The Clark County jury deliberated for 13 hours, and also found co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart guilty. Both men were handcuffed after the verdict was read amid sobs from onlookers. Both men will be held in jail until sentencing, which was set for Dec. 5.
“Bring him into custody right now,” Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass said after the verdict was read.
Simpson looked stunned when the first juror said “guilty.” He pursed his lips and nodded his head before turning to face the jury as the verdicts continued.
Stewart attorney Brent Bryson said his client got a raw deal being tried with Simpson.
“The fact that Mr. Simpson was sitting across the table – there’s no doubt in my mind it was extremely prejudicial,” he told CNN after the verdict.
Simpson and Stewart face at least 15 years to life for kidnapping and 10 years or more for armed robbery and other charges.
During closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutors said that Simpson was the mastermind who banded together a group of armed men to rob two sports memorabilia dealers in a hotel room last year. Simpson’s attorneys said he was the victim of vindictive cops and money-grubbing witnesses who planned to “set him up and make money off his back.”
Jurors on Thursday heard closing arguments in the armed robbery and kidnapping trial of Simpson and Clarence “C.J.” Stewart. The final statements came after nearly three weeks of testimony from 22 often colorful witnesses, four of them former co-defendants, countless dustups and at least seven surreptitious tape recordings centering around the Sept. 13, 2007 incident in room 1203 at the Palace Station hotel.
Simpson and Stewart face life in prison if convicted.
Simpson’s attorneys insist that Simpson was merely trying to recover personal items stolen from him years ago, and that he never saw any guns.
Stewart’s attorneys claim their client unknowingly got wrapped up in a botched plan to help an old friend retrieve personal belongings.
“Simpson is the person who put these crimes together. He is the one who recruited these individuals to help him commit the crimes that he committed,” Clark County District Attorney David Roger said. “If our criminal justice system means anything, it means that people who go into hotels with guns to rob people of property must be held accountable for their crimes.”
Roger reminded the jury that regardless of whether the items in question were stolen from Simpson, jury instruction No. 20, of the 41 they were issued, states: “A good-faith belief of right to property taken is not a defense.”
“That’s it,” Roger said. “You can’t even take your own property back even if it’s absolutely certain that it’s yours. We have courts and other processes to protect property rights, and we don’t allow people take the law in their own hands.”
Roger recited testimony from witnesses and former co-defendants who got plea deals for their testimony that Simpson instructed two men to bring weapons to the hotel room, and told one to wave it around and “look menacing.”
Simpson attorney Yale Galanter said his client was unfairly targeted because of his notoriety.
“This case has taken a life of its own because Mr. Simpson’s involved,” Galanter said as he weaved through the courtroom and put his hands on Simpson’s shoulders. “You know that and I know that. The D.A.’s office was only interested in one thing: Mr. Simpson. He has been the target of this investigation, and nothing else has mattered,” he said.
Galanter added that the items in question are more than merely collectors’ items, but are Simpson’s “life, a timeline … That’s why this property raised such high emotion.”
“This wasn’t about a missing piece of jewelry or a missing camera or a missing car or anything else. This was about the absolute essence, the cornerstone of O.J. Simpson’s life. That’s why this property was so sacred to him and only him.”
Galanter all but conceded that Simpson’s course of action to retrieve his personal belongings might not have been the best approach.
“Being stupid and being frustrated is not being a crook,” Galanter said. “It is not being a criminal.”
He tried to shed light on Simpson’s intent by noting that Simpson offered to return items taken from the room that were not his, and how quickly he contacted police after the event to tell his side of the story.
Galanter also maintained that there was no way Simpson could have seen a gun in the small hotel room.
“O.J. Simpson was so focused and so emotional … that he didn’t see a gun,” Galanter said. He pointed out that the word “gun” was never mentioned in the secret recordings of the alleged hold-up made by Tom Riccio, the man who set up the meeting at the hotel.
He noted that almost all of the witnesses testified that they have written books or are in the process of writing books about the case, and that Riccio made $210,000 from various media outlets for his recordings. Galanter said that Simpson’s former co-defendants would “say anything” to receive “get-out-of-jail free cards” from prosecutors.
“There are two great aphrodisiacs in the type of law I specialize in,” Galanter said. “One of them is money, and the other is your liberty.”
Stewart’s attorney Brent Bryson also set out to damage the credibility of the victims and others who testified, saying, “If you can’t trust the messenger, you can’t trust the message.”
He tried to establish that Stewart had no criminal inten
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