I resolved there would be no O.J. on the witness stand today. I would not even refer to that sweet nickname. I would begin by calling him by his given name, Orenthal Simpson.
Pursuant to California Evidence Code Section 776, I told the court, we call to the stand the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson. The James just slipped out. I guess I was more nervous than I'd thought.
I had read everything, learned everything, spoken to everyone who would speak to me, immersed myself in Simpson's life and was ready to take him on. I had worked obsessively for more than a year to prepare for this moment. The outline our team developed was comprehensive and meticulously planned. But success would require more than knowledge and preparation. I had to take control of the examination from the beginning. I had to control a man who never once in his life let anyone control him.
Primacy is important in a trial. An attorneys first approach to a witness leaves a powerful impact with the jury. I wanted to show the jury right off the bat that Simpson would lie to them. About everything. That was the linchpin. If he lied, he was guilty. An innocent man would not lie.
Simpson was clever and calculating and when backed against a wall was not a man to be underestimated. He had managed his criminal trial from a jail cell, and he had won twelve zip in under three hours. He was the supreme competitor. We did not expect him to break down on the witness stand and confess to the murders or lead us to the murder weapon. I was not going to make him explode in anger and turn into a raging killer right before the jury's eyes. I knew Simpson was determined, more than anything else, not to flash the slightest hint of a temper, much less anger or rage. His demeanor throughout eleven days of pretrial deposition, at which he appeared virtually sedated, assured me Simpson would do everything in his power to convince the jury he was incapable of losing emotional control as he had on the night of June 12, 1994, at 875 South Bundy Drive. But that was fine with me. In his zeal to deceive the jury, Simpson failed to realize that a truthful, innocent man falsely accused of murdering the mother of his children and a young man, would not be able to contain his anger even for one minute.
The most important question, in terms of Simpson's credibility, was whether he had ever hit his wife. If the jury believed he had never struck Nicole, they would believe anything Simpson told them. Right from the outset, I had to disabuse them of that notion.
I began my examination with a few very safe questions that I knew he couldn't argue with concerning his first meeting with Nicole. Then, when I got to my first important question, about the nature of their relationship, Simpson immediately started to lie.
It was a problem relationship for you throughout much of that time, true?
I addressed him sharply. He was a killer, and I intended to treat him like one. How could I expect the jury to convict this celebrity if I treated him with deference?
Not true, he said firmly.
I immediately impeached him with a statement he made to Los Angeles Police Department detectives Tom Lange and Phil Vannatter when they interviewed him after he came back from Chicago the day after the murders. Did you not tell the Los Angeles police detectives who interviewed you on June 13, 1994, hours after Nicole's death, that you had always had problems with your relationship with Nicole, it was a problem relationship?
Yes. Then he started to argue with me. We had problems in our relationship, but I don't think it was mostly a problem.
Did you not say that to the police detectives on June 13, 1994? Yes or no?
You said that, right?
And when you said, I have always had problems with her, that's our relationship has been a problem relationship, that was true, correct?
Use of this excerpt from Triumph of Justice by Daniel Petrocelli may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or additions whatsoever, and must be accompanied by the following copyright notice: Copyright© 1998 by Daniel Petrocelli. All rights reserved
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