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O.J. Simpson jury visits crime scene

By
RUSSELL SNYDER

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 12 -- Traveling with a huge security detail normally reserved for heads of state, the jury in the O.J. Simpson double murder trial Sunday toured the condominium where Simpson's ex- wife and her friend were slain June 12. At a court appearance earlier in the day, Simpson waived his right to accompany the jury into the condo, electing to remain in an unmarked police car parked outside. Nicole Brown Simpson's family had appealed to keep the former football star off the property in deference to her memory. Following a morning court hearing downtown, Simpson, the jury, Superior Court Judge Lance Ito and court officials departed in a 14- vehicle motorcade with a police escort. The first stops in the tour were: the Mezzaluna restaurant about 12 miles west of downtown, where murder victim Ronald Goldman was employed as a waiter, and then Goldman's nearby apartment. At both locations, the motorcade stopped briefly and the entourage remained in the vehicles. The other stops on the tour included the crime scene where Nicole Simpson and Goldman were stabbed to death, and Simpson's Brentwood mansion. At those locations, jurors were led through the residences in groups of four or five. Pool reporters traveling in the motorcade described the jurors as attentive and taking copious notes. The group took a break at midday, eating box lunches on the Sheriff's Department bus normally used to transport jail inmates. When the motorcade arrived at Simpson's mansion, he stepped out and gave police an unscheduled and informal tour of the grounds.

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Reporters said Simpson, dressed in a gray suit, appeared very relaxed and animated. He was not wearing handcuffs or any other visible restraints. Reporters were not allowed on the grounds of either residence. Jurors were dressed casually, observers said, many wearing jeans or sweat suits. One juror wore a shirt with the logo of the San Francisco 49ers, the team where Simpson finished his career as a running back. Simpson, 47, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the stabbing and slashing deaths of his 35-year-old ex-wife and her friend, Goldman, 25. If convicted, the National Football League Hall-of- Famer could spend the rest of his life in prison. The victims were killed in front of Nicole Simpson's condominium, located in the tony Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood and about 2 miles from Simpson's estate. Security was extraordinarily tight for the jury field trip. The line of vehicles, which resembled a presidential motorcade, rolled down the Santa Monica Freeway and then through the winding streets of Brentwood. Crowds of onlookers lined the streets of the route hoping to catch a glimpse of Simpson or the jurors, who were not visible because of the bus's tinted windows. Police reported few problems with the crowds or with neighbors who were restricted in their movements near the two residences. Legal experts said the tour will probably help the prosecution by showing the jurors how close the Simpson estate is to the scene of the crime. Prosecutors maintain he had plenty of time to commit the murders and get back home to catch a limousine ride to the airport. The defense contends Simpson did not have enough time to commit the killings in the narrow window of time established by authorities. 'It's very helpful to a jury listening to a witness to a crime scene if they look at it themselves,' said defense attorney F. Lee Bailey following Sunday's court hearing. 'I've long been in favor of jury views.' In court, Ito briefly considered a request by attorneys representing Nicole Simpson's family that Simpson not be permitted on the grounds of the infamous condo, which is now empty of furnishings and for sale. But Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. said Simpson never intended to tour the condo. Lawyers also briefly debated whether jurors, while walking through Simpson's estate, should be allowed to view a 'trophy room' where awards and memorabilia from his football career are displayed. Ito ruled that jurors could look inside the room but not enter it. Sunday's 6-hour traveling court session was the first chance for Simpson to return to his home since his June 17 arrest following a nationally televised slow-speed chase. Ito on Friday ordered police to assist the sheriffs in securing the area surrounding the sites, and restrict access completely by both vehicles and pedestrians in certain areas to 'insure an area free from possible contamination of the jury,' which is sequestered. Ito also ordered news media aircraft not to enter the restricted area during the tour, and the news media was kept behind barricades blocks from the homes. Defense attorney Carl Douglas said there would be no testimony given during the tour and jurors would not be allowed to ask questions or make comments.

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