MAKING THE CASE

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A mug shot, two gravestones, a smile. The trial can be reduced to these emblems. Or to entries in a specialized gazetteer: Rockingham, Bundy, Brentwood. A bestiary: barking dog, white Bronco, blond Kato. Names on a list: Marcia and Johnnie, Darden and Shapiro, Fung, Lee, Scheck, Ito, Fuhrman. A weird alphabet: DNA, O.J., A.C., L.A.P.D., the N word. All are signposts to a greater geography, one uneasily contained on the premises of the California Superior Court. Television viewers saw the proceedings and were captured by the legal dramatics; and yet there were always hints of unseen details and untold tales. In the 474 days between the arrest and the release of O.J. Simpson, TIME's reporters and correspondents attended confidential sessions, debriefing the principals; once the verdict was delivered, the major players cast even greater light on the drama's hidden plots. Now the story behind the scenes can be revealed, providing deeper insight into courtroom strategies, missteps and triumphs, making manifest invisible animosities. There is O.J. Simpson, angry at a bad turn in his trial, lashing out at his would-be defenders, laying out instructions as he marches about the room in manacles; Judge Ito, weighed down by petty concerns, summoning lawyers to revel in his celebrity; Christopher Darden and Johnnie Cochran fuming privately over their public spats; the juror who talked about the flaws in the prosecution's case and the sacrifices she and her colleagues made during the nine-month ordeal; the police officers, including a duo nicknamed "Dumb and Dumber," who fell short in their jobs. Here are the tales that help illuminate the trial that transfixed a nation.

THE PHONE RINGS

EARLY IN THE MORNING OF JUNE 13, 1994, the phone rang in the home of Marcia Clark. She immediately recognized the voice on the other end. It was Detective Philip Vannatter of the L.A.P.D., reporting a double murder and requesting the deputy district attorney's help in obtaining a warrant to search a suspect's home. To Clark it all seemed routine, if gruesome, until she heard one specific detail. "God," she said, "sounds like a pretty tony address for this kind of thing."

"Marcia," said Vannatter, "It's O.J. Simpson."

"Who's that?"

"The football player? Naked Gun?"

"Phil," she said. "I'm sorry. I don't know him."

Vannatter went on, enumerating more reasons for a search warrant: blood on the door handle of Simpson's white Bronco, blood on the driveway at his Rockingham mansion, the bloody glove found by Vannatter's junior associate, Mark Fuhrman.

"Jesus," said Clark, "It sounds like you've got enough for filing [an arrest warrant], much less a search warrant."

Let's take it slow, said Vannatter. He knew the case was a big one, perhaps the biggest in his career. He and his partner Tom Lange were popular, old-time cops who worked hard and enjoyed a drink or two, spending nights at the Central Cafe in a grimy section of downtown. But Lange and Vannatter were also known as "Mutts" or "Dumb and Dumber"--by the D.A.s who had to work around their sloppiness in court. By the luck of the duty roster, Lange and Vannatter were called to the crime scene shortly after midnight on June 13. Some homicide investigators are so meticulous that they record their arrival at a crime scene with a video camera, making sure that nothing is touched and preserving that fact for posterity. Not so Lange and Vannatter--and for that matter Fuhrman, who linked up with them later that night.

BUNGLING THE CHASE

ON THE MORNING OF JUNE 17, CRIMINAL defense attorney Robert Shapiro informed O.J. Simpson that he would be arrested for the murders of his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman. "Mr. Simpson looked depressed and under a lot of pressure," said Henry Lee, who arrived that morning with fellow criminologist Michael Baden at the house of Simpson buddy Robert Kardashian to start sifting through evidence. The last either scientist had seen of Simpson, he had gone upstairs to say goodbye to his family; the next thing they knew, the suspect had vanished with his friend A.C. Cowlings. According to a confidential interoffice memorandum from the D.A.'s office, Simpson's cellular-phone records show that three calls were received or placed from a location near the cemetery where Nicole was buried. In a nontaped interview, Cowlings told police he saw a marked police vehicle near the cemetery when they arrived there and hid the Bronco in an orange grove.

At 6:25 p.m., however, two motorists spotted the white Bronco on the San Diego Freeway and called the police. The infamous chase then ensued--with one until now unpublicized stop. According to the D.A.'s memo, Cowlings, who was driving the car, pulled the Bronco over after police ordered him to stop. The cops, however, drew their guns as they approached the car. "F--- no!" yelled Cowlings, slamming his fist against the driver's door. "He's got a gun to his head," he screamed, referring to O.J., and then sped off. The pursuit resumed until the Bronco ended up at Rockingham, where Simpson and Cowlings were taken into custody.

Potentially incriminating evidence taken from the Bronco would never make it into court, including $8,750 in cash and six checks in a sealed envelope, items that might have been used to argue that Simpson was planning to flee the country (he had his passport with him). Lange and Vannatter, however, entered those items not as evidence but as the property of Cowlings--who was not charged with a crime. Reversing the designation would make the items procedurally suspect--and open to attack--as exhibits in court. "The detectives' decision to book the cash as Cowlings' personal property and not as evidence would be damaging to prosecution at trial," concluded the internal memo, dated Oct. 27, 1994. The chase, which was never mentioned to the jury, was a "mixed bag," according to prosecutor William Hodgman. "If you knew some of the evidence we were dealing with, you would understand what the cost-benefit analysis was."

DARDEN AND CLARK

FRIENDS HAD URGED CHRISTOPHER DARDEN to steer clear of the Simpson case--he would look like the token black attorney in a case that had taken on ugly racial overtones. But the young prosecutor could not let it pass, and joined Clark and Hodgman in October 1994. "Most cases I prosecute aren't a challenge anymore," Darden told TIME. "The defendants are poor and they don't have the resources. This case was a fair fight." There was also the irresistible appeal of going up against one of the most respected black attorneys in the country, Johnnie Cochran, whom Darden admired. One friend warned Darden that he could not win. "I'm gonna be 'the man,'" Darden told the friend. She shook her head. "You're wrong. You ain't gonna be the man. Johnnie's the man."

Clark became obsessed with learning everything she possibly could about Nicole and her state of mind. "I have to defend a woman I never met," she explained to Candace Garvey, one of Nicole's friends. "All I've seen is bloody pictures. I need to know a lot of things about her." Nearly every night last fall, Clark would go home to put her two children to bed, then change into jeans and a sweatshirt to meet Darden and work on the case. One night, about 10 p.m., she joined Darden and Dr. Donald Dutton, an expert on domestic violence, at the bar of the Hotel Inter-Continental, one of the prosecutors' favorite haunts. She playfully kissed Darden on the cheek when she arrived, sank into an overstuffed sofa and ordered a Scotch on the rocks. Darden asked for a beer. A half-hour of jokes and pleasantries followed. And then came work. Clark pulled out her white legal pad. "O.K., let's go," she said. She drilled questions into Dutton, trying to understand Simpson's mind, his anger, his jealousy. Why did Nicole stay? Why would she smile when she didn't mean to? What might have prevented Nicole from screaming just before her throat was slit? The session went on past 1 a.m.

Clark's intensity was matched only by her mental agility. Once, while interrogating Kato Kaelin behind closed doors, Clark was suddenly interrupted by the phone. It was her children's nanny, who speaks only Spanish. Clark's tone completely changed as she began speaking fluent Spanish, giving child-care instructions. Says a clerk, Tracy Miller: "I couldn't believe how quickly she could just switch gears. And I didn't even know she could speak Spanish." A short time later, another prosecutor was set to interview an Israeli housekeeper who worked for Simpson's neighbors. The woman spoke little English. Says Miller: "Here comes Marcia into the room. She sits down and starts speaking fluent Hebrew with this woman. I thought, O.K., so what is it this woman doesn't do?"

H-E-R-E'S JOHNNIE!

