LAS VEGAS – Jurors who have been told to refrain from judging O.J. Simpson on his past heard a recording Thursday of a police employee exulting: "This is great. ... California can't get him. ... Now we'll be able to."
Police detective Andy Caldwell conceded the statement was made as a team of officers examined a casino hotel room where Simpson is accused of leading a kidnapping and armed robbery. Caldwell said the comment came from a civilian employee of the police department, not a sworn officer.
The comments were picked up on a digital recorder that had been secretly placed by Thomas Riccio, who had arranged a meeting in the hotel room between Simpson and two sports memorabilia dealers that escalated into a confrontation last year.
Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart have pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, armed robbery, coercion and assault with a deadly weapon. The confrontation was over Simpson's effort to retrieve items that the former football star says belonged to him.
Before Simpson's lawyer, Yale Galanter, questioned Caldwell for a second day, prosecutors sought to bar his line of questioning.
Defense attorney Gabriel Grasso told the judge: "One of our themes is when police found out that O.J. Simpson was involved, there was the equivalent of a feeding frenzy. They dropped everything."
Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass allowed the questioning to proceed "within the rules."
Galanter asked Caldwell if police were conducting "what's supposed to be an unbiased investigation."
He said they were.
"And they're prejudging him; they want to get Mr. Simpson?" Galanter asked.
"I can't say what someone else is thinking," Caldwell said.
The detective clashed with Galanter repeatedly as the lawyer asked if he had done anything in the days after the incident to determine whether Simpson owned the items taken from the hotel room.
"Sir, ownership is not an element of robbery," the detective said before being scolded by the judge for giving a legal conclusion.
When prosecutor Chris Owens took over questioning, he again raised the issue of how the detective researched ownership. Caldwell tried to say he had contacted a lawyer for Fred Goldman, the father of Ronald Goldman, who was slain along with Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson in 1994. Galanter objected quickly and Caldwell was barred from continuing.
Glass, who has expressed impatience with lawyers since testimony began Monday, became irritated as Galanter and Owens continued to press the ownership issue.
"I'm going to say enough," she declared. "We've beaten this horse to death. I think we all get the point and I'm going to ask you both to sit down," Glass said.
Jurors, who are allowed to ask questions, passed notes to the judge. One of them read: "Was there any reason other than Simpson being a famous person that delayed the investigation?"
Caldwell answered, "No."
After morning testimony ended, a 49-year-old woman was detained when she approached Stewart, apparently seeking an autograph. Authorities said the woman was not arrested. The jury had already left the room.