Simpson goes back on the stand today

  Jonathan T. Lovitt ; Richard Price


  USA Today


  Page 04A

  (Copyright 1997)


  SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- O.J. Simpson takes the stand again this morning,

  expected to tell of the final three weeks before the murders of Nicole Brown

  Simpson and Ronald Goldman.


  Many courtroom observers say Simpson's demeanor and testimony Friday, his

  first under questioning by his own lawyer, was his most significant victory since

  the start of this wrongful-death civil trial.


  Friday, Simpson was vastly changed from the nervous man who took the witness

  stand in November.


  Then he faced lawyers for the families of the victims killed outside Nicole

  Simpson's condo on June 12, 1994. But on Friday, with his own lawyer asking

  the questions, Simpson looked at ease from first to last.


  He struck a reasonable tone.Commenting on one of his quarrels with Nicole, for

  example, he said, ``It's stupid, I know. But when you have arguments, that's what



  Several people in the courtroom nodded over that one.


  There have been times in the past when the gallery snickered at Simpson. But

  Friday, they laughed with him instead of at him.


  ``You were a relatively wealthy man, were you not?'' Simpson lawyer Robert

  Baker asked at one point.


  ``At that time, yes,'' Simpson replied.


  ``That's before you met a lot of lawyers?'' Baker asked.


  Responded Simpson, ``Yes. Now there's a lot of wealthy lawyers.''


  The families of the murder victims are trying to prove that Simpson, acquitted in

  a 1995 criminal trial, is liable for the deaths.


  The heart of his testimony Friday was a history of his relationship with Nicole,

  and he struck a supportive tone. Example: ``Nicole took being a mom probably

  as seriously as anyone I, I have known in my life, and would never leave the



  But he sprinkled the story with testimony that characterized Nicole as a confused

  and troubled woman.


  Referring to a letter placed in evidence, Simpson said she took blame for the

  divorce and told him that she, not Simpson, was the controlling one; that she

  never ``wanted to leave (Simpson's) side again'' and that he was ``her one and

  only true love.''


  But he refused to let her move back in, he said, and she became more erratic

  over time: associating with drug users, keeping strange hours, spending

  Simpson's money irresponsibly.


  At one point, Simpson testified, she ``cashed a check, a $10,000 check, that was

  supposed to come to me, and she had cashed it and she didn't have the money to

  give me.''


  Simpson characterized his behavior mostly as patient. Life without Nicole was

  fine, he said. He said he simply worried about her and was ever ready to forgive



  Together, Baker and Simpson fought against every allegation that Simpson ever

  hit Nicole. Again, he denied he struck her during the 1989 New Year's Eve

  argument for which he was convicted of spousal battery.


  He said she could have injured herself falling, and he concedes he was too

  violent. But ``my purpose was not to injure her in any way, shape, or form. . . .

  She would have looked a little different than she looked if I hit anybody.''


  Simpson also said he never hit her on a beach in Laguna as one witness testified.

  He wasn't even there that day, he told jurors.


  Regarding a 1984 incident when he struck Nicole's Mercedes with a bat, he said

  it was overblown by police. Sgt. Mark Day had testified to dents in the roof. But

  Simpson said ``that car was a convertible. . . . Everyone knows that. That

  particular night, it didn't even have the roof up on it.''