"HE STARTED CALLING ME AT HOME," Johnnie Cochran says, explaining how Simpson began courting him a couple of days after his arrest. The accused murderer had until then been served by Robert Shapiro. "I still have the taped messages, and someday I might whip them out. His whole thing was, he wanted to get out and get this over with by Halloween so he could go trick-or-treating with his kids." Cochran says he postponed getting involved until he saw how the preliminary hearing went, but that Simpson kept calling him. "O.J. would call me at night and he'd say, 'Look, I want you in court with me.' I was put on the team by O.J. Simpson, not Bob Shapiro." Indeed, says Cochran, Shapiro tried to "lowball" him. At a meeting at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club, Cochran says he asked about fees before joining the team. "Well, you know there's only so much money," Shapiro replied, according to Cochran. "I listened to him up to a point, and later on I discovered that what he carved out for himself was a lot bigger than for the rest of us." Shapiro doesn't deny trying to limit Cochran's fee. "That's true. But I wouldn't say lowballing. I was given a budget ... I was trying to hire people for the best possible fee." Cochran came on board in July.

Still, Cochran says he was confronted by a morass of disorganization. "I mean, like we were team players, but we knew it was going to be real tough," he says. "Ultimately, O.J. had to make a decision about who was going to run this thing." Cochran places the blame for the defense's failure to turn over key materials to the prosecution early in the discovery process squarely on Shapiro's shoulders. "O.J. saw this and he was smart. He stepped in and said, 'I want Johnnie to be in charge.'"

In August 1994, before Cochran's ascension, Simpson's lawyers discussed a plea bargain for manslaughter. The talks took place in Shapiro's Century City law offices. Cochran mainly listened, neither advocating nor dismissing the idea of a plea. However, says one source, Shapiro and F. Lee Bailey, the legendary trial lawyer brought on by Shapiro, were willing to entertain the idea, though they spent last week accusing each other of initiating the talks. People also reported last week--though Kardashian denies it--that Kardashian was prepared to accept a charge of accessory to murder if Simpson pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Although the plea bargain was never formally presented to the district attorney's office, it was mentioned, carefully and informally, to one of the lead prosecutors. That prosecutor told Shapiro the district attorney would never agree.

In the ensuing months, Shapiro would be further eclipsed by Bailey. Simpson seemed to think Bailey had the same kind of star power he believed himself to possess. Soon, says a source, "O.J. started saying, 'I want Bailey to do this, I want Bailey to do that.' " At Christmastime last year, the Bailey and Shapiro factions of the camp openly quarreled over who was leaking information to the press. Last week Shapiro said he would never again work with Cochran or speak to Bailey. Bailey responded by calling Shapiro "a sick little puppy." (For his part, Bailey was never a constant O.J. favorite; for example, the defendant was furious after Bailey got silly during testimony related to the bloody Bruno Magli shoeprints. Says one source: "They were in love, out of love, back in love.")

As Simpson's designated team leader, Cochran swiftly set up a war room in his Wilshire Boulevard offices. The lawyers worked nights, weekends and holidays. Says Kardashian: "I got to hand it to Johnnie. When we were working, we always had a meal. We would work Saturdays, Sundays and nights. It was Mexican food with the platters laid out, or Chinese food or Italian food. We had great spreads! Ribs. We all gained weight."

NOT READY TO RUMBLE

HARVEY GISS SAW MARCIA CLARK RISE through the ranks as a district attorney and considers her something of a protage. But back in July 1994, less than three weeks after the double murder, the veteran prosecutor was already saying her case was as good as lost. For two reasons: one, O.J. Simpson was an American hero and thus "an unconvictable defendant." Second, "they've filed this case downtown, which means they're going to get a downtown jury. A black jury will not convict this defendant. Forget it. It's all over." Says Cochran: "I know the downtown jury panel. So I felt that one of the first big breaks was obviously the case coming downtown."

The prosecution team decided to reject professional help in selecting the jury. "I brought into the case the best jury consultant in America, the father of the art of jury selection, Donald Vinson," says San Francisco litigator John Martel, a prosecution adviser. "And on the first day of the trial, Dr. Vinson was asked to leave the courtroom because the prosecutors were concerned that the public might feel that the jury or the jury system was being manipulated if they were using a jury consultant." "Meanwhile," Martel continues, "Jo-Ellan Dimitrius was literally steering the ship at that point for the defense--and you saw the jury that resulted."

Even without his jury consultant Dimitrius, Cochran would have relished jury selection. "When the prosecutors kicked off 10 of the first 11 jurors, the [peremptory challenges] they used were against blacks. But every time they would do it, we would get other blacks. We had 18 [prospective] jurors in view. So I knew when they kicked one off, I could see who the next one was coming, and the next one after that. So I'll tell you quite frankly, when we got to the point where I had eight black jurors, and the alternates were so good also, I knew at the time we would at least have a diverse jury."

Repeatedly, says Martel, the prosecutors were limited by, of all things, their "high ethical standards" and what appeared to them a tremendous circumstantial case. "When I would suggest they should perhaps be preparing their witnesses very carefully, they would say, 'We don't want to be telling witnesses what to say,' " he recalls. "They were playing cricket in an alley fight." Cochran agrees: "See, they had convinced themselves they had this slam-dunk case. They really believed that. But every day things would go wrong for them."

THE JUDGE

MARCIA CLARK DISLIKES JUDGE LANCE Ito. She felt she had to pretend to play a deferential, submissive female role with him. According to one source, the judge bears no fondness for Clark either. But he was also a goad to the defense lawyers, who had to trek into Ito's chambers to see to what they called his "petty needs." Says defense attorney Peter Neufeld: "I was very disappointed with Judge Ito, the fact that he was so concerned with his status as a celebrity, his willingness to entertain personalities in chambers, to show the lawyers little videotapes of skits on television." One day, says Neufeld, Ito brought all the lawyers into chambers to show them a clip of the "Dancing Itos" from Jay Leno's Tonight Show. "He had thought it was great and loved it and wanted all of us to see it in chambers. You may find that amusing on a personal level, but I can assure you that on a professional level it is so unacceptable, for a judge who is presiding over a murder where two people lost their lives in the most gruesome and horrible fashion, and where a third person has his life on the line, to bring the lawyers into chambers to show them comic revues." Ito even told the lawyers Simpson jokes that he had heard. Says Neufeld: "As someone who has tried cases for 20 years, I found it deplorable, and I was shocked."

WHO OWNS YOU, BABY?

"JOHNNIE COCHRAN MAY BE THE QUARTERback, and Bob Shapiro is a running back, but O.J. Simpson is the team owner," Alan Dershowitz, a defense consultant, told TIME last spring. Says Cochran: "If we were taking a break for 15 minutes, we would spend the whole break talking to O.J. I mean, he knows the facts and certain things he wanted me to say."

And if the trial was not going his way, Simpson went into action. Simpson was particularly alarmed in February when his friend Ron Shipp, a former cop, took the stand for the prosecution. Shipp testified that he had taken L.A.P.D. classes on domestic violence and had sat down with O.J. and Nicole--at Nicole's request--to warn O.J. that he fit the pattern of an abuser. Worse, Shipp told the court he had been with Simpson the night he returned from Chicago and had listened as his friend described dreaming of killing Nicole. On cross-examination, Cochran's associate Carl Douglas attempted to bully Shipp into submission, bringing up his history of alcoholism and suggesting he was merely one of O.J.'s hangers--on rather than a friend.

To many observers this tactic backfired, making Shipp more sympathetic, rather than less credible. Simpson was furious. From jail, he organized a telephone conference with the Dream Team and announced, "I'll decide who the running backs are in this game!" Says writer-producer Larry Schiller, who co-wrote Simpson's most recent book, I Want to Tell You: "The Shipp thing brought a sense of immediacy to the trial for O.J. The trial was like the Gaudí mosaic in Barcelona. That was the day O.J. truly understood that any little stone out of place could cause him to spend the rest of his life in jail." Douglas, though he remained crucial to the defense organization, never again cross-examined a major witness. And Simpson became more and more like a lawyer himself.

