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Simpson jurors hear opening statements

O.J. Simpson appears in court during the second day of jury selection for his trial at the Clark County Regional Justice Center September 9, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Simpson is appearing in court on charges which include burglary, robbery and assault following an attempted robbery at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino in September, 2007. (UPI Photo/Ethan Miller/Pool)
O.J. Simpson appears in court during the second day of jury selection for his trial at the Clark County Regional Justice Center September 9, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Simpson is appearing in court on charges which include burglary, robbery and assault following an attempted robbery at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino in September, 2007. (UPI Photo/Ethan Miller/Pool) | License Photo

LAS VEGAS, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Prosecutors told jurors in Las Vegas Monday the armed robbery that O.J. Simpson is accused of committing was linked to a 1997 wrongful-death civil judgment.

Defense attorneys, meanwhile, said the 61-year-old football player-turned-actor was trying to recover stolen property from a memorabilia agent in a hotel room.

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Simpson and co-defendant, Clarence "C.J." Stewart, 54, face several counts stemming from the alleged robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers. The most serious of the charges, kidnapping, carries a possible life sentence.

Simpson said he went to the hotel to get his items back, and never used or saw others use weapons.

In his opening statement, Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Owens linked the alleged robbery to the $33.5 million judgment a Los Angeles civil jury awarded to the heirs of Simpson's slain ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman, the Los Angeles Times reported. A criminal jury acquitted Simpson of their deaths in 1995.

Owens said Simpson hid mementos with friends to avoid relinquishing them to Goldman's father. When one of those friends didn't return the items to Simpson, he became angry and started to plan getting them back, the prosecutor said.

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Defense attorney Yale Galanter said Simpson was trying to recover personal items, including pictures of his children and his late parents.

"This was a recovery; this wasn't a robbery," Galanter said.

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