There sat O.J. Simpson in the witness chair last week, for the first time since his wife, Nicole, and her friend Ron Goldman met their brutal deaths on June 12, 1994. Cleared of criminal charges, he now faced a wrongful death suit brought by the victims’ families—and this time there was no way to avoid testifying.
On Friday, Nov. 22, day one of his testimony, the scene at the Santa Monica courthouse had seemed a tad surreal, with helicopters hovering overhead, a high school band practicing outside, and a crowd of motley demonstrators—including, with Thanksgiving approaching, a woman in a turkey suit—advocating one cause or another. But by Tuesday the crowd outside had dwindled, and inside, Simpson found the inconsistencies in his previous statements—to police, a psychologist and in his own pretrial deposition—coming back to haunt him.
As these excerpts show, Simpson’s version of events, offered over three days, contradicted numerous witnesses, Nicole’s diary and the police account of the murders. On Tuesday, Nov. 26, Michael Brewer, lawyer for Sharon Rufo, mother of Ron Goldman, pointed out O.J.’s apparent lack of outrage at his ex-wife’s death, while the attorney for Nicole’s estate, John Q. Kelly, drew chilling comparisons between Simpson’s actions on the night of the murder and on New Year’s Day 1989, when he assaulted Nicole and subsequently pleaded no contest to spousal abuse. But Simpson’s time on the stand was dominated by a relentless two-day barrage of questions by Goldman family attorney Daniel Petrocelli, who tried, in the words of L.A. legal expert Stan Goldman (no relation), to bring into stark relief Simpson’s world view that “everyone else lies, I tell the truth.”
Previously, Simpson had told detectives that he had frequent “problems” with Nicole over the years, and had described “hassles ” with his ex-wife to a psychologist early in 1995. Simpson testified that Nicole had hit him “numerous times” but that he had not hit her.
Petrocelli: And how many times, Mr. Simpson, in the course of these physical altercations, did you hit Nicole?
Q: How many times did you strike Nicole?
Q: How many times did you slap Nicole?
Q: How many times did you kick her?
Q: How many times did you beat her, sir?
Q (later): And you are aware that her writings describe numerous incidents when you hit her, true?
O.J. (later): Yes.
Q: And your view is all that is false, true?
O.J.: True, yes.
As a photo of a bruised Nicole loomed on an overhead screen, Petrocelli questioned Simpson about his Jan. 1, 1989, quarrel with Nicole.
Q: Well, what did you do to cause that injury?
O.J.: I wrestled her out of the room. And what happened when she was outside, I didn’t see when she fell, but I feel responsible for all of that.
Q (later): Let’s talk about what you did physically with your hand, your foot, whatever. Tell us how she got the cut on her lip, the split on her lip, that caused it to bleed that night?
O.J.: I don’t know.
Q: You don’t know?
Q: Okay. Tell us how she got the welt over the right eye.
O.J.: I don’t know specifically how.
Q: You did hit her there?
Q: And it’s your testimony, before this jury, that you never touched her face with your hand, true?
O.J.: I don’t know. As I told you in the deposition, in wrestling her, maybe my hand hit—hit, or was on, her face. I certainly didn’t punch her or slap her.
Q: You say your hand was on her face. Did you strike her at any time?
O.J.: As I told you, I had her in a headlock at one point, in trying to get her out of the door, so I would assume that my hand was somewhere around her—her face.
Q: You said in the deposition that you had her head in kind of a headlock to get her out of the room, true?
O.J.: At one point, yes.
Q: Are you saying that that’s when that injury to her eye occurred?
O.J.: I don’t know when it occurred. But I’m assuming it occurred during the altercation or when she fell outside and…
Q: I would ask…
O.J.: …I was a cause of all of that.
Q (later): Just tell us what you’ remember.
O.J.: I don’t—I don’t remember specifically when any single mark or injury came on her face, any of them. But I’m assuming they all happened during this altercation.
The Call for Help
Petrocelli focused on a tape of Nicole made in October 1993 in which she said she was frightened of Simpson.
Q: And you heard on that tape Nicole say, “I got frightened tonight. When he gets this crazed, I get scared…. He does not look like himself, he gets a very animal look in him, his veins pop out and his eyes get black. It was more precaution than anything. I just always believed if it happened once more, it would be the last time.” You remember hearing Nicole say those things?
O.J.: No. I read that in your transcript.
Q: You’ve read that before today, haven’t you?
Q: And it is true, sir, that Nicole expressed to you in the course of your relationship her fear of you when you got mad and angry and enraged, true?
