Jurors detail the thinking that went into their ruling

  Gale Holland; Jonathan T. Lovitt


  USA Today


  Page 01A

  (Copyright 1997)


  SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- They hit him with a stunning $33.5 million total

  judgment. Two said they were ``100 percent'' sure he did it. ``Beyond a shadow

  of a doubt,'' a third juror said.


  Finally, after three months, three weeks and four days, jurors in the O.J. Simpson

  civil trial were free to tell the world why the former football star and TV

  pitchman should pay an astounding amount in this civil trial for the killings of

  Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.


  The murders were horrendous, and the punishment should run deep, they said.

  Simpson's own words worked against him. As did pictures that seemed to show

  Simpson wearing the rare Bruno Magli shoes like ones the killer wore. In the

  end, the jury decided on a judgment more than twice the largest estimate of what

  Simpson is worth.


  ``The easiest decision I ever had to make,'' juror Laura Fast-Khazaee, a white

  woman, read from a statement before rushing to a live TV appearance on the

  Larry King talk show.


  But civil jurors also warned that their $25 million rebuke to O.J. Simpson -- on

  top of an earlier $8.5 million award -- should not be taken as a repudiation of the

  criminal trial's decision to acquit Simpson.


  ``This in no way invalidates the earlier jury's decision,'' said juror Deena Lynn

  Mullen, a woman of Greek-Italian descent. ``They had a different burden of

  proof, they had different evidence, they had different forms of presentation.''


  At last, the Trial of the Century, Part II, was over and the relief was evident. To

  a ripple of applause from court employees, and a fireworks display of flashing

  cameras, six jurors and alternates filed into a nondescript courthouse room to

  describe the work they did for nine days behind closed doors.


  The court withheld their names, but jurors identified themselves in TV

  appearances or were named in news reports.


  ``This is really overwhelming, having all these cameras going off in your face,''

  said Steve Strati, jury foreman in the second punitive damages phase of the trial.


  Standing their ground, the jurors gave tough-minded, detailed answers on the

  major issues of the case for the better part of an hour.


  Still, questions remain. The civil jury never decided on a motive for the brutal

  June 12, 1994, slashing deaths of Nicole and Goldman.


  ``We didn't discuss motive,'' Strati said. ``It was irrelevant.''


  Most jurors agreed Simpson's credibility, or lack of it, on the witness stand was a

  turning point. And then there the pictures of the Bruno Magli shoes, ``ugly-ass

  shoes'' Simpson said he never owned.


  ``I thought Brian ``Kato'' Kaelin was more credible,'' juror Orville Bigelow said,

  referring to the sometimes comical appearances of Simpson's one-time house



  Bigelow, a Hispanic man who appeared to be in his 20s, was one of the strongest

  defenders of the verdicts. He vehemently rejected suggestions that it was

  payback time for the mostly white jury.


  ``Anyone who comments on something like that (on the race of jury) without

  knowing what we went through, as far as what information we went through, are

  being racist themselves,'' Bigelow said. ``What they're doing is basing their

  judgment on our skin.''


  But one black female alternate, who heard the same evidence as the others, said

  bitterly that she believed police probably planted evidence, that a real killer is

  free and her colleagues had made a huge mistake.


  ``For the most part, I felt (Simpson) was pretty credible,'' said the woman, who

  appeared to be in her 40s. ``The plaintiffs were more like bullies than



  Daniel Petrocelli, the Goldman family lawyer, said the woman might have been

  frustrated that she didn't get to take part in the decision. ``She never had the

  opportunity to deliberate with the other jurors,'' he said. (As an alternate, she did

  not vote on the verdict.)


  Most jurors said the defense put on a strong case of possible police

  contamination of evidence and conspiracy. But in the end, defense theories were

  too speculative, too much of a reach, jurors said.


  ``The further I continued, certain things that they wanted me to infer, I felt that I

  was getting into the area of speculation, and I was ordered not to do that,'' said

  Mullen, a stage manager for a nonprofit theater.


  She said she wanted proof to be more than beyond a reasonable doubt. She

  wanted evidence ``beyond a shadow of a doubt.'' And she found it, she said.


  But juror Lisa Theriot, a white woman in her late 20s, didn't believe lawyers for

  the families had met the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.


  ``It was more likely than not that O.J. Simpson was there that night, and that's

  what we had to go with,'' Theriot said.


  She was one of two holdouts against the punitive award. She wanted a lower

  figure; another juror wanted no punitive damage at all. But the other jurors said

  the $25 million combined punitive award reached on Monday was easy to



  It was the amount of money plaintiffs' lawyers said Simpson stood to earn for the

  rest of his life.


  ``We all felt that Simpson had the potential to make a lot of money in the future,''

  Theriot said. ``We didn't buy the defense's argument that he's washed out and



  Fred Goldman, father of victim Ron, said money was not the issue.


  ``I look at the dollars as an irrelevant issue except that if I were to think in terms

  of each dollar as one day in prison I think the jury expected him to spend 331/2

  million days in prison -- perhaps not enough,'' Goldman said.


  The compensatory phase took 12 hours of deliberation, the jurors said, because

  they meticulously went through the evidence. They started with a $24 million

  figure, proposed by Mullen's suggestion that Fred Goldman could be expected to

  live 24 more years and deserved $1 million a year in lost companionship from

  his slain son. The Brown family sought punitive damages only.


  Jurors didn't take their first vote until everyone's questions were answered. The

  tally: unanimous $8.5 million compensatory judgment against Simpson, they



  ``We had to break down everything and examine everything and have a clear

  conscience,'' Strati said.


  Theriot and Mullen also discussed hearing from a media agent in the middle of

  deliberations, almost blowing the trial apart. Mullen said she received a letter

  over her facsimile machine, then a message in a male voice on her answering



  ``Hey, yo, Deena. Call me. I can get you on Larry King,'' the caller said.


  Theriot only got a phone message, also in a man's voice, about ``book deals,

  movie deals, this, that and the other thing,'' she said. ``My parents have been

  screening my mail.'' Both reported the contacts to the court, but never responded

  to the caller.


  As the jurors filed out of the press conference room, they were deluged with

  interview requests from media, including at least a dozen hand-written notes on

  personal stationery. The jurors smiled and took the business cards, but were

  non-committal. By evening, at least one, Laura Fast-Khazaee, was on TV.


  Several jurors said they hoped their verdict would bring peace to the victims'

  families and reconciliation for the country.


  One warned against ``trying to complicate it and make it appear black and

  white.'' Said alternate Draeolub Djanjovic: ``This jury I'm convinced was

  color-blind. . .Maybe we can all learn from this tragedy.''


  But the black female alternate disagreed: ``I felt sorry for the families. But I felt

  that they still should seek other people (suspects).''

  PHOTO,color,Gary Friedman,AP; PHOTO,color,Eric Draper,AP;

  PHOTO,color,Nick Ut,AP; PHOTO,color,Michael Caulfield,AP;

  PHOTO,b/w,Kevork Djansezian,AP; PHOTOS,b/w,Gary Friedman(8);