October 4, 2008

GUILTY OJ MAY BE JAILED FOR LIFE ; Verdict on 12 Charges


OJ Simpson faces spending the rest of his life behind bars today after being found guilty of kidnapping and armed robbery.

An all-white jury of nine women and three men in Las Vegas unanimously found him guilty of all 12 charges after more than 13 continuous hours of deliberations, which started 13 years to the day after he was cleared of a double murder in America's "trial of the century".

The former American football star kidnapped two sports memorabilia dealers in a room at the Palace Station hotel and casino in Las Vegas before stealing items from them on September 13 last year, the Clark County District Court heard.

Simpson, 61, who now lives in Miami, faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on December 5.

His high-profile 1995 trial saw him cleared of murdering his ex- wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, by a predominantly black jury in Los Angeles. The verdict shocked the world and prompted debates over the racial elements of the case.

District Attorney David Roger, prosecuting, said Simpson was the leader of a conspiracy last year and none of the men with him cared about the memorabilia in the room.

"But there was one person, and that was Simpson," he said. "He is the person who put these crimes together. He is the one who recruited these individuals to help him."

Deputy district attorney Chris Owens, prosecuting, said Simpson took a gang of men to the hotel to retrieve items he lost while trying to hide them from the family of Ronald Goldman and the California court which levied a pounds 18.9m civil wrongful death judgment against him.

Four of the five who accompanied Simpson to the casino have accepted plea deals and agreed to testify for the prosecution. The fifth, Clarence Stewart, 54, was his golfing friend and co- defendant in the trial.

Yale Galanter, defending Simpson, told the jury the prosecution had failed to prove his client was guilty and added that the case "has taken on a life of its own because of Mr Simpson's involvement".

He said: "He has always been the target of this investigation and nothing else mattered."

He told the jury that Simpson never intended to commit a robbery but wanted to reclaim personal mementoes of his career and family life which were being sold by memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beard-sley.

"Being stupid, and being frustrated, is not being a criminal," he said.

Witnesses told the court Simpson repeatedly declared he did not see any guns and did not know guns were to be present in the hotel room.

Mr Galanter said the incident got out of hand because one of the gang pulled out a gun.

Neither Simpson nor Stewart gave evidence during the three-week trial, and jurors were instructed not to consider that when judging the case.

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