O.J. Simpson acknowledged Wednesday in a surprise telephone call to a television talk show that he was the "shadowy figure" that limousine driver Allan Park saw outside his home the night Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman were killed.
In the call to CNN's "Larry King Live," Simpson also criticized prosecutors, television commentators and legal analysts for promoting "misconceptions" about trial testimony.
The comments came after the defendant-turned-private-citizen earlier in the day had ducked reporters outside his home, seen his young children for the first time in more than a year and consulted with his representatives about making a pay-per-view television appearance.
In his brief conversation with King, Simpson said he was the one Park saw but denied a caller's contention that Park had testified that the figure he saw outside the Rockingham Avenue house was coming down or crossing the driveway.
"Allan Park said 15 feet roughly from my front door," Simpson said, adding that such a distance would place him almost directly in front of his house. Simpson said he was "walking out my front door, dropping my bags and going back in. Fifteen feet. Never on the driveway. Never coming down the driveway. That is the testimony."
He did not explain why he did not respond to Park's repeated buzzer rings after the driver arrived at his home to take him to the airport for a trip to Chicago, but said he would "hopefully answer everyone's questions" at a later time.
Simpson told King that Deputy Dist. Attys. Marcia Clark and Christopher A. Darden distorted Park's testimony, and he blamed legal analysts for perpetuating those distortions.
"Fortunately for me," he said, "the jury listened to what the witnesses said and not Marcia Clark's or Darden's or anyone else's rendition of what was said."
He added that he had often "heard experts say that was the testimony today, and it wasn't the testimony today. So many times I went back to my cell and watched TV. I [would] go to my attorney room and I [would] talk to my attorneys, some witnesses, and we [would] say, 'Were these experts looking at the same . . . hearing, or were they in the same courtroom that we were in today?' "
When King asked him whether he was experiencing anger or relief after his acquittal Tuesday, Simpson said his emotions were running the gamut.
"My basic anger," he said "is these misconceptions."
Asked about how his children were doing, Simpson said, "They've been great."
Prosecutors Reflect on Loss
Simpson's call came on his first full day of freedom, one in which the case continued to unfold throughout Los Angeles. Jurors emerged to defend their verdicts, defense lawyers rallied to defend Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. against criticism from Robert L. Shapiro, and prosecutors, in their first interviews since the verdicts, reflected on how their "mountain of evidence" failed to convince even one panelist that Simpson was guilty of the murders.
"We still feel that the evidence was overwhelming and compelling," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Brian Kelberg, who handled the forensic evidence for the prosecution. "It's difficult to understand how a jury that heard nine months of testimony can reach conclusions in three hours and still have done the kind of deliberative process that we look to with juries before they reach decisions."
Deputy Dist. Atty. William Hodgman, who managed the case, said he too believed that the evidence was overwhelming and that it should have been enough to persuade the jury.
"To deliberate," he said, "means to discuss meaningfully. When the jury instructions direct the jury not to come into deliberations with preconceived notions, you would think that with a case that took this long and with this type of evidence, that deliberations would have gone longer."
Hodgman acknowledged that prosecutors never should have asked Simpson to try on the bloody gloves.
"In hindsight we wouldn't have proceeded with the glove demonstration," he said. "Ultimately, that was not carried out in a manner we preferred."
But Hodgman defended the prosecution's decisions to call Detective Mark Fuhrman to the stand and to keep from the jury testimony about the day Simpson took to the freeways rather than surrender to police.
"What you had was a mixed bag," Hodgman said of the circumstances surrounding the pursuit, which ended with Simpson's arrest and the seizure of nearly $10,000 and his passport in the car.
"You had evidence that was very self-serving for the defense and there was evidence that could have been interpreted as having some incriminatory value," he said. Pressed about what the favorable evidence was, Hodgman said it was "simply self-serving statements" Simpson made to his friends and his mother.
Some critics also have accused the district attorney of making a tactical error by filing charges against Simpson in the Downtown court instead of in Santa Monica, where, almost certainly, a jury of different demographics would have considered the evidence. Kelberg dismissed that criticism as uninformed.
"This is a long-cause case," Kelberg said. "The security involved with that--the fact that this building has had about a million dollars worth of special precautions and so forth provided for cases just like this--demands that this case gets sent Downtown even if you file it in Santa Monica."
As the prosectors spoke, the media frenzy that had engulfed the courthouse the day before was disappearing.
The exodus from the media center in the Criminal Courts Building signaled the end of a trial that has gripped the city for more than a year. Journalists who have worked side by side since the summer of 1994 snapped pictures of each other, traded business cards and planned a farewell bash.
By afternoon, the media center was all but deserted. Outside, the previous day's cheering crowds were gone; only a few strands of Police Department yellow tape remained.
Even the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito, where one of the most closely watched criminal trials of modern times unfolded for the past 15 months, was dark. The judge and his staff took a long overdue day off, and Ito declined more than 100 requests for interviews or appearances.
"Judge Ito is precluded by the California Code of Judicial Conduct from being able to grant any such requests," a statement released by the court said.
When he returns to work, Ito will find a renewed request from the American Civil Liberties Union seeking "immediate, public release of the full tapes and transcripts best known as the 'Fuhrman tapes.' " The ACLU has previously requested that material, arguing that the intense public debate over Fuhrman's interviews with an aspiring screenwriter warranted public dissemination of the material. The screenwriter's lawyers have fought that request.
The unexpectedly swift conclusion of the proceedings ended the trial itself, but its fallout continued to ripple through the community and the ranks of defense lawyers.
Nowhere was that more evident than among the members of Simpson's legal team, which has been at odds since last fall, when Cochran was brought into the case and quickly supplanted Shapiro as the team's central player. Shapiro, who once had promised that race would not be an issue in the case, lashed out at his former colleague, accusing him of recklessly exploiting race in an effort to win Simpson's acquittal.
Not only had the defense played the so-called "race card," Shapiro charged in an interview with ABC News, but "we dealt it from the bottom of the deck."
Cochran dismissed Shapiro's comments as sad evidence of Shapiro's wounded ego.
"I feel sorry for him," Cochran said in an interview with The Times. "I think he's made a serious mistake."
Other members of the defense rallied around Cochran. Gerald Uelmen, for instance, said he believed Shapiro would regret his comments and added that he endorsed Cochran's approach wholeheartedly.
Similarly, Carl E. Douglas, an associate of Cochran and another key member of the defense team, said Shapiro's remarks were ill-advised and poorly timed.
"For anyone to do anything that detracts from the client or the success of this team is unfortunate," said Douglas. "I think he's just wrong."
While the defense attorneys wrestled with the final rift in their long-tenuous alliance, jurors began making the media rounds. Lionel (Lon) Cryer was the first panelist to surface publicly and discuss the jury's work in an interview Tuesday with The Times.
But he was followed Wednesday by others, some of them emerging to defend their verdicts against criticism that it was based on emotion or race, as opposed to the evidence presented in court.
Brenda Moran appeared at a Beverly Hills news conference, and Gina Rhodes Rossborough appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show. Both said the prosecution had simply failed to persuade them, though they cited a variety of specifics for their verdicts.
Both vehemently denied that race entered their discussions.
"I feel in my heart," said Rossborough, "that he did not commit this crime."
Simpson in Seclusion
At Simpson's Brentwood home, the former football star spent the day resting and resisting efforts to draw him into addressing the media gathered outside. Unbeknown to the reporters until later, however, Simpson met with his young children for the first time since his arrest, Cochran said.
Family members and friends came and went from the estate all day, some waving to the media. Shirley Baker, Simpson's sister and a familiar face to the press corps covering the trial, signaled in response to a shouted question that her brother was doing well.
Early in the day, rumors had circulated that Simpson would speak to the media outside the house. But an unidentified spokesman addressed reporters an hour or so later to deny those reports.
Behind the scenes, sources close to Simpson said he and his representatives were trying to negotiate a deal for him to grant his first full interview about the case. That deal would pay Simpson for the appearance, and though negotiations have been broached before, they have been hampered by uncertainty about the verdicts.
Now that Simpson has won acquittals, his representatives are again pursuing the idea, sources said, as a way of helping him recoup some of the millions of dollars he has spent in legal fees.
Leroy (Skip) Taft, Simpson's business lawyer, left his client's house at 2:15 p.m. without commenting in detail.
Later, however, Cochran said Taft was one of those helping to negotiate Simpson's full interview. Cochran said Simpson had not yet made a final decision about whether to grant the interview, but added that a pay-per-view appearance was among the possibilities.
"There's a lot of stuff on the table," said Cochran.
Most gratifying for Simpson, according to his lead lawyer, was the chance to reunite with his two young children, who are being cared for by the family of Nicole Brown Simpson, the children's mother and the woman Simpson was accused of murdering.
"He's really pleased about that," said Cochran. "I give the Browns a lot of credit."
The future of the two young children, Sydney and Justin, remains in doubt, with Lou and Juditha Brown hinting that they will not fight the children's father for custody because they do not want to keep alive a fight in the family.
Bernard A. Leckie, an Irvine attorney who represents Simpson in the custody case, said his client has "an absolute right" to seek termination of the Browns' temporary guardianship and take custody of the children.
"If it went to court, we could be relatively sure of prevailing, unless they could show that he was somehow unfit," Leckie said. "But I don't think there is any hint that he was ever anything other than a good father to all his children. He loves his children very much."
Lou Brown, Nicole Simpson's father, told television host Geraldo Rivera that he expected the children to stay with the Brown family for now.
"I believe so. Yeah," he said. Simpson "has certain readjustment periods to go through. And keeping in mind that he has been celibate for what, 15 months, I think he's got a lot of wild oats to sow first of all before he gets back to thinking solely for his children."
John Q. Kelly, a lawyer representing the Brown family, called that a misstatement attributable to fatigue and an unfamiliarity with interviews.
"The Browns are very flexible," Kelly added. "They and presumably Mr. Simpson will put all past and/or present personal feelings aside and do what is best for the children."
"At this point," he said, "people are trying to take the position that they want to act in the best interest of the children. And they see adversarial proceedings as a last resort, not the first."
Though he said he expects some custody arrangement to be reached, Kelly added that it would not be made by the end of this week and perhaps not by the end of the month.
"It is not something that could be decided very quickly," said Kelly.
As one person close to the child custody discussions put it: "Right now, everybody's circling."
Times staff writers Jim Newton in Los Angeles and Rebecca Trounson in Orange County contributed to this story, as did correspondent Mary Moore in Los Angeles.