Simpson expected to testify today at civil trial 29 months after murders and year after not guilty verdict, he takes the stand

November 22, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- At last, more than two years after the chase, a full year after the criminal trial and after the book and the video and the interviews, O. J. Simpson is scheduled to testify under oath about what he was doing the night his ex-wife and her friend were slain.

The former football star, sports commentator, rent-a-car spokesman, and now, most famous defendant in the nation has been subpoenaed to take the stand today in a wrongful-death civil suit brought by the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman. The plaintiffs' attorneys have called him as a hostile witness to explain evidence they have introduced and inconsistencies in Simpson's depositions and police statements.

Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki ordered Simpson to be available to testify today, Monday and Tuesday.

Fujisaki yesterday rejected a defense request to delay Simpson's testimony so he could "get his head on straight" after testifying in a separate case over custody of his two children. The judge also rejected a defense request that Simpson testify immediately, denying the plaintiffs a half-day more preparation time.

With Simpson scheduled to take the stand, today will be a moment that the Browns and the Goldmans, convinced he murdered their loved ones on June 12, 1994, have been waiting for with a bitterness that they have not attempted to conceal. Up PTC until now, Simpson has told his story only on his own terms -- in a book answering letters written to him in jail, on a video he hawked after his acquittal on criminal charges, or in selective interviews.

In his criminal trial, Simpson invoked his constitutional right not to testify. The jury found him not guilty after his attorneys argued that he was framed by racist and incompetent police who never looked for another suspect.

But the rules and standard of proof are different in civil court. Defendants cannot refuse to testify. Jurors need find only a "preponderance of evidence" to assess damages, compared with the more rigorous "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard in criminal trials. And agreement of only nine of the 12 jurors is needed for a verdict.

With the civil trial proceeding much faster than the criminal trial, that has has heightened the expectations over Simpson's testimony.

Attorneys have introduced evidence of domestic violence, including a police tape with the frightened voice of Simpson's ex-wife after he kicked down her back door eight months before the murders. Chauffeur Allan Park went through the familiar time line of his 10: 22 p.m. arrival at the Simpson estate and Simpson's emergence from the house at 11: 05 p.m.

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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