With the deadline fast approaching for the wrongful-death lawsuit against O.J. Simpson, attorneys are hurrying to check a photo that might show him wearing a pair of shoes he denied owning.
Lawyers from both sides also are exploring a therapist's recent testimony that Simpson and his ex-wife had a fight just days before she was killed, and they're getting ready to put questions to more witnesses.This week, lawyers will travel to Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City for depositions, which for most witnesses must be completed by June 25. Trial in the suit brought by the relatives of Ronald Goldman and the estate of Nicole Brown Simpson is set for Sept. 9.
One of those witnesses is football star and longtime Simpson friend Marcus Allen, who resisted efforts to force him to testify at Simpson's criminal trial. He agreed to submit to a deposition Friday in Kansas City.
Simpson is being sued for unspecified monetary damages over the June 12, 1994, knife murders of Nicole Simpson and Goldman outside Nicole Simpson's Brentwood condominium.
The photo is just one piece of recently uncovered evidence that has raised plaintiff attorneys' hopes.
At the criminal trial that ended with Simpson's acquittal on murder charges, prosecutors introduced evidence that bloody foot-prints near the bodies were made by a size 12 Bruno Magli shoe that was only sold in a few places in the United States.
Simpson wears a size 12 shoe, but prosecutors didn't link him to a Bruno Magli of any model.
In depositions, Simpson testified he didn't own that model of shoe and would never buy something he considered so ugly.
But sports photographer Harry Scull of Buffalo, N.Y., turned up a picture in his files showing Simpson wearing what appears to plaintiff experts to be a Bruno Magli, in the same style as the one that left the footprints, said sources.
The photo of Simpson was taken at a Buffalo Bills-Miami Dolphins game in Buffalo on Sept. 26, 1993 - less than nine months before the murders, sources said. In the picture, Simpson's shoes are clearly visible, including part of the sole of the right shoe.
The issue will be whether the photo is authentic. Sources said the plaintiffs are working on authenticating it, but no final determination has been made.
Scull is a veteran photographer who has done work for a number of organizations, including The Associated Press. The picture was sold to the National Enquirer and published in the April 23 edition. The photographer's identity wasn't revealed at that time.
Scull and his lawyer, Mike O'Conner, refused to comment.
Among other developments, a therapist testified last week in Los Angeles that Nicole Simpson recounted being struck by Simpson during a nasty fight about a week before her murder, said sources, speaking on condition of anonymity. The therapist's credibility is expected to be strongly challenged by Simpson's attorneys.
The therapist claims to have treated both Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
"The therapist says Nicole told her that Simpson hit and kicked her and pulled her hair," a source said. "Simpson also demanded sex."
But Simpson's defense attorneys are relishing a courtroom assault on counselor Jennifer Ameli. One defense source said Ameli suffers so many credibility problems that if the plaintiffs don't call her at trial, the defense will.
Simpson, for instance, wasn't even in town on the days she initially said the fight occurred; when confronted with this she changed her testimony to widen the time frame, sources said.
Other provocative deposition testimony may come from Allen, a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. Several witnesses have testified that Allen had an affair with Nicole Simpson, possibly around the time of her murder. Plaintiff lawyers say that such evidence could point to a motive for murder.
Simpson initially tried to get Allen into court during the criminal case. Simpson intended to show that he knew about the affair, and still treated Allen well - even letting him get married at Simpson's house. This, the defense had contended, rebutted any suggestions Simpson could be driven to murder out of jealousy.
Allen is one of six out-of-state witnesses scheduled to give depositions this week.
Four men in the Chicago area will give videotaped testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday. The witnesses, all of whom testified at Simpson's criminal trial, are two Hertz employees who drove Simpson to or from the airport in Chicago, a lawyer who sat next to Simpson on the flight back to Los Angeles and a Chicago police detective.
Also this week is Thursday's St. Louis session with Sharon Rufo, Goldman's mother.