Model Paula Barbieri testified that she broke up with O.J. Simpson via answering machine the day his ex-wife and a friend were slain--information that the jury in the murder trial never heard, a lawyer said Friday.
“His girlfriend gives him some bad news the day Nicole is killed,” said Mark Peacock, an attorney representing the Nicole Brown Simpson estate. “I think it’s pretty significant.”
Barbieri, the first witness to give a deposition in the wrongful-death lawsuit against Simpson, told attorneys Thursday that she called Simpson about 7 a.m. on June 12, 1994, and told him she no longer wanted to see him, Peacock said.
The model testified that Simpson left several messages for her later that day, but that they never talked. As far as she was concerned, Peacock said, the relationship was over. About 15 hours after Barbieri’s call, Nicole Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman were slain.
Simpson, who made a surprise appearance at the deposition, tried to make eye contact with Barbieri as she testified, Peacock said.
“He was a little animated,” Peacock said. “He would try to smile. She would not look at him, really.”
Prosecutors had suggested during the trial that the relationship was in trouble before the slayings, but neither they nor the defense revealed the breakup message.
Legal experts criticized the prosecution for failing to call Barbieri to the stand, saying her testimony could have provided a motive for the killings.
“The prosecution danced around this as the motive for a lot of the trial: Simpson is rejected by Paula, and his ego can’t take this, so he lashes out,” said Stanley Goldman, a Loyola University law professor. “If the prosecution knew about [the call] and didn’t use it, it’s blatant illustration of ineffectiveness on their part.”
Defense attorney Gerald L. Chaleff, however, questioned the importance of Barbieri’s statement.
“Adding one little extra fact doesn’t really change the whole impact in front of the jury,” he said.
Simpson’s attorney in the wrongful-death lawsuit, Robert Baker, and officials from the district attorney’s office were unavailable for comment Friday.
Barbieri told ABC TV earlier this fall that she and Simpson broke up soon after the acquittal.
Associated Press contributed to this story.