Q: And it’s true, sir, that when you did get mad and angry, that you would acquire a very animal-like look, correct?
O.J.: Yeah—I never—I can never recall being mad and looking in a mirror.
Q: Well, Nicole told you, “I’m afraid when you look like that,” right?
O.J.: No, she told me, “When you get mad—you really scare me when you get mad.” She told me that actually the next day from this incident.
Q: Oh, that was the first time she ever told you that, is that your testimony, sir?
O.J.: She may have said before that she hates it when I get mad, yes.
Q: And you knew she was frightened that night?
O.J.: Not that night. I will debate forever that she was not frightened of me that night.
Q: Debate with whom?
O.J.: With whoever wants to debate it. I don’t think her actions, besides the phone call, said she was afraid. She came down into a room that I was in after she told the police she was afraid. I was standing there. I can’t imagine a person who would be afraid would come down into the room that the person’s afraid of is in.
After Simpson offered a lengthy monologue detailing his precise actions during the hour of the murders—chipping golf balls, walking his dog, phoning girlfriend Paula Barbieri and sorting golf clubs—he admitted he hadn’t included those details in previous statements.
Q: Did you, on June 13, hours after Nicole’s death, tell the police that you had chipped golf balls? Yes or no?
Q: Did you tell the police, hours after Nicole’s death, that you took a walk and that your dog went into the [neighbor’s] lawn and did her business? Say anything—any of that?
Q: Did you tell the police that you made a phone call to Paula at 10:03 from your driveway?
Q: Did you tell the police anything about three-woods and four-woods and any of that stuff?
Q: Did you tell the police anything about what light you turned on and off as you went from one part of your movements to the next?
Q: And you told that story in your deposition, after you heard all the witnesses testify and all the evidence, correct?
O.J.: I think my deposition was after all of that.
The Polygraph Test
Just three days after the murders, Simpson’s lawyers had him take a polygraph test.
Q: Mr. Simpson, you were testifying a few moments ago about how you were, once you understood the process, happy to take a lie detector test, but it was refused. Do you recall that?
Q: Now, in fact, Mr. Simpson, before you communicated that position to the DA’s office, you went to the office of Dr. Edward Gelb on June 15, did you not?
O.J.: I don’t know.
Q: You went to the office of some person on Wilshire Boulevard and sat down and were wired up for a lie detector test, true?
O.J.: That’s not true. I mean that’s not true in totality.
Q: Well, what do you mean, “in totality”?
O.J.: We didn’t take a lie detector test. What I was asking him is how did it work, and I wanted to understand it. And he sort of gave me an example how it…
Q: And he hooked you up to the process and started asking you questions about Nicole and Nicole’s death and whether you were responsible for it, true?
O.J.: I don’t know if he went that far with it.
Q: Okay. At the end of that process, you scored a minus 22, true?
O.J.: I don’t know what the score was.
Q: And you understood that was a polygraph test, right?
O.J.: I understood that once I finished, and I understood it, that I was willing to do one for the police.
Q: And you understood that what you were doing that day was a polygraph test, on June 15; true or untrue?
O.J.: Not the way they explained it to me, no.
Q: You were wired up to a polygraph machine, were you not?
O.J.: They wired me up to something and they—the guy started to explain to me about how it works, and we went through it once for my understanding. Once I understood how it worked, I told my lawyers, let’s do it. And we wanted it to be in evidence.
Q: And the minus 22, by the way, is a score indicating extreme deception, true?
O.J.: I don’t…
Defense Attorney Robert Baker: Your Honor, I object to that.
Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki: Sustained.
Blood in the Bronco
Q: And you have no explanation for how your blood was found in that Bronco?
O.J.: That’s correct.
Q: And you have no explanation, sir, for how blood of Nicole’s was found on the carpet of the driver side, do you?
Q: And you have no explanation for how Ron Goldman’s blood got in your car that night, do you?
O.J.: Me personally, no.
Q: Have no explanation for this jury, do you?
Petrocelli pressed Simpson to explain a diagram showing blood samples found in his car.
Q: Do you see this board showing where blood was found in the Bronco, Mr. Simpson?
Q: Okay. Do you have any explanation for why blood matching yours was found near the light switch there?
Q: Do you have any explanation for why blood matching Nicole’s was found on the carpet in the—on the driver side?
Q: Have you any explanation for why blood matching Ron Goldman was found on the console area?
Q: Or why blood matching yours was found there?
Q: Or why blood matching yours was found on the inside door panel, right where you would open the door to get out…
Q: …using your left hand?
Q: You do use your left hand when you exit the door, do you not?
O.J.: I would have, unless my arthritis was kicking up. I would imagine so, yes.
Q: You’re sitting there in your driver seat, you’re getting ready to get out of car and you open the door with your left hand, do you not?
O.J.: Most of the time, yes.
Q: And your left middle finger would contact the area right where that red spot is indicated, would it not, sir?
O.J.: It possibly could.
Q: Right where you have the scar on your finger, true?
O.J.: Possibly could.
Q: You have no explanation for any—why any of that blood was there, true?
O.J.: That’s correct.
Q: Now, you don’t recall bleeding in the back alleyway or back driveway of Nicole’s condominium in the two or three weeks before her death, do you?
The Bruno Magli Shoes
Petrocelli confronted Simpson with a September 1993 photograph that shows him wearing the same model and size shoe an FBI expert said the killer wore.
Q: Now, Mr. Simpson, you are wearing Bruno Magli shoes, size 12, in that photograph?
O.J.: That photograph depicts that, but I don’t—I wouldn’t—wasn’t wearing Bruno Magli shoes.
Q: Well, are you saying those are not Bruno Magli shoes?
O.J.: They look like Bruno Magli shoes, yes.
Q: But you’re not wearing them, is that what you’re saying?
O.J.: I’m—that’s what I’m saying.
Q: How can that be, sir?
O.J.: I don’t know. I saw a picture of Mark Fuhrman and I playing golf together, and I know I never, ever played golf with him either.
Q: What does this have to do with Mark Fuhrman?
O.J.: I don’t know. You asked me how can that be. I’m no expert on pictures, but I saw a picture of Mark Fuhrman and me playing golf, together in a golf cart.
Q: What you’re saying to the jury is, that picture is a fraud?
O.J.: I believe so, yes.
Q: What do you mean, you believe so. Is it or is it not? O.J.: I would say it is.
The Lange Conversation
Petrocelli grilled Simpson about his telephone conversation with L.A. Police Det. Tom Lange during the famous Bronco chase.
Q: You knew there was blood found on your property, and you knew there was blood found in your car, and you knew there was blood found on Bundy [Nicole’s street] as of June 17, when they were going to arrest you, right?
O.J.: I knew there was blood, yes.
Q: And at no time did you ever utter a word to Detective Lange, “Why aren’t you out looking for the real killer? Why didn’t you—why did you plant all this evidence against me?”
Baker: This is argument.
Q: “Why did you frame me?” You never said any of those things to Detective Lange, true?
Q: You never accused Detective Lange of being framed by the police department, true?
O.J.: I had no idea who Detective Lange was, and I didn’t know what had taken place at all.
Q: You never accused whoever you spoke to on the phone of framing you?
O.J.: All I…
Q: True or untrue?
O.J.: All I can do is say—and I told him time and time again, I didn’t do this.
Petrocelli: Move to strike as nonresponsive.
Fujisaki: Stricken as nonresponsive.
Q: Please. And the question—you never accused the person on the telephone from the police department when you were talking of planting evidence against you, correct?
Q: Or framing you for a murder that you did not commit? Correct?
O.J.: That’s correct.
Q: And the reason you didn’t do so, Mr. Simpson, is because you knew you committed those murders, correct?
O.J.: That’s incorrect.
Q: And that is why you were going to kill yourself, because you knew you were going to spend the rest of your life in jail, correct?
O.J.: That’s incorrect.
Q: And you knew that you dropped the blood at Bundy, correct?
O.J.: That’s incorrect.
Q: And knew, sir, that you went there that night and you confronted Nicole and you killed her…
Baker: Your Honor, I’m going to object.
Baker: This has been asked and a speech is already…
Baker: It’s already been asked and answered.
Fujisaki: Overruled. You may answer.
O.J.: No, Mr. Petrocelli. That’s totally, absolutely incorrect.
Q: And Ronald Goldman came upon you when you were there with Nicole, and you did not expect him that night, correct?
Baker: I’m going to object.
O.J.: I don’t know Ron Goldman.
Q: And Ronald Goldman got into a fight with you as he tried to stop you, and you cut him and you slashed him until he died, collapsed in your arms. True or untrue?
Q: And you left him there to die, Mr. Simpson, with his eyes open, looking right at you. True or untrue?
O.J.: That’s untrue.
Q: I have no further questions.