LAS VEGAS – A jury began deliberating Friday whether O.J. Simpson and his co-defendant robbed two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a casino hotel room.
The 61-year-old former football star and a golfing buddy, Clarence "C.J." Stewart each face five years to life in prison if convicted of kidnapping, or mandatory prison time if convicted of armed robbery. They've pleaded not guilty to 12 charges, including conspiracy, coercion and assault with a deadly weapon.
Deliberations began 13 years to the day after Simpson was acquitted of killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in Los Angeles.
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After hours of work, the jurors decided to have dinner delivered so they could continue deliberating. There was no indication how late they intended to work, court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer said.
The Clark County jury heard 12 days of testimony, capped by prosecutors' arguments Thursday that the Las Vegas case had its roots in the 1994 slayings.
Prosecutor Chris Owens said Simpson planned — and Stewart helped carry out — a plot to retrieve personal items that Simpson lost after squirreling them away to avoid turning them over to Goldman's family to satisfy part of a $33.5 million civil wrongful death judgment levied in 1997 by a California court.
Owens 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.
Since Sept. 15, the jury 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 made before, during and after the alleged robbery.
Neither Simpson nor Stewart testified, and jurors were instructed not to consider that when judging the case. Two former co-defendants who said they brought guns did testify.
Judge Jackie Glass kept a tight rein on the proceedings and rejected several mistrial motions. She read 41 legal instructions to the jurors and six alternates before lawyers began closing arguments.
Galanter told the jury that the incident got out of hand because of former co-defendant Michael McClinton, who 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."'