OJ to pay extra $25m damages

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Loading OJ Simpson with a staggering mountain of personal debt, the jury in his civil trial awarded $25m (pounds 15m) in punitive damages against him yesterday, in addition to the $8.5m in compensatory damages awarded last week.

Mr Simpson, once one of America's most popular athletes, with a telegenic charm that won him acting roles in the Naked Gun comedy films, faces a lifetime in financial shackles. He was not in court.

Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were murdered at Mrs Simpson's home on 12 June 1994. The punitive award was split equally between their families, $12.5m to each. Complicating matters, the award to Mrs Simpson's estate will be held in trust for her children, Sydney, 11, and Justin, eight, who now live with their father under a judge's custody order. The issue will be how to penalise Mr Simpson without destroying the children's way of life. As their guardian, he would typically have a say in how to spend the money.

The mostly white jurors heard two days of evidence on Mr Simpson's finances after last week finding him liable for the double killings.

His assets run to about $8m, about half in pension funds and a little less in his West Los Angeles estate, where he still employs a maid, bodyguard, gardener, pool man, and secretary, and runs a Bentley. On that basis, the jury's first award alone was enough to bankrupt him.

But the hearing saw lawyers argue over the value of his personality and fame. Mark Roesler, an expert called by the Goldman family, claimed Mr Simpson had collected nearly $3m capitalising on publicity surrounding the murders, including a book deal and selling autographs. He stood to earn perhaps $25m. Judge Fujisaki's gagging order on all involved is now lifted and Mr Simpson faces a deluge of interviews with the victorious families.