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Simpson's attorney attacks victim in opening statements

simpson October 24, 1996
Web posted at: 10:00 p.m. EDT

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SANTA MONICA, California (CNN) -- O.J. Simpson's attorneys launched a blistering character attack Thursday against Nicole Brown Simpson during opening statements in the former football star's wrongful death trial.

Saying that she slept with numerous men after her divorce, had an abortion and threw parties attended by drug dealers and prostitutes, Simpson attorney Robert Baker said that Ms. Simpson was "exercising her wings" shortly before her murder, suggesting that her reckless lifestyle may have exposed her to dangerous people who could have killed her.

"She was with a lot of men," said Baker, who added that that O.J. Simpson once caught Nicole engaging in oral sex with another man.


Baker even evoked Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss when he indicated that one of Simpson's boyfriends had been involved with a "Fleiss girl."


Risky strategy

By attacking the victim's character, Simpson's civil trial attorneys are pursuing an aggressive strategy that was shunned by defense attorneys in his criminal trial. Instead, they argued successfully that racist police officers framed Simpson, a strategy that the civil trial judge has limited.

"This is risky," said Loyola University Law School Dean Laurie Levenson. The potential downside: Jurors may perceive Simpson is "beating up on her again."

Simpson was found not guilty by a criminal court jury a year ago for the murders of his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman. He is being sued for wrongful death by the families of the victims. If the jury finds him responsible for the deaths he could be forced to pay millions of dollars in damages.

CNN has confirmed that the first witness the plaintiffs will call is Karen Crawford, the manager of the restaurant where Ron Goldman worked. Nicole Brown Simpson and her family ate there the night of the murders.


Date with Goldman

Baker told the jury Wednesday that Goldman didn't go to the condo that night just to return a pair of glasses left at a restaurant by Nicole's mother, but that he had a "date" with Nicole.

The defense claimed that on the night of the murders, Simpson was chipping golf balls at his Rockingham estate and then went upstairs and packed, read and showered before leaving for the airport in a limousine.

Baker went over Simpson's whereabouts from 9:35 p.m. -- when he returned from McDonalds-- to 10:57 p.m. when he was seen by limo driver Alan Park going into the front door of his home.

The detailed account even included which clubs Simpson was using.

Baker said that the jury would hear from a young man, Thomas Tallerino, who was roller-blading past the condo shortly before the deaths and saw a man, either Caucasian or Hispanic, crouched by a bush at the property.

And he said it was Ms. Simpson, not the defendant, who did the pursuing in the relationship, sending him letters, delivering cookies and urging him to resume their family life.


Dark side of Simpson

John Q. Kelly, attorney for the Brown family, presented a far different portrait of Ms. Simpson and portrayed the defendant as a control freak prone to rages and obsessed with his ex- wife.

"You'll hear the dark side of Mr. Simpson, the irrepressible rage," Kelly said, citing 911 calls in which Nicole Brown Simpson cries out in fear of her ex-husband.

He described how Nicole initiated a reconciliation attempt with Simpson, after their divorce that lasted about one year. In May 1994 the relationship went into an "irreversible downward spiral" that worsened after Ms. Simpson returned to O.J. Simpson expensive jewelry and told him the relationship was over.

Kelly also told the jurors Simpson girlfriend Paula Barbieri had broken off a relationship two days before the murders.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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