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April 25, 2019

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O.J. Simpson trial goes to jury

Prosecutor says the key was ‘accountability’

O.J. Simpson Trial, Day 13

Steve Marcus

O.J. Simpson leaves the Clark County Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas, Nevada Thursday Oct. 2, 2008. Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart are facing 12 charges, including felony kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy related to a 2007 confrontation with sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel.

Updated Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008 | 7:44 p.m.

O.J. Simpson Trial, closing arguments

O.J. Simpson arrives for the start of closing arguments in his trial at the Clark County Regional Justice Center Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008, in Las Vegas. Simpson is charged with a total of twelve counts including kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon stemming from an incident involving the theft of his sports memorabilia. Launch slideshow »

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O.J. Simpson's fate and liberty now rests with nine women and three men from Clark County.

The 12-member jury will on Friday morning begin deliberating the 12 robbery, weapons and kidnapping charges faced by Simpson and his alleged co-conspirator, Clarence "C.J." Stewart.

"This case boils down to one word and that's accountability," district attorney David Roger said during his closing arguments this afternoon.

"We all must be held accountable for our own actions," Roger said. "The fault in this case lays with two people: Clarence Stewart and O.J. Simpson."

Simpson and Stewart are charged with robbing two memorabilia dealers at gunpoint last year. While neither defendants had a weapon during the altercation in the Palace Station hotel room, two of the five men that accompanied them that day did.

The other five men involved have been given plea agreements from the state and have testified against the accused.

Galanter and Stewart's lawyer, Brent E. Bryson, both argued that the state's witnesses were untrustworthy opportunists. The court heard from 22 witnesses since the trial began on Sept. 15.

"(The state) gave out so many probation get-out-of-jail-free cards and so many probation cards in this case, that they could've got these witnesses to say anything," Galanter said.

He called the plea bargains and promises of immunity were "a heck of an incentive" to provide slanted testimony.

"You can't trust those messengers," Bryson said. "And if you can't trust the messenger, you can't trust the message."

Simpson has said his reconnaissance mission was launched to retrieve items that belonged to him. The former NFL star has also said that no weapons were involved.

McClinton and Alexander said Simpson asked them to bring guns to the raid.

"The only thing that's not on tape in this entire case ... is that conversation that Michael McClinton says 'O.J. told me to bring a gun'," Galanter said, acknowledging that McClinton and Alexander secretly took audio recordings after the alleged robbery that were used as evidence against the accused.

Other audio recordings secretly taken by the middleman who arranged the meeting in his hotel room, Thomas Riccio, were used as highly disputed evidence in the case.

The transcripts of Riccio's controversial audio recordings, which Metro investigators produced, have also been hotly contested by both sides of the defense.

There is no audible mention of a gun during the six-minute hotel room altercation, though some witnesses claim Simpson acknowledged the weapon during the run-in and told McClinton to "put the gun down."

"When you listen to that tape, you don't hear anybody talk about a gun," Galanter said. "O.J. is yelling and screaming about his property and the two guys who have the stolen property are admitting to having it."

The defense maintained during their closing statements that both Simpson and Stewart didn't know any guns were in the room, and didn't notice when McClinton allegedly pulled his Ruger P345.

Bryson said because there were so many men - 10 in all - in the small hotel room that the firearm could have gone unnoticed during the commotion. The attorney demonstrated this by holding the gun close to his chest, as McClinton testified he did, to show how the black gun blended in with his dark suit.

Galanter alleged the case was about sending Simpson to jail because of who he is, not because of what he and the others did or didn't do on Sept. 13, 2007.

"This case ... has never been about a search for the true facts," Simpson's lawyer, Yale Galanter, said. "This case has taken on a life of its own because Mr. Simpson's involved. ... He has always been the target of this investigation and nothing else mattered."

"He has maintained his innocence throughout and says to you again that he is not guilty of these charges," Galanter said.

Roger called Simpson's claim that he did not know any guns were going to be, or were, used in the raid "flat nonsense."

"He brought the guns. He brought (the gunmen, Walter) Alexander and (Michael) McClinton. He knew there were guns," Roger said.

The prosecutor went through each of the 12 charges the defendants face and explained for the jury how each charge applies to the case.

If convicted, Simpson, 61, and Stewart, 54, could spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

The charges they face include 11 felonies (Conspiracy to commit kidnapping; conspiracy to commit burglary; burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon; and two counts each of first degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon; robbery with use of a deadly weapon; assault with a deadly weapon; and coercion with use of a deadly weapon. They also face one gross misdemeanor, conspiracy to commit a crime.

The jury has the power to drop "use of a deadly weapon" from the nine weapons-related charges if they choose to do so.

The 12-member jury is predominantly white and predominately female: it includes one woman who considers herself Hispanic and another woman who identified herself as Asian, but no African Americans. There are two blacks in the six-person group of alternate jurors, one man and one woman.

No official estimates have been made concerning how long the jury will deliberate before returning their verdict.

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