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Attorneys go head-to-head as Simpson civil trial nears end

January 22, 1997
Web posted at: 10:15 p.m. EST

Latest developments:

SANTA MONICA, California (CNN) -- Is it a fight about justice or money?

That is the question jurors confronted Wednesday as they heard closing arguments from both sides in the O.J. Simpson civil trial.

Plaintiffs' attorney Daniel Petrocelli wrapped up a day and a half of arguments with an emotional appeal for justice, a point defense attorneys later countered by focusing on alleged police misconduct in the investigation of their client.

The jury is expected to get the case Thursday.

"We will deomonstrate to you there is an immense amount wrong with the evidence," said defense attorney Robert Baker, who accused the plaintiffs of "character assasination."

"This isn't a fight for justice. It's about money," Baker said.

O.J. Simpson is being sued for wrongful death by the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman who were stabbed to death in June 1994. He was acquitted of the murders in October 1995.

CNN legal analyst Greta Van Sustern
on Baker's closing arguments
"He attacked the lawyers ..."
icon (448K/38 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"He was meandering ..."
icon (256K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Three on one?
icon (320K/26 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Tribute to victims

Earlier in the day, spectators and family members wept quietly as plaintiffs' attorneys played a videotape of a smiling, laughing Ronald Goldman and audiotapes of a frantic Nicole Brown Simpson seeking help from police to save her from spousal abuse.

icon (60K/4 sec. AIFF or WAV sound) Petrocelli

"There is no loss greater than a parent losing a child. That loss is no less if the child grows into a young man," Petrocelli said.

The plaintiff's attorney ended his closing arguments by quietly reciting a poem, a gesture that prompted plaintiff Fred Goldman, the murder victim's father, to begin weeping.

"My lovely living boy, my hope, my happiness, my love, my life, my joy." Then, turning to the jury, the lawyer read: "Fred Goldman's lovely living boy is no more."

Simpson appeared uneasy during the comments and at at one point was consoled by one of his attorneys.

Petrocelli cited the gloves, shoes and blood as evidence against Simpson, whom he portrayed as a man obsessed with his ex-wife, a woman who no longer loved him. As an example, he said the two had a tense encounter at her daughter's recital, the night she was killed.

"Was there obvious hostility and animosity? Yes," Petrocelli said. "The next time he saw her, he had a knife in his hand."

Can't bring him back

The lawyer stopped short of asking for a specific amount to compensate for the death of Ron Goldman. "You can't put a value on the loss of a son, you can't put a price tag on it," he said.

"True justice would be to see Ron Goldman walk through that door or Nicole Brown Simpson playing with her children," Petrocelli said. "That is not going to happen. They are gone forever."

Goldman

"All you have in your power to do," Petrocelli told the seven women and five men, "is to bring about some small measure of justice by requiring the man responsible to pay for Fred Goldman's loss."

That point was reiterated by John Kelly, the attorney for Nicole Brown Simpson's estate, who followed Petrocelli. "All we are asking you to do is assign responsibility to the man who refuses to accept it."

Manufactured motive

During their closing arguments Wednesday, Simpson's attorneys evoked many of the same themes that bolstered Simpson's defense in the criminal trial.

Baker

"It's part of the effort by the plaintiffs to demonize and to manufacture a motive," Baker said in his closing argument. "You can't get your arms around it because it doesn't exist."

In a low-key summation delivered at times in a whisper, Baker reminded jurors that no friend of Nicole Simpson had testified about any incident of Simpson stalking her.

"My God, O.J. Simpson didn't even have time to stalk her," Baker said. "He was filming and going back and forth to New York and to business meetings. He had no desire to stalk her and he had no rage whatsoever."

Baker pointed out that in two days of plaintiffs' arguments there was not a single mention of planted evidence or police corruption, the cornerstones of the defense case.

Baker accused the plaintiffs of playing on jurors' emotions with their final arguments.

"You have just been subjected to a ploy for your sympathy," he said. "You cannot put sympathy, passion or prejudice into your verdict. ... You must base your verdict on common sense."

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