Jurors took only 90 minutes to clear O.J. Simpson of road-rage charges after hinting they would have liked to have heard from two absent witnesses: his kids.
The former football star and actor was acquitted on Wednesday of grabbing another man's glasses – and scratching the man's face in the process – during an argument on a suburban Miami road. He had been charged with auto burglary and battery.
On his way out of court, juror Ernesto Diaz said the panel decided there wasn't enough evidence to prove that Simpson reached into Jeffrey Pattinson's car and scratched his left temple, as the prosecution claimed.
"I'm a little bit angry and a little bit happy – a lot happy," Simpson said as he left the courthouse. He nodded to jurors while saying "thank you" in court.
Diaz said prosecutors should have called Simpson's teenage children, Sydney, 16, and Justin, 12, to testify during the trial. They were the only witnesses other than the two drivers.
An hour into the jury's deliberations, the foreman sent a note asking, "Is it legal for the state or defense to call the minors in Mr. Simpson's vehicle at the time of the incident to the witness stand?" The judge responded simply, "Yes."
Simpson's thumbprint was on the man's eyeglasses, but jurors noted there wasn't any physical evidence indicating that Simpson was at the other driver's door.
Simpson offered no explanation for the scratch on Pattinson's face but explained his thumbprint on the glasses by saying it must have happened when he brushed them away as he broke off the 30–second, profanity-laced confrontation.
Simpson and Pattinson offered contrasting versions of events, but the children were barely mentioned in three days of testimony.
Defense attorney Yale Galanter felt the celebrity's role in a minor traffic altercation was blown out of proportion.
"The evidence early on really did not support the case," he said. "This case was argued like it was a death penalty case, and it wasn't even close to that."
Simpson's decision to go to trial rather than negotiate a plea bargain "worked out for him," said prosecutor Abbe Rifkin. She interpreted the verdict to mean simply that the charges weren't proved beyond a reasonable doubt, not that Simpson was innocent.
Pattinson was not in the courtroom. He did not return a telephone message and has not spoken to reporters since the encounter last December.
Pattinson testified that Simpson ran a stop sign and stopped after Pattinson honked his horn and flashed his headlights. Pattinson said he stayed in his locked vehicle as a shouting Simpson stormed at him. He said he asked Simpson if he was "a madman or something."
Simpson said the men traded profanity outside their sport utility vehicles after he stopped because Pattinson was "sitting on his horn." He said Pattinson lied about staying in his car.
Rifkin asked on Tuesday whether Simpson would ever lie, "especially if your life depended on it." Simpson responded, "I've never been put in that position to have to lie with my life on the line."
Prospective jurors had been questioned about Simpson's celebrity status and his high-profile murder trial before the panel of four men and two women was seated.
Simpson was cleared of criminal charges in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, but a civil jury later ordered him to pay $33.5 million for their deaths.Reuse content