Closing arguments begin in O.J. Simpson trial

10/3/2008 - NFL

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.

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.