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Lawyer tells jury: 'There's a killer in this courtroom'

petrocelli
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January 21, 1997
Web posted at: 6:00 p.m. EST

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SANTA MONICA, California (CNN) -- Impassioned plaintiffs' attorney Daniel Petrocelli pointed forcefully at O.J. Simpson Tuesday and told jurors "There's a killer in this courtroom."

On the opening day of closing arguments in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed against Simpson by the families of his ex-wife and her friend, Petrocelli told jurors that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were speaking "from the grave" and pointing to the former football star as their killer.

In a stinging attack, Petrocelli called Simpson "a guilty man, a man with no remorse, a man with no conscience."



CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren reviews Petrocelli's closing arguments


"He went after O.J. Simpson...." 544K/46 sec.  AIFF or WAV
On a motive 448K/36 sec.   AIFF or WAV
On Simpson's character 320K/25 sec.   AIFF or WAV


The glove and knit cap the attacker left at the murder scene, fingernail marks and cuts the victims allegedly left on Simpson's hand and the bloody shoe prints that led away from the bodies were ample proof of Simpson's guilt, he said.

"These crucial bits of evidence are the voices of Ron and Nicole speaking to us from the grave, telling all of you there is a killer in this courtroom," Petrocelli said.

Pointing at Simpson, he said forcefully, "That is the man who attacked them, who confronted them and who killed them on that Sunday evening in June ... the defendant Orenthal James Simpson."

Simpson raised his eyebrows in surprise and looked down at his notes.

simpson

Petrocelli says Simpson lied repeatedly

Petrocelli said the defense had offered no explanation for the mass of blood and DNA evidence linking Simpson to the crimes. He also said Simpson had lied repeatedly on the witness stand.

Simpson was acquitted of the murders on October 3, 1995, after a lengthy criminal trial. If he is found responsible in this trial for the June 1994 slayings, he cannot be punished with jail but could be forced to pay millions of dollars in damages.

While a photograph first of Goldman and then Nicole Simpson were displayed on a screen for the jurors, Petrocelli said, "Here they are in life.

"By now, today, Ron Goldman would have been 29 years old. And I think he would have had that restaurant he wanted to open.

"Nicole Brown Simpson would have been 37 years old, and on a day like today I think she would have gotten up and taken care of her children, like she did every day."

scene

Crime scene photo brings tears

With an apology to the jury, Petrocelli then projected a crime-scene photograph on the screen.

"Here they are in death," he said.

"Nicole was helpless," he said, "and Ron Goldman, instead of running from danger, tried to help."

Simpson, wearing a dark suit, turned his head sharply and did not look at the picture, but showed no emotion. The victims' family members filled the front row of the gallery, and some of them dabbed at tears as the pictures were shown. The jurors listened intently, some of them taking notes.

Petrocelli said Simpson had been marketing, packaging and selling his image for 30 years, but, "We are not here in this important trial to be sold anything."

He also told the jurors about taking responsibility and being accountable, adding, "Those rules don't change because a person has won the Heisman Trophy or broke football records."

"You have blood, you have shoes, you have hair and fiber," he said, reviewing the evidence presented. "You have everything you need."

shoes

'Only one out of 170 million have this DNA pattern'

He said Simpson lied about owning Bruno Magli shoes, despite being confronted with several photographs showing him in that style of shoe. "That shoe made that shoe print," he said. "If he's wearing that shoe, he did it."

Regarding blood found at Nicole's condo, Petrocelli said, "Only one out of 170 million people would have these DNA patterns. O.J. Simpson is one of them."

Petrocelli said the defense has offered no explanation as to why Simpson's blood was found at the murder scene, and he dismissed the idea that the evidence might have been contaminated, as the defense has claimed.

"When blood is contaminated," he told the jury, "it doesn't turn somebody's blood into O.J. Simpson's blood. There isn't any evidence of contamination. None."

Petrocelli said Simpson "lied and lied about every important fact in this case -- every one."

Petrocelli scoffed at Simpson's inability to remember how he cut his hand, accused him of lying about his whereabouts at the time of the murders, and noted that "50 or 60 people have to be lying or mistaken" if Simpson's story is correct.

He said Simpson was angry at his wife for deciding against a reconciliation in their "love-hate" relationship. He reminded the jurors that Simpson is a man of "extraordinary strength and power," and said, "This is a rage killing. Look at those wounds."

As for the slow-motion chase in Simpson's Bronco, Petrocelli said Simpson was not depressed about Ms. Simpson's death, but was depressed about the prospect of spending life in jail.

"He's going to orphan his two small children?" said Petrocelli. "What kind of innocent man does that? Does that make any sense?"

Regarding the suicide note Simpson wrote that day, Petrocelli wondered, "Who signs a suicide note with a happy face?"

Petrocelli also read portions of a cellular phone conversation Simpson had with Detective Tom Lange during the slow-speed chase. Simpson said to Lange, "you've been honest with me right from the beginning."

"Then," continued Petrocelli, "he (Simpson) came as close perhaps as he ever did to accepting responsibility for murdering two people when he said to Tom Lange, 'I'm the only one that deserves it.'"

Closing arguments to continue

Pointing at Simpson, Petrocelli said, "That is the man who confronted (Ms. Simpson and Goldman), attacked them and killed them -- the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson."

And the victims, he said, "in their last struggling moments to stay alive provided us with the key evidence necessary to identify their killer."

Petrocelli is the first of the plaintiffs' lawyers expected to offer closing arguments. They will be followed by Simpson's attorney, Robert Baker, and the plaintiffs will be allowed to offer rebuttal to his remarks. The case is expected to go to the jury by the end of the week.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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