OJ trial goes to the jury

LAS VEGAS, NV Thirteen years to the day after he was acquitted of killing his ex-wife and her friend, a Clark County jury was to begin deliberating Friday whether the 61-year-old former football star and golfing buddy Clarence "C.J." Stewart are guilty of the armed robbery and kidnapping of two sports memorabilia dealers.

Each faces five years to life in prison if convicted of kidnapping, or mandatory prison time if convicted of armed robbery.

On Thursday, prosecutors told the jury that Simpson planned -- and Stewart helped carry out -- a plan to retrieve personal items that Simpson lost after squirreling them away after his Oct. 3, 1995, acquittal in Los Angeles of slaying Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Prosecutor Chris Owens said Simpson brought a gang of men together to the Palace Station on Sept. 13, 2007, to retrieve items he lost while trying to hide it from the family of Ronald Goldman and the California court that levied a $33.5 million civil wrongful death judgment against Simpson.

Owens told told the jury to convict Simpson, denouncing him for "arrogance" of thinking he could commit a crime "against the dignity and the peace of the state of Nevada."

"The kind of arrogance ... that would make them think they could come in and get away with this kind of crime and that nobody would report it and they thought they could spin it that, 'It's all OK; It was my stuff."'

Simpson's lawyer, Yale Galanter, told the jury the prosecution didn't prove Simpson was guilty in the criminal case that he said "has taken on a life of its own because of Mr. Simpson's involvement."

"Every cooperator, every person who had a gun, every person who had an ulterior motive, every person who signed a book deal, every person who got paid money -- the police, the district attorney's office, is only interested in one thing: Mr. Simpson," Galanter said. "He has always been the target of this investigation, and nothing else mattered."

Galanter reminded the jury of a surreptitious recording of police investigators in the hotel room after the incident. "They're making jokes. They're saying things like, 'We're gonna get him,"' he said.

In rebuttal, Owens downplayed that recording, saying it could have been worse. "Anytime you involve something with celebrity like this, it's typical for anybody to start talking about jokes and things of that nature, but you got to hear all of that," he said.

Owens said that rather than police and prosecutors being out to get Simpson, they were careful and waited to get facts.

"Mr. O.J. Simpson as a victim?" Owens scoffed. "He tends to think of himself as a victim."

Stewart's lawyer, Brent Bryson, presented his 54-year-old client as the trial's forgotten man.

"I want to take an opportunity to introduce you to the other defendant in this case, Mr. Clarence Stewart," Bryson said in closing arguments.

In 12 days of testimony Sept. 15, the jury has heard 22 often colorful witnesses -- including seven of the nine people who were in the cramped hotel room. They've listened to numerous replays of secret recordings of Simpson before, during and after the alleged robbery.

Neither Simpson nor Stewart testified, and jurors were instructed not to consider that when judging the case.

Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass, who rejected several mistrial motions and kept a tight rein on the proceedings, read 41 legal instructions to the jurors and six alternates before lawyers began closing arguments.

In his closing, District Attorney David Roger focused on Simpson as the leader of a conspiracy, and said none of the men with him cared about the memorabilia he was after.

"But there was one person, and that was defendant Simpson," Roger said, raising his voice. "He is the person who put these crimes together. He is the one who recruited these individuals to help him commit the crimes."

Two witnesses who said they brought guns testified.

Galanter argued that Simpson never intended to commit a robbery but wanted to reclaim personal mementos of his career and family life that were being peddled by memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley.

Witnesses told of Simpson's repeated declarations that he did not see any guns and did not know guns were to be present in the hotel room.

Galanter told the jury that the incident got out of hand because of former co-defendant Michael McClinton, who has admitted displaying a gun during the confrontation.

"For whatever reason, Michael McClinton takes over," Galanter said, "and when McClinton takes over, he starts yelling and screaming and giving people orders and telling people to bag stuff up. And O.J.'s saying, 'Don't take anything that's not mine."'

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