, strong, armed with a 6-inch knife, and in a total state of rage," attorney Daniel Petrocelli said of the 1994 slayings.

Goldman "died with his eyes open," he said. "In the last few, furious moments of his life, he saw the person who killed his friend Nicole. The last person (he) saw through his open eyes was the man who ended his young life, the man who now sits in the courtroom, the defendant."


After the plaintiffs complete their opening statements, Simpson's defense layers will have their turn. However, they won't be allowed to mention what was reported to be at the center of their case: former Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman.

The judge Wednesday sharply limited what could be said about the detective who found some of the key evidence in the case. Witnesses will begin taking the stand for the plaintiffs when the defense is finished with its opening statement.

Revised timeline

Petrocelli, the attorney for Goldman's family, sketched his version of a timeline of events for July 12, 1994, the day of the murders.


He described Nicole Brown Simpson getting a telephone call from her mother, Juditha Brown, and Ron Goldman making a short drive to Nicole Brown's home to deliver the glasses Juditha Brown had dropped at Mezzaluna restaurant where the family had dined that night.

But, Goldman was killed before he made it up the steps to the condo, Petrocelli told the jurors. Petrocelli described the relationship between Nicole Brown Simpson and O.J. Simpson as contemptuous, "passionate at times, violent at others."

He described how Nicole Brown Simpson had left the former football star and filed for divorce, then began an attempt to reconcile. Petrocelli said that in the spring of 1994, "Nicole decided it was not working. One month later she was dead."

Petrocelli also told the jury he would explain how Simpson had the opportunity and time to commit the murders, saying, "He has no alibi." Simpson was cleared of the murders last October following his criminal trial.

The Brown and Goldman families' attorneys in the civil trial have constructed a different time line than the prosecutors used in Simpson's criminal trial. Their time frame for the murders is closer to the one the defense used in the criminal trial, putting the slayings between 10:35 p.m. and 10:40 p.m. instead of between 10:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Old witnesses return


To bolster the time argument, Robert Heidstra, one of the witnesses who testified during the criminal trial, will be called by the plaintiffs. Heidstra was walking his dogs the night of the murders. Petrocelli said Heidstra will testify he heard voices near the condo, and got a "crystal clear" view of what could have been Simpson's white Ford Bronco.

Petrocelli said no one can account for Simpson's whereabouts that night from between 9:35 p.m. and 10:55 p.m. "He was not seen by anybody alive until 10:55 p.m.," Petrocelli said.

Petrocelli told jurors they would hear from a pathologist, Werner Spitz, who will testify that Nicole Simpson was attacked before Goldman, and that each attack was brief.

In his review of the autopsy records, Petrocelli said Spitz has concluded that Goldman probably survived only 60 seconds after receiving a fatal stab wound and that gouges noted on Simpson's hands after his arrest were caused by the fingernails of one of the victims.

Fiber expert

Petrocelli also told the jurors they would hear from a hair and fiber expert who will testify that hairs matching Simpson were found on the knit cap at the crime scene and on Goldman's shirt.


That expert will also testify that rare carpet fibers were found on the knit cap and on the glove found at Simpson's estate, he said. Those fibers, Petrocelli told the jury, came from Simpson's Ford Bronco. The carpet fiber evidence was not allowed during the criminal trial because prosecutors failed to turn over the expert's report on the fibers to the defense as required.

Other new evidence Petrocelli said will be introduced at the civil trial include photographs taken of Simpson at a football game in September 1993, reportedly showing him in the shoes that match bloody prints found at the murder scene.

Petrocelli read to the jurors a portion of Simpson's deposition, taken earlier this year, where he was asked if he ever owned Bruno Magli Lorenzo style shoes. Simpson replied to the question, "I would have never owned those ugly-ass shoes."

For the first time in the civil trial, the Brown family was in the courtroom, sitting in the center of the front row. Ron Goldman's mother, Sharon Rufo, and other family members cried through much of the proceedings.

Simpson's mother, Eunice, sat in the courtroom in a wheelchair.


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