Arraignment expected tomorrow

June 19, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- A day after being captured at his 5,700-square-foot Brentwood estate, football legend O. J. Simpson spent yesterday under "suicide watch" in a 7- by-9-foot jail cell, where he is being held without bail as prosecutors prepare to seek murder indictments from the county grand jury.

The 46-year-old Hall of Fame running back is expected to be arraigned tomorrow on charges that he fatally stabbed his former wife and a male friend of hers in a bloody June 12 attack.

His attorney, Robert L. Shapiro, who earlier had failed to surrender Mr. Simpson as promised, described his client as distraught.

"As bad as he has been in the past four days, it's the worst I've ever heard him," Mr. Shapiro said after speaking with Mr. Simpson by telephone at Men's Central jail, where a deputy is on guard to keep him from harming himself. "He was crying. He apologized . . . for disappointing me."

The day's developments included:

* Prosecutors have convened the Los Angeles County grand jury, according to sources, who said that the first witness was called on Friday. Officials are using the closed proceedings to avoid the spectacle of a preliminary hearing, but they hit a snag after an unidentified witness reportedly refused to testify unless granted immunity.

* Although no decision has been made about seeking the death penalty, Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti said that he may use Mr. Simpson's attempted escape as evidence of guilt in the slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and Ronald Lyle Goldman, 25.

* Los Angeles Police Chief Willie L. Williams said the suggestion that Mr. Simpson was given special police treatment that afforded him the opportunity to flee was "one of the dumbest statements" he had heard. He added that suspects frequently have been given the chance to voluntarily surrender: "The difference was the world wasn't watching."

* Mr. Simpson's friend and former teammate, Al Cowlings, arrested for aiding him during the televised two-hour pursuit, was released early yesterday on $250,000 bail. Storming past reporters later in the day, he hurled expletives and said: "Don't you have no respect?"

* Several high-powered attorneys acknowledged that they had been approached by friends of Mr. Simpson to help mount his defense effort. Hoping to turn events to their advantage, Mr. Cowlings' attorney, Donald M. Re, speculated that Mr. Simpson's aberrant behavior Friday could be a sign he is mentally disturbed.

* Although the circus-like atmosphere that surrounded Mr. Simpson's brief time as a fugitive had subsided, sharp emotions continued. Some feminist advocates reacted angrily to the cheering crowds that rooted for Mr. Simpson's escape, while some African-American activists contended that Mr. Simpson had been unfairly convicted without trial by a mostly white media.

Nicole Simpson's father, who answered the phone yesterday at his home, said he would make no comment on O. J. Simpson's arrest.

"We have a great love for our daughter," said Louis Brown, 70, his voice breaking. "That's all I can say."

Nicole's sister, Denise Brown, 36, said the family would not respond to questions about Mr. Simpson. They are caring for the Simpson children, who are staying there.

She said the youngsters, Sydney, 9, and Justin, 6, were coping with the traumas of the week. "They're pretty strong," she said.

Legal experts said yesterday that Mr. Simpson had not done himself any favors by failing to surrender.

One member of Mr. Simpson's legal team, respected forensic scientist Henry Lee, reportedly left town yesterday after examining a cut on Mr. Simpson's hand. His lawyers contend that Mr. Simpson cut himself after slamming down a water glass upon being informed of his former wife's death. Police sources suspect that he was slashed during the attack.

Mr. Lee, according to the Chinese Daily News, said there was no proof of that.

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