September 22, 1995
Web posted at: 2:20 a.m. EDT
From Correspondent Anne McDermott
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- O.J. Simpson's defense team wanted all or nothing.
They wanted the jurors to be given the choice of either finding their client guilty of first-degree murder, or setting him free. If found guilty in the first degree, Simpson faces a penalty of life without parole.
But the jurors will get another option: second-degree murder, which carries a penalty of 15 years to life.
The jury will be allowed to consider both first- and second-degree murder convictions in the death of Ronald Goldman, but only first-degree murder in the death of Nicole Brown Simpson, Judge Lance Ito said Thursday.
Ito said there was evidence to suggest that Simpson's ex-wife's death was carefully premeditated, a key criterion of first-degree murder. However, the evidence surrounding Goldman's death was different.
"I don't think there's any reasonable interpretation of the evidence that would not indicate that Mr. Goldman's presence at the Bundy crime scene was by sheer chance," Ito said. He was, the judge noted, in the wrong place at a very wrong time.
Defense attorney Gerald Uelmen said he wasn't happy about the second-degree murder option. "There's a risk that we're concerned about, that if you have a jury that's unable to reach a verdict, that they may seize on this as a compromise. We do not want a compromise verdict," Uelmen said Thursday. (176K .aiff sound or 176K .wav sound)
The day was devoted to arguments over jury instructions outside the presence of the jury. The jurors will finally hear those instructions Friday.
"For all intents and purposes," Ito said, "at this point, both sides will call no further witnesses; both sides will formally rest before the jury next time they are present, correct? I see nods from both sides."
It's just about all over but the closing arguments, which will begin Tuesday. And Ito has set no limit on their length. But what about those last-minute fireworks promised by the defense?
"It's difficult to end with bangs if the judge takes away our ammunition," said defense attorney Carl Douglas.
Defense attorneys learned Thursday they had lost one more bang. The California Supreme Court refused to overturn a ruling by Ito that the jurors would not be told that former Los Angeles Detective Mark Fuhrman took the Fifth Amendment on the witness stand.
Also Thursday, defense witness Craig Anthony Fiato appeared as a guest on "Larry King Live." The self-proclaimed mob informer was subpoenaed to take the stand in an defense effort to portray Philip Vannatter, a lead detective in the case, as a liar.
"(Vannatter) and my brother were talking, and that is when I heard, that this great tremendous statement amounted to nothing. What did he say? 'The husband is always the suspect,'" Fiato said. (181K .aiff sound or 181K .wav sound)
"So he didn't say 'I went in there looking to arrest O.J. Simpson?'" asked King
"I never heard him say anything like that," Fiato replied.
In Philadelphia, Denise Brown, sister of victim Nicole Brown Simpson, abruptly ended a news conference when questioned about Fiato.
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