LAS VEGAS - Jurors who found O.J. Simpson guilty in his armed robbery trial say secret audio tapes and surveillance video swayed them more than witness accounts.
Seven panelists who attended an extraordinary news conference Sunday concluded that without the recordings the prosecution might not have won convictions.
"It would have been a very weak case," said Dora Pettit. Another juror David Wieberg chimed in, "Yes, a weak case," and other jurors nodded in agreement.
The seven jurors agreed to speak out two nights after the verdict was announced because they said they were being hounded by reporters. They answered questions for an hour in the same courtroom where Simpson and Clarence "C.J." Stewart were convicted of robbing two memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a hotel room.
The jury listened repeatedly to recordings made by collectibles dealer Thomas Riccio — the host of the hotel confrontation, who was granted immunity — and felt they heard things that had not been fully transcribed by police, juror Michelle Lyons said.
But jurors could not trust the credibility of witnesses who were given plea deals, Lyons said. "We felt we could not rely on that witness testimony," she said.
The jurors all denied they wanted to punish Simpson for past wrongs. One panelist, Dora Pettit, said she prayed for him before and after the case.
"I think he's an ordinary man that made a bad decision," she said. "I prayed for him and Stewart and the attorneys. I don't have any ill feelings, and if they walked out tomorrow, so be it."
Simpson, 61, was acquitted in 1995 of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles. He was later found liable for the deaths in a civil case. He had claimed in the robbery case that he was trying to reclaim mementos stolen from him.
The jury also reacted to complaints by Simpson's lawyers that there were no blacks on the panel; both defendants are black. One juror identified herself in a court questionnaire as Hispanic.
"We've been painted as an all-white jury who hates O.J., and that's just not true," Pettit said.
Asked why they convicted Stewart, whom some observers saw as a minor player, juror Teresa Owens said: "The thing that clinched it for me is he drove the car. He walked out with items. He came out of that room with items that didn't belong to him."
Said juror Consuelo Saldivar: "He didn't leave. If he walked in and saw what was going on, he could have walked out."
He then continued to participate in a cover-up, jurors said, which made him a conspirator.
Foreman Paul Connelly said it might have been a waste for prosecutors to give plea deals to several Simpson co-defendants in exchange for their testimony, since the jury did not rely on it.
Simpson's lawyer Yale Galanter told The Associated Press earlier Sunday that the former Heisman Trophy winner is hoping for a new trial and a strong bid to reverse his conviction. He is being isolated from other prisoners in the Clark County Detention Center for his own safety, and is allowed to see only family members and a few friends, he said.
Simpson will be held at the detention center until his sentencing in December and then is expected to be moved to state prison. Galanter said he will pursue a request for Simpson to be released on bond during the appeals process.
"He's disappointed and a bit melancholy," Galanter said.