The testimony by neighborhood housekeeper Rosa Lopez was another low point for Simpson. A tape was played that made it appear she had been aggressively coached by Shapiro's investigative consultant, Bill Pavelic. Simpson demanded an emergency meeting with his entire team. The lockup facility off the courtroom was not big enough, so Ito gave the lawyers special permission to use his emptied courtroom. By this time Simpson had changed out of his suit and back into prison garb. He was angry. "It was like a football coach of a losing team at half time just reaming everybody out," says a participant. "He kicked ass like a football coach does. It was really surreal because he had to bawl everybody out in his handcuffs."

Simpson could also work the nuances. though. At one point, Peter Neufeld had to argue that it was inappropriate for a defense expert to be questioned about past LSD use. Neufeld told Simpson he was thinking of comparing it to attacking Albert Einstein's theory of relativity on the grounds of his socialist views. Says Neufeld: "O.J. turned to me and, without batting an eyelash, said, 'Bad example. More on point, what about criticizing Sigmund Freud's views on psychoanalysis because he used cocaine?' "

RACE MATTERS

SINCE FEBRUARY, CLARK HAD BEEN SEEKING advice in handling race--and the racism of Mark Fuhrman--from Melanie Lomax, a prominent black attorney who is currently L.A.P.D. chief Willie Williams' lawyer. Lomax would discuss the issue with Clark during late-night phone calls. "Marcia was trying to get a handle on how the race card was being played on the jury. She was always asking what the jury was buying. She was eager to hear any idea, and she was consumed with trying to read the jury." Lomax said Clark would have no credibility with the jury if she were to handle any of the race issues. Darden would have to address the matter in court.

"Chris was very angry," says a person familiar with the consultations. "Part of his rage is that he was dealt a bad hand. Both he and Marcia were focused on trying to neutralize the Fuhrman issue. They didn't know the depth or detail of Fuhrman's racism. They finally decided they had to call him as a witness. If they didn't, the defense would."

Cochran claims he did nothing manipulative during his famous exchange over the "N word" with Darden, who insisted that the word as uttered by Fuhrman on tape was too incendiary to be heard by the mostly black jury. "First of all, I had told Darden not to take Fuhrman," Cochran recalls. "But I was really disappointed with him. He came into the judge's chamber with a copy of Andrew Hacker's book, Two Nations. He gives Ito one of these things. I can't believe he's doing this. And basically, he's saying, if you allow these jurors to hear the word it's the most vile word in the dictionary; it'll turn this trial into whether these jurors believe that the brothers on the street think 'the man' is getting a fair trial. My first reaction was to say to Darden, 'Nigger, please...'" (The phrase is used by some blacks to silence other blacks talking nonsense.) "I was so furious with him. I felt it was an insult to all black people." Cochran argued passionately to Ito that the jurors could hear the word and remain impartial. "When I got up and spoke, that was not scripted. That was just from my heart."

Still, Cochran acknowledges that this was a turning point in the case. "If you look back," he says, "people at that time understood this is gonna be a war. When it came to issues of race it was not gonna be any patty-cake." The war would climax over the Fuhrman tapes, a pyrrhic victory for the prosecution. Says defense lawyer and Santa Clara University law-school dean Gerald Uelmen: "When I think of how close we came to not having those tapes, it sends shivers down my spine."

Chris Darden was devastated on the day a portion of the tapes was played for the jury. After court he sat in his office more despondent than anyone had ever seen him. Though he appears to be something of a loner, in fact Darden likes to be surrounded by people. During the trial his clerks often took him out for a beer or would just sit in his office with him, saying nothing. The day the jury heard Fuhrman use the word nigger, deputy district attorney Alan Yochelson said, "Hey, Chris. Let's get outta here. Let's go work out." But at the Los Angeles Athletic Club Darden could barely concentrate on exercise. He sat on a bench in front of his locker, put his head down and kept saying, "I can't believe this. I can't believe this." Says Yochelson: "It was very painful for Chris, because he recognized that he was being forced to vouch for someone who was repugnant in his community."

