Most trials don't have the sort of high theatrics that TV and movie courtroom dramas do. Even the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson, for all its bizarre spectacle, was never rocked by any testimony from the defendant. But attorney Daniel M. Petrocelli is coming to the Valley to talk about one of the few trials that could put TV to shame: the other Simpson trial, the wrongful-death civil suit.
The highlight of that trial, says Petrocelli, by phone from his L.A. office, was "the two days I cross-examined Simpson on the stand. He was forced to testify in civil--if you refuse to testify there, a default judgment is entered against you."
Under those circumstances, O.J. didn't prove a tough nut to crack on the stand. "It was like taking candy from a baby--it was like when your kid comes up to you with chocolate all over his face, and you say, 'Johnny, did you eat the chocolate?,' and he says 'no.'"
In the ensuing judgment against Simpson, says Petrocelli, "We were able to seize some of the luxury items from his house, like artwork and furniture and the Heisman. Eventually, it will be sold at auction, and the proceeds will go to the victims' families. What we don't have the right to take is his private pension. The law says that can't be levied by creditors. That law wasn't designed to protect double murderers, but the law is the law until it's changed."
Does this mean that Orenthal J. will always live high on the hog? "Not according to the lifestyle he's accustomed to," says Petrocelli. "My own view is that his big payday, once the statute of limitations on perjury runs out, could be in the form of a pay-per-view confession. His main reason for not doing it would be that we'd get most of the money.
"Of course, Mr. Goldman has said he'd rip up the judgment in return for a confession, so if Simpson approached us to make that deal, Goldman would probably say yes."
Daniel M. Petrocelli, author of Triumph of Justice: The Final Judgment on the Simpson Saga (Random House), is scheduled as the luncheon speaker at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, September 5, at the Wigwam Resort, 300 East Wigwam Boulevard in Litchfield Park, in connection with the resort's Visiting Authors program. The price is $100 per person; proceeds benefit Faith House's Prospect Park Capital Campaign for victims of domestic abuse. For reservations call 935-3811.