O.J. gets chance to 'redeem' himself on the stand today

  Jonathan T. Lovitt ; Richard Price


  USA Today


  Page 04A

  (Copyright 1997)


  SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- For the first time since he was accused of murder 31

  months ago, O.J. Simpson today gets to tell his story his way.


  ``This is a huge day for Simpson,'' says Manny Medrano, a lawyer covering the

  trial for KNBC. ``This is his last and final bite of the apple to try to redeem

  himself after what is uniformly considered to be a terrible performance on the

  stand the first time around.''


  When Simpson took the stand just before Thanksgiving at his wrongful-death

  civil trial, he spent 12 hours in a withering examination by lawyers for the

  families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, who were slashed to

  death June 12, 1994.


  The families, who sued after Simpson was acquitted of the murders in criminal

  court, had called the defendant to testify as part of their case. This morning,

  Simpson will testify as part of the defense case.


  The defense plans to question him all day. But when it's over, he'll face

  cross-examination Monday by Daniel Petrocelli, the lawyer representing Ron

  Goldman's father.


  In November, Petrocelli's aggressive questioning drew dozens of inconsistencies

  and contradicitons from Simpson and, as Loyola Law School Dean Laurie

  Levenson put it, ``intimidated'' the defendant.


  This time, though, Petrocelli must confine his questions to areas that Simpson

  lawyer Robert Baker explores during direct testimony, and analysts don't expect

  Baker to go over issues that damaged Simpson the first time around.


  ``He's not going to be able to really clean up any of his problem areas,'' says

  CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack. ``He can't now go back and say, `I guess I did

  hit her, or I guess I did get that phone message.' He's stuck with those answers.''


  Cossack was referring to several key points during Simpson's first appearance.

  First, he denied hitting Nicole despite testimony and photographic evidence to

  the contrary.


  Second, he denied receiving a phone message the day of the murders from

  former girlfriend Paula Barbieri breaking up with him. But he was contradicted

  by four sources, including phone records.


  Analysts expect Simpson's testimony to take a positive bent -- a good husband

  and father who had accepted his divorce from Nicole with ease. ``A great guy . .

  . who would never butcher the mother of his children,'' says Cossack.


  ``He's got to make himself human and discuss his relationship with Nicole in a

  human way without destroying her,'' says Lawrence Schiller, author of American

  Tragdy; The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense and co-author of

  Simpson's book, I Want To Tell You.The timing of Simpson's second appearance

  may help him. On Thursday, defense forensic expert Henry Lee testified by

  videotape that in looking over new photographs of the murder scene, he had

  discovered a second trail of blood spots leading out the front gate.


  Previously, the only known blood trail led out the back gate. If the jury accepts

  Lee's seven drops, it could strengthen the defense claim that two people

  committed the crime.