Closing arguments begin in O.J. Simpson trial

Updated: October 3, 2008, 9:20 AM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- A prosecutor told jurors Thursday that O.J. Simpson recruited a pack of burly men to pull off an armed robbery in a Las Vegas hotel room, but the defense called him a victim of witnesses with ulterior motives and police who were out to get him.

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Jurors were hearing closing arguments in the case against Simpson and a co-defendant, who are accused of robbing and kidnapping two sports memorabilia dealers who had items Simpson claims were his.

None of the five men initially charged with Simpson cared about the memorabilia, Clark County District Attorney David Roger said in his closing argument.

"But there was one person, and that was defendant Simpson," Roger said, raising his voice. "He is the person who put these crimes together. He is the one who recruited these individuals to help him commit the crimes."

The prosecutor also argued that detaining individuals with the intent to commit robbery is kidnapping.

"When they went into that room and forced the victims to the far side of the room, pulling out guns and yelling 'Don't let anybody out of here' -- six very large people detaining these two victims in the room with the intent to take property through force or violence from them -- that's kidnapping," Roger said.

Simpson attorney Yale Galanter said in his closing argument that his client became a target because of who he is.

"This case has taken on a life of its own because of Mr. Simpson's involvement. You know that. I know that," Galanter told the jury.

"Every cooperator, every person who had a gun, every person who had an ulterior motive, every person who signed a book deal, every person who got paid money -- the police, the district attorney's office, is only interested in one thing: Mr. Simpson. He has always been the target of this investigation, and nothing else mattered," Galanter added.

Galanter reminded the jury of a surreptitious recording of police investigators in the hotel room after the incident. "They're making jokes. They're saying things like, 'We're gonna get him,' " he said.

Earlier, Judge Jackie Glass gave jurors legal instructions before allowing lawyers to argue their interpretation of evidence given by a cast of 22 often colorful witnesses, including four former co-defendants who took plea deals in exchange for their testimony against Simpson.

Final arguments by the prosecutor and lawyers for Simpson and remaining co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart were expected to consume several hours before the case was placed in the hands of the jury. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty to 12 counts.

Prosecutors have sought to prove that Simpson conspired with others to conduct an armed robbery at the Palace Station Casino Hotel on Sept. 13, 2007.

The defense has said Simpson never intended to commit a robbery but was on a mission to reclaim personal mementos of his career and family life that were being offered for sale by memorabilia dealers operating out of a hotel room.

Witnesses told of Simpson's repeated declaration that he did not see any guns and did not know guns were to be present. Two witnesses who said they brought guns testified.

Roger, in his one-hour speech, virtually absolved the former co-defendants of blame, saying the men who brought the guns thought they were "going to a party" and that another of them was an "old guy," a friend of Simpson dragged unwittingly into a plot.

"The fault in this case lies with two people, Clarence Stewart and O.J. Simpson," Roger said.

Just before legal instructions were read, defense attorney Gabriel Grasso objected to the wording of several instructions including one that says, "Every conspirator is legally responsible for an act of a co-conspirator ... even if it was not intended as part of the original plan."

The defense also objected to an instruction that undermines Simpson's claim of wanting to take back his possessions.

The instruction says, "A good faith belief of a right or claim to the property taken is not a defense to the crime of robbery."

The judge overruled the defense objections.

Simpson and Stewart face five years to life in prison if convicted of kidnapping, or mandatory prison time if convicted of armed robbery. Both men have pleaded not guilty. Neither man testified, and jurors were instructed not to consider that fact when judging the case.

In 1995, Simpson was acquitted in Los Angeles of criminal charges that he murdered his ex-wife and her friend the previous year. He was later found liable for the deaths in a civil case.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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