IF THE GLOVE FITS

DARDEN WANTED HIS FACE-OFF WITH Cochran. And he got it. "I know Chris is a mano-a-mano guy," says Cochran. "He likes to one-up you. He likes to put it away. He likes to be real tough in trial and really impressive." Cochran says. During a break in testimony about Simpson's purchase of the leather gloves from Bloomingdale's, Shapiro and Cochran decided to try the gloves on for themselves. "They felt small to me," Cochran says, "and we both told [Simpson], 'They're going to ask you to put the gloves on.'" It was the kind of dramatic touch Darden liked. Says Cochran: "Sure enough, just like we said, Darden said, 'Your honor, we'd like to have a little demonstration.'"

Darden had been told by his supervisors not to make a show of the gloves, but impetuously he went ahead. Darden's bosses sat upstairs watching television in disbelief. If Darden hadn't asked Simpson to try on the gloves, would Cochran have? "I don't know," Cochran says now. "I don't like to ask questions or do things when I don't know what the answers are going to be. Darden forgot that. That's something he is going to have to learn." Hodgman offers this assessment: "If we had to do it over again, we would do the glove demonstration differently."

TO SPEAK OR NOT TO SPEAK

BY ALL ACCOUNTS, SIMPSON WAS EAGER TO speak in his own defense. Says one defense source: "Bailey was the only member of the team who kept arguing that O.J. should take the stand. That's one reason O.J. liked him. He wanted to take the stand. Bailey kept saying, 'You've got great charisma. You'll blow them away.'" Cochran says he put his client through mock cross-examinations, and that he was "a very compelling witness." In the end, though, Cochran acknowledges, "We were just concerned about all these things we had kept out. I mean there were doors we had kept closed about alleged domestic violence stuff...lots of [other] stupid stuff that they never proved."

EVIDENCE

THE PROSECUTION HAD PROBLEMS. Some incongruities were never straightened out in the 16 months of investigation and trial. Why wasn't there more blood in the Bronco? How did Simpson, if he committed the murders, manage to get rid of the clothes and weapon so fast? All that might be explained if Simpson had had an accomplice. Both the cops and the D.A.s were convinced, and still are, that Simpson, though he committed the murders himself, had some assistance. Soon after the crimes, a member of the prosecution team told TIME: "There was a clean-up. He had help." In the weeks following the murders, the cops placed a tail on Simpson's son Jason and followed him around town. Two female detectives rented a house across from where O.J. Simpson's friend A.C. Cowlings was staying and also followed him. However, prosecutors never gathered enough evidence to prove Simpson had help.

The defense, however, could count on the cool expertise of forensics experts Baden and Lee. Says Cochran: "One talked about the length of the time of the struggle, the other talked about the crime scene. The prosecution had nobody who could match them. Juror No. 6 said Henry Lee was the most impressive witness in the trial."

WORDS TO JUDGE BY

MARCIA CLARK HAD DECIDED WAY BACK in June 1994 how she wanted to conclude this case. The trial, she always knew, would have to end with the voice of Nicole Brown's terrified voice on tape pleading for police help. Chris Darden stayed up until 4:30 in the morning writing his closing argument. What the jurors never heard was a line he considered in an early draft about Cochran and the role of racism in the trial: how the right of free speech does not include the right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is no fire.

To the end, however, Cochran found himself annoyed with Darden. After the prosecution rested its case, according to Cochran, Darden said, "Now Johnnie, you're in trouble. It's time to put up or shut up." That was too much for Cochran. "Man, you know, that was an invitation. That was not wise. I took umbrage at that."

In his closing arguments, Cochran's most effective pitch played off the Darden glove gambit, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." The rhythm might be that of a black Baptist preacher, but the inspiration came from Uelmen. "I first suggested [the phrase] after the glove experiment," he recalls. "But what I was really proposing was that it would provide a good theme for the whole argument, because so much of the other circumstantial evidence didn't fit into the prosecution's scenario." The slogan--and the idea behind it--proved pivotal. "I was really heartened by what I've heard from jurors so far that they really understood what proving beyond a reasonable doubt was all about," says Uelmen.

