The Jury Rules: O.J. Did It

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SANTA MONICA: After just 16 hours of deliberations over the three days, the jury of six men and six women found O.J. Simpson liable for the wrongful death of Ronald Goldman and the battering of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. The unanimous decision, which ends a string of stunning courtroom victories for the ex-football great, was topped off by a jury order that Simpson pay $8.5 million to compensate the Goldmans for the death of their son. As the verdict was read, Simpson remained stoic, staring straight ahead. Across the courtroom, a whoop of joy was heard from relatives of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. "Yes!" screamed sister Kim Goldman, in contrast to the way she sobbed openly when Simpson was acquitted of murder 16 months ago. She and her mother and father clasped hands in jubilation, and in a press conference after the ruling, Fred Goldman commented, "Today marks two and a half years (since the killings) and we finally have justice. Our family is greatful for the verdict. Thank God." Outside the Santa Monica court house, a huge crowd, separated from the building by barricades and a police phalanx, erupted with cheers as word of the jury's decision became clear. Unlike the criminal trial, which required a unanimous decision, only 9 of the 12 civil jurors had to agree on a decision against Simpson. But what swayed all of the jurors to go him remains unclear as a gag order was placed on the trial until Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki makes a ruling on whether Simpson should pay additional punitive damages on top of the $8.5 million. The punitive stage of the trial is tentatively slated for Thursday. Louis and Juditha Brown, the parents of Nicole Brown Simpson, do not stand to collect damages since they did not bring a wrongful death case against the former football star out of fears it would have required the Simpson children, Sydney, 11, and Justin, 8, to testify against their father. During the final hours of the deliberations that started anew last Friday after a juror was dismissed and an alternate joined the process, the jurors focused today on reviewing testimony about Simpsonís alibi, a brutal fight with his ex-wife and his limo driverís precise recollections of the timing of events on the night of the murders. Echoing the approach that worked for Simpson at the criminal trial, defense lawyer Robert Baker focused on alleged police racism and evidence tampering. But Baker, who did not indicate whether an appeal would be issued, clearly didn't have the same "Dream Team" magic that worked so successfully for Simpson in the past. But that didn't seem to bother O.J. much. After the jury made its decision, he reportedly stopped at Baskin Robbins for a pint of ice cream.