Jurors detail the thinking that went into their ruling
Gale Holland; Jonathan T. Lovitt
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);