MONDAY JITTERS

ON THE EVE OF THE VERDICT, MARCIA Clark was tense. Says Lomax: "She seemed resigned. She wanted to talk about what if any good was going to come of all this, what reform of the system might happen." Cochran was in San Francisco on Monday afternoon when he learned that the jury had reached a verdict and would deliver it the next day. By 5:45 p.m. he was at the San Francisco airport, where a small group of well-wishers surrounded him at Gate 78. "I think it's going to be all right," he said quietly, flashing a smile. "But we'll see." But as he boarded the plane, a crack showed in his mask of confidence. "It's in God's hands," he said resignedly.

He spent most of the flight sipping a cola, reading, and being videotaped by a passenger. He stepped off the plane at LAX into a mob of flashing lights and anxious reporters: Did the quick verdict favor the prosecution? one asked. "Not necessarily," Cochran replied. Was he surprised at the brevity of the deliberations? "Yes," he said. "I am surprised." Then he added that he had confidence in the jurors. "This," said Cochran, "has been a very good jury." He shook off the crowd and, flanked by several airport policemen and two bodyguards, at least one of them with the shaved head, suit and bow tie of a member of the Nation of Islam, ducked into a waiting black limousine, its windows darkened against the lights of Los Angeles.

IN THE D.A.'S OFFICE

THE MORNING OF THE VERDICT, THE people who worked on the 18th floor of the Los Angeles Criminal Courts building moved in a blurred slow motion. If they spoke at all, the prosecutors at the district attorney's office did so quietly and only of matter-of-fact things like their morning cup of coffee, not about the impending decision. L.A. County sheriffs posted extra security staffers on the inside of the locked doors of the D.A.'s office. The Goldman family huddled in the prosecutors' sanctum sanctorum, a drab room occupied mostly by cubicles and shelves lined with material from the trial--hundreds of videotapes and black three-ring binders bearing such labels as DIVORCE RECORDS and FOOTPRINTS. Fred Goldman, Ron's father, chewed on a bagel as his daughter Kim explained that she felt O.K., actually hopeful, even amid the tension. She might even be ready, she confided, to marry her longtime boyfriend Ricardo.

As 10 a.m. approached, the Goldmans went downstairs to take their places in the courtroom. Upstairs about 40 people crowded around the single television, some sitting on the floor, some on tables, a few in chairs. Plainclothes L.A.P.D. officers mingled with young clerks for whom The People v. Orenthal James Simpson was the first exposure to the practice of law. In the room too was an assembly of friends of the prosecution, including Ron Shipp, and Nicole's friend Candace Garvey. Also present were Garvey's famous husband Steve, the retired baseball player, and Olympian Bruce Jenner and his wife Kris, who was at one time married to Robert Kardashian. While the court clerk read the verdict, Shipp closed his eyes and gripped a friend's hand.

As the words "not guilty" sounded, as an uncertain smile flickered across Simpson's face, the watchers were frozen--until Marcia Clark's assistant Patti Jo Fairbanks leapt from her chair. "Oh, God, I gotta get the families up here," she cried. Her sudden movement set the others talking or crying like a lot of windup toys. Bruce Jenner stared at the screen, muttering, "You got away with murder, you got away with murder" over and over. Deputy district attorney Yochelson blocked the television, saying to the group, "I want to tell all of you that we did the best we could. I am sorry. But I need to ask you all to please try and stay calm." Two young African-American D.A. assistants shook their heads. One of them wept quietly. "He never did anything for our community," she said. The D.A.'s office worried about the emotional Darden, and several people from work spent the night with him.

FREE AT LAST

BRENDA MORAN HAD SERVED ON FIVE JURIES before being picked as Juror No. 7 in the Simpson case. On two of them, her panels had found men--one of them black--guilty of murder. Moran does not take kindly to the criticism that her sixth jury was predisposed to acquitting a black man. "If we had come back with a guilty verdict in two hours, would you be seeing all of this clamor?" she asks. "I doubt it."

