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Simpson Civil Trial Explainer

A primer on the case


O.J. Simpson faces another trial in the 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. This time it's not his freedom but his bank account at stake as the families of the victims seek financial damages to compensate for the loss of their loved ones.

Simpson was acquitted of murder charges on October 3 and cannot be tried for the murders again in a criminal court. In the civil trial as in the murder trial, the plaintiff will be trying to prove Simpson murdered his ex-wife and her friend, with several key differences.

The Rules:

First, the standard of proof is lower. In a civil trial, the plaintiff -- in this case the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman -- must prove Simpson committed the murders by a "preponderance of the evidence," meaning the jury may decide for the plaintiffs if they determine that there is at least a 50.1 percent probability that Simpson is responsible.

In the murder trial, the state had to prove Simpson committed the murders "beyond a reasonable doubt," meaning that jurors had to be all but positive Simpson committed the murders to convict him. This time, jurors need not come to a unanimous decision, and only nine of the 12 jurors need to agree for a verdict to be reached.

Brown Goldman family

Second, Simpson can be required to testify during the civil trial. In the murder trial Simpson was not required to take the stand and the jurors were not allowed to hold his decision to remain silent against him.

In the civil case Simpson will be compelled to testify if called to the stand or forfeit the case. He has already given attorneys 10 days worth of testimony in depositions that can be used at trial.

If the jury finds for the plaintiffs, Simpson will have to pay unspecified damages for the wrongful deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. A verdict for either side would be a moral victory. For Simpson it would add weight to his acquittal last year. For the families, it would be a counterbalance to the acquittal. Fred Goldman, the outspoken father of Ron, has called the civil suit his son's "last opportunity for justice."

Media Coverage

media grfk

The murder trial was broadcast live by several news networks including CNN. While some viewers were disgusted by the constant media attention, others were fascinated, becoming armchair experts on the case. Simpson civil trial-o-philes will have to look elsewhere to keep up with this case. While reporters will be allowed in the courtroom, cameras, audio recorders and sketch artists will be barred. Except for a few reserved seats, the public will not witness the trial for itself.

The Players

Simpson, the families of the victims and some of the witnesses from the murder trial will be back in court, but there will be no Judge Ito, Johnny Cochran or Marcia Clark this time around. The judge, lawyers and jury are all new.


The Judge: Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki is no Judge Lance Ito. Early on, the no-nonsense judge sent signals to the lawyers on both sides he will not tolerate any courtroom shenanigans of the likes that made the Simpson murder trial a eight-month-long affair.

The Plaintiffs: Nicole Brown Simpson's father is represented by John Kelley; Sharon Rufo, Ron Goldman's mother will be represented by attorney Michael Brewer, and Daniel Petrocelli will represent Ron Goldman's father, Fred Goldman.

The Defense: Civil attorney Robert Baker will lead the team representing O.J. Simpson.

The Witnesses: Jurors may hear from several of the witnesses who testified during Simpson's murder trial, including Simpson's house guest Kato Kaelin, Nicole Brown Simpson's friend Faye Resnick and former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman.


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