LAS VEGAS (CN) -The defense rested in O.J. Simpson’s armed robbery and kidnapping trial Wednesday, after attorneys demanded a mistrial for a misunderstood outburst from a testifying detective. Neither Simpson nor co-defendant, Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, testified. Closing arguments are expected today.
Simpson’s attorney, Yale Galanter, demanded a mistrial after Det. Andy Caldwell blurted out during prosecutors’ rebuttal that the wife of Simpson’s lead witness, his longtime friend Tom Scotto, was asked to leave the courtroom during Simpson’s preliminary hearing for “tampering with the witnesses.”
Defense attorneys and the judge all thought he had said “Mr. Scotto,” but a review of the transcript revealed that he said “Mrs. Scotto.”
Immediately after Caldwell’s comment, Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass muttered, “Oh, oh, oh,” and the jury was whisked out of the courtroom.
“I am moving for a mistrial because he basically shot a big fat hole right in the defense’s case,” an angry Galanter shouted. “This was wholly improper, wholly prejudicial, and it was made, quite frankly, to illicit this kind of response.
“You can’t unring a bell like this,” he said.
Stewart’s attorney, Brent Bryson, also called for a mistrial. Glass denied both motions.
After repeated arguments between Galanter and prosecutor Chris Owens, Caldwell returned to the stand, where Glass admonished him.
“Let me make myself perfectly clear to you,” she said. “You put my case in jeopardy. There had better not be any spontaneous answers to questions that are not being asked. Do you understand me, detective?”
Caldwell responded: “Yes, ma’am.”
After it was made clear that Caldwell was referring to Sabrina Scotto, and despite Galanter’s objections, Glass withdrew her admonishment to the jury to ignore the statement.
“I’m surprised you haven’t seen my head spin around and fire come out of my mouth at this point,” a frustrated Glass said.
The dustup capped off a relatively calm afternoon that began with testimony from Tom Scotto, a longtime Simpson friend who was getting married in Las Vegas the weekend after the Sept. 13, 2007 incident. Simpson was Scotto’s best man.
Scotto testified that Walter Alexander and Michael McClintock, the two admitted gunmen during the alleged hotel-room heist, confronted him at a dinner party after the incident and tried to extort him for $50,000.
“They were threatening me, telling me that if I didn’t give them $50,000 they were going to do whatever they had to do to get out of trouble,” Scotto testified.
He also said that McClinton told him, “You know me Tom, but you don’t know I’m a street nigga,” and added that he was going to “shoot me and everybody else involved.”
Defense attorneys also played a taped voice message left on Scotto’s answering machine allegedly left by Alexander a month after the incident. In it, Alexander allegedly says, “If I get some help, I’ll do whatever I can. I can do quite a bit.”
Asked what he thought Alexander meant by the statement, Scotto replied: “His testimony was for sale.”
Attorneys for Stewart called only one witness on Wednesday. Stewart’s cousin Linda Lockheart testified that Stewart was not present when Simpson made the plans to retrieve personal items he said were stolen from him.
Simpson and Stewart face a dozen charges, including kidnapping and robbery. Both could get life in prison if convicted.
Simpson has maintained that he never asked anyone to bring weapons to Room 1203 of the Palace Station Hotel, and that he never saw any guns. Nearly everyone else who in the room has testified to seeing at least one gun.
Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of charges that he killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. A civil jury later found him liable for the deaths.