But it had been an ordeal. "A lot of us put on weight," says Moran, 45, a computer technician. "I grew depressed and cried a lot and had headaches. I sacrificed a relationship. It ended because I didn't want to worry about him out there any more. The financial hardships were bad. Some jurors ended up borrowing from each other. There were expenses on the weekend outings that we had to pick up ourselves." And there had been some racial tension among the jurors in the beginning. "The whites and the Mexican would sit at one table for meals, the rest of us at another. Then one day Gina Rosborough, Juror No. 10, and I just went and sat down at their table and started talking, and that's how we got to know them. The problem seemed to go away. It was kind of forced integration."

The last night of sequestration--after the verdict had been reached--was spent in high spirits in the spectacular $1,200-a-night Presidential Suite on the 17th floor of the Hotel Inter-Continental. The jurors laughed, schmoozed and sang together as a pianist performed jazzy sing-along tunes on the suite's baby grand. Said hotel general manager Lewis Fader, who was at the party: "They were like a fraternity. They seemed so close to each other. There was a lot of hugging and kissing." A juror went back and forth drinking beer, wine, beer, wine, said one hotel staffer. "I'm sure a few of them had hangovers the next day."

The jurors had had smaller parties before. In May, Gary Nelson, an actor-comedian from San Francisco, performed for them. Says he: "One of the ladies made a comment that they were planning a party after the trial, some kind of get-together with all the jurors, and they wanted me to come and entertain. So I said, 'Sure, but can I bring a guest?' And she said, 'We're going to bring O.J. Don't you think the man needs a good party after all this?' I was pretty shocked."

Moran has good feelings about Simpson. "I felt like he was a close neighbor. If I saw him out on the street in trouble, I would help him." She does admit that the "prosecutors had their high points. I sort of fell for [Nicole's] 911 tape and some of the DNA testimony." She says, however, that "they dwelled so much on the beating case. They might have won me if they had hit it and then got off it. But the prosecution seemed to make that its foundation." The prosecution's weakest link was Vannatter. "He was my biggest doubt. Him carrying that vial of [Simpson's] blood around for hours. There was an opportunity to sprinkle it here or there."

"She sounded like my closing remarks!" says Cochran. "And we had been worried about her the whole time! The first time we thought we would be successful with her was when she started crying during my closing argument and went out and came back in, eyes all red, and the clerk later told me that she had said, 'It just welled up in me after all these months.' I thought, this may be pretty good."

Moran won't take more criticism. "Did the judge pick the world to hear this case? Because if he did, then somebody owes me a lot of money for doing their work. All the dollars in the world aren't worth my sanity." She is putting her diary and notes together for a book. And there is good news. "My boss feels sorry for me, and so he is giving me a month off."

THE HOMECOMING

BY 11 A.M. ON OCT. 3, O.J. SIMPSON WAS home, back at 360 North Rockingham, the mansion whose gates, landscaping and layout Americans have come to know so well. One of the first things the former football star saw was the silver-haired L.A. district attorney Gil Garcetti on TV, announcing that he had no plans to look for other killers. "Garcetti!" Simpson said aloud. "He wouldn't even give me that! Why doesn't that guy give me something--just say he'll look into it?" Simpson then retreated into his bedroom, sitting down on the edge of his huge bed and gazing at the space he hadn't seen in 474 days.

Simpson made some calls. He tried to reach "those guys from Brooklyn"--defense attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld--who spent their first night of freedom enjoying another win: watching the Yankees beat the Seattle Mariners. He telephoned his former in-laws, the Browns, and made the case, yet again, for his innocence. When Simpson's mother Eunice settled into a chair, a friend said, "he just sat down beside her and looked into her eyes. No words."

As longtime friends, including personal assistant Cathy Randa and business attorney Skip Taft, streamed into the house, a party started up. Someone sat down at the piano, and soon everyone was singing gospel songs. One favorite that both Cochran and Simpson sang was Amazing Grace, its lyrics filled with poignancy.

Amazing grace- How sweet the sound-- That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see ...