Jurors in the O.J. Simpson armed robbery and kidnapping case are plowing through hours of secret recordings made by a collectibles broker who says a plan to recover a cache of the former football star's personal property at a hotel room worked well, until a gun was displayed.
Testimony was to resume Friday with Thomas Riccio returning to the witness stand and the jury resuming the task of trying to decipher and weigh the importance of audio recordings Riccio made involving the confrontation between Simpson, five associates and two memorabilia peddlers in a casino hotel room. Experts previously testified that they can't say whether some of the recordings were altered in any way.
"Everything was perfect until the gun came out," said Riccio, who hid a digital recorder atop an armoire, out of sight of police investigators and crime scene analysts who combed the room for evidence after the alleged armed robbery Sept. 13, 2007.
The recorder remained running after authorities arrived - capturing a police employee saying, according to a transcript: "This is great. ... California can't get him. ... Now we'll be able to."
Jurors have been told to disregard Simpson's highly publicized 1995 acquittal in the murder of his ex-wife and her friend, but references to the slayings have been made throughout the trial.
Earlier, jurors heard the lead police detective in the case acknowledge that investigators paid extraordinary attention after Simpson was identified as a suspect, and kept him under surveillance for three days before his arrest.
"We wanted to make sure everything was right before we arrested him," Detective Andy Caldwell testified. "Because of who it was, we felt we should go above and beyond."
Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart have pleaded not guilty to charges, including kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy, in the confrontation with sports memorabilia peