WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 -- President Clinton watched the television coverage of the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial Tuesday, and advised Americans to respect the jury's decision. Clinton took 'a brief break' from his work in the Oval Office at 12:58 p.m., and went into his secretary's office, where the nearest television was located, to watch the coverage, White House press secretary Mike McCurry said.
Several other staffers were with him, watching in silence. McCurry said Clinton appeared 'somber' but 'didn't seem to be surprised' by the verdict. He said the president took a red-ink pen and wrote a brief statement, which was read to reporters: 'The jury heard the evidence and rendered its verdict. Our system of justice requires respect for their decision. At this moment our thoughts and prayers should be with the families of the victims of this terrible crime.' Clinton staged a ceremony Monday in the East Room and proclaimed October 'National Domestic Awareness Month.' In his remarks, the president said that the problem of domestic violence could not longer be 'swept under the rug' and 'we can do something about it.' Asked whether the verdict in the Simpson case would have a 'chilling effect' on the campaign to expose domestic violence, McCurry said: 'I certainly hope not.' White House staffers stopped work briefly to watch the climactic moment when the verdict was read in the Simpson case. In the press room, reporters and photographers were glued to their television sets, watching the proceedings in the Los Angeles courtroom and footage afterward.