O.J. Simpson jury begins deliberating in Las Vegas

Fri Oct 3, 2008 2:12pm EDT
 
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By Dan Whitcomb

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Jurors began deliberating on Friday in the Las Vegas kidnap and robbery trial of former football star O.J. Simpson, who could face life in prison if he is convicted on the charges against him and a co-defendant.

The jury of nine women and three men went behind closed doors at about 8:30 a.m. (1530 GMT) to begin their first day of deliberations on the 12 counts against Simpson and Clarence "C.J." Stewart, a court spokesman said.

Simpson, 61, and Stewart, 54, were absent from the mostly empty courtroom of Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass.

Simpson, who was acquitted in the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend in the so-called "Trial of the Century" in the 1990s, is accused of leading the September 2007 armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas hotel.

Prosecutors say the former football star and five associates stormed into a room at the Palace Station hotel and casino brandishing weapons and got away with thousands of dollars in collectibles.

Defense lawyers argue that Simpson went to the hotel only to retrieve personal mementos that were stolen from him and that the retired athlete turned Hollywood actor and TV pitchman was unaware that his cohorts were armed.

Four of the other men originally charged in the case later agreed to plead guilty and all took the witness stand for the prosecution during nearly three weeks of trial testimony that concluded on Wednesday. Neither Simpson nor Stewart testified.

A Los Angeles jury cleared Simpson of murder charges stemming from the June 1994 stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, at the end of a yearlong trial that transfixed much of the world.

A civil court jury later found Simpson responsible in a wrongful death suit and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages to the victims' families, a judgment that remains largely unpaid.

(Editing by Bill Trott)