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Eunice Simpson, 80; O.J.'s Mother Testified at Trial

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eunice Simpson, the mother of O.J. Simpson who testified on her son’s behalf during his 1995 murder trial, has died. She was 80.

Simpson was found dead in her San Francisco home Friday morning by paramedics, according to the city medical examiner’s office.

“She died a natural death in her residence this morning,” investigator Richard Vetterli said Friday.

Simpson lived in a modest, three-bedroom home that her son bought for her in the 1970s while he was playing for the San Francisco 49ers.

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Her own moment in the spotlight came during her son’s criminal trial in the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman.

Eunice Simpson, who had a history of heart problems, had been admitted to a San Francisco hospital on June 17, 1994, the day her son surrendered to police after his televised low-speed chase along Los Angeles County and Orange County freeways.

Before surrendering to police, O.J. Simpson demanded to be allowed to talk to his mother on the telephone.

Asked later by CBS reporter Connie Chung what her son said to her during the call, Eunice Simpson responded, “Well, he says, ‘Mommy, I love you, Mommy.’ I said, ‘I love you too, son.’ ”

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When O.J. Simpson’s attorneys opened his successful defense, Eunice Simpson joined her daughter Carmelita Simpson-Durion and granddaughter Arnelle in taking turns on the witness stand to provide a contrast to the prosecution’s portrayal of O.J. Simpson as an abusive spouse who killed his ex-wife.

In a dramatic moment, the then-73-year-old Eunice Simpson, suffering from arthritis and her knees weak from joint-replacement surgery, left her wheelchair and, with the aid of a cane, hobbled across the courtroom to the witness stand.

Under gentle questioning from Simpson’s attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr.--and with her son beaming at her from the defense table--she told jurors about her hard life and her son’s humble beginnings, and how he had been distraught over his ex-wife’s death. She said she had joined other family members who gathered with her son at his home the night after the killings.

That night, she testified, she and O.J. sat next to each other on the couch in his TV room.

“We were gripping each other,” she said. “At first, a hug, and then my hand.”

“Did he proceed to hold your hand?” Cochran asked.

“All during the time,” she replied.

Prosecutor Christopher Darden declined to cross-examine her.

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When O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murders, his mother, who frequently attended the trial, said simply, “I’m grateful.”

A former nurse’s aide at San Francisco General Hospital, Eunice Simpson raised her four children in a housing project overlooking the old shipyards on San Francisco Bay.

She was separated from O.J. Simpson’s father, Jimmy Lee Simpson, a onetime bank custodian, who died in 1986.

Her son, a Heisman Trophy winner in college at USC and an NFL Hall of Famer, was reached at his Florida home Friday by the Associated Press.

“If anybody deserves to be in heaven it’s her,” a somber Simpson said. “She raised four kids virtually alone. I never heard her have an argument or say a bad word about anybody.”

Earlier this year, Eunice Simpson came close to losing the house that her son had bought for her.

Although O.J. Simpson was acquitted on criminal charges in the murders of his ex-wife and Goldman, a civil court jury later found him liable for their deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages.

He had never transferred title of the house to his mother and that made it vulnerable to creditors.

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Late last year, Orange County attorney Marjorie Fuller, who had represented Simpson’s two children in the custody battle that followed his acquittal, sought the sale of the home to satisfy a $148,300 legal debt Simpson owed to her.

Fuller, however, canceled the planned auction in January and allowed Eunice Simpson to remain in her home.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.


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