LAS VEGAS (CN) – Jurors in the O.J. Simpson burglary and kidnapping trial took a surprise field trip today to Room 1203 at the Palace Station hotel, where Simpson and others are accused of having robbed two sports memorabilia dealers last year. Clark County Court Judge Jackie Glass arranged the trip last night, a court information officer told a packed news conference this morning.
Glass originally had declined to allow a field trip, to prevent contamination of the jurors. A large model of the room was built, but attorneys for Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart said the mock-up did not accurately represent the room.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Brian Haynes said he got a call at about 8 p.m. Thursday, with an invitation from the court to act as the pool reporter. He spoke at the news conference this morning, and said he agreed to keep the arrangement a secret until this morning.
He said jurors went into the room two at a time while attorneys and Glass waited in an adjacent room. Attorneys also inspected the room.
One of the alternates placed a hand on top of the armoire where Tom Riccio placed a recording device to capture questions from police after the alleged heist, Haynes said. Another juror seemed to be measuring the room with her feet.
Stewart attended the viewing, but Simpson did not, Hayes said.
Hayes said Palace Station officials have not rented out the room since the incident, despite requests from potential customers who said they’d pay whatever necessary. The trial was scheduled to resume in the courtroom this afternoon.
On Thursday, Simpson’s defense team tried to paint a picture that police were out to get him. Simpson’s attorney, Yale Galanter, made Las Vegas Metro police Det. Andy Caldwell read a transcript of a secret recording made by Tom Riccio, the memorabilia broker who set up the meeting at the Palace Station Hotel between Simpson and memorabilia dealers Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong. “California can’t get him. Now we’ll be able to blank got him,” (sic) Caldwell read, quoting an unidentified civilian police employee who allegedly made the remark while questioning Riccio in his hotel room after the incident.
The person quoted seemed to be referring to Simpson’s acquittal in 1995 in Los Angeles for the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.
Caldwell also testified Thursday in Clark County District Court that he and his crew did not immediately arrest Simpson due to “the nature of the case,” and said that they chose instead to conduct surveillance on the former football star. Simpson was arrested days after the incident.
Riccio had planted a recording device in his hotel room while being questioned by police after the alleged Sept. 13, 2007 heist. He’s also responsible for the seven secret recordings admitted as evidence Wednesday, dealing with events leading up to, during and after the alleged hold-up.
Riccio testified on Thursday that he often secretly records things because, as a memorabilia broker, it’s his best defense to ensure that people follow through on promises.
The colorful memorabilia broker was granted full legal immunity for his cooperation in the case.
He testified that he set up the meeting after receiving a phone call from Beardsley, who told him he had some of Simpson’s items.
“He said, ‘Don’t call O.J. up because this stuff is stolen from his trophy room,'” Riccio testified.
When District Attorney Chris Owens asked what he did next, Riccio drew laughs from the courtroom with his blunt answer: “I called O.J. up.”
Also Thursday, Brent Bryson, attorney for Simpson’s co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, made his daily plea to have his client tried separately from Simpson. Again, Judge Jackie Glass denied the request.
Here is a link to Clark County District Court Web site, which contains 202 pages of transcripts, dubbed the “Riccio Recordings,” allegedly from Riccio’s tapes (scroll down to Documents).