In a trial marked by a parade of characters on the witness stand, it was the secret audiotapes that ultimately convicted O.J. Simpson of armed robbery and kidnapping, jurors said Sunday night.
"We honestly felt we could not rely on that witness testimony," juror Michelle Lyons said.
That testimony included four former co-defendants who accepted plea agreements from the prosecution and got reduced charges in exchange for their testimony. The tapes included secret recordings made by auctioneer Thomas Riccio, who helped set up the Palace Station meeting with two sports memorabilia dealers, and gunman Michael McClinton.
Without those and other recordings, the prosecution's case would have been "very weak," juror Dora Pettit said.
Lyons and Pettit were among seven jurors who agreed to hold a news conference after being hounded by reporters through the weekend.
The news conference was held in the same courtroom where the four-week trial took place.
Immediately after the verdict late Friday, Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter said the jurors convicted the Hall of Fame running back because of his past, including his 1995 acquittal in the slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
The jurors said that case and the subsequent civil lawsuit were never mentioned in the deliberation room and never entered their minds.
"There are reports that we have some sort of vendetta against Mr. Simpson because of what happened 13 years ago, and that's not the case," juror Teresa Owens said. "It's preposterous. They chose us. ... For them to (say) there were too many women or we weren't the right color, it's insulting."
Added Pettit, "We've been painted as an all-white jury who hates O.J. That's just absolutely false."
During the roughly 13 hours of deliberations Friday, the jurors said they methodically reviewed the evidence and the law before reaching their unanimous decision of guilty on all 12 counts for Simpson, 61, and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart, 54.
Simpson and Stewart were being held in individual cells at the Clark County Detention Center because of the high profile of the case. Sentencing was set for Dec. 5.
Sherian Eckart said she thought Simpson was guilty in the 1994 slayings but said those feelings had no effect on her decision in this case.
"There was so much evidence against him in this case that it made no difference," said Eckart, whose opinion was shared by other jurors, including Paul Connelly, the jury foreman.
They cited the McClinton tape made hours after the incident, in which Simpson asks his gunman if he pulled the "piece in the hall."
Lyons said they heard Simpson's voice very clearly when they listened to the recording several times in the deliberation room.
Riccio's recording of the six-minute confrontation inside the hotel room was equally damning.
"It was very clear that O.J. said: 'Don't let anybody out of this room.' That's kidnapping," Eckart said.
Pettit said Simpson's defense that he was recovering his own property after it had been stolen was weak because ownership doesn't matter in a robbery, under Nevada law.
Connelly said prosecutors did a "fabulous job" presenting their case.
Pettit said she sympathized with Simpson and had prayed for him during the trial.
"The laws are the laws, and they were clearly broken," she said. "Whether I feel sorry for him isn't going to change that."
Review-Journal reporter Francis McCabe contributed to this report. Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@reviewjournal .com or 702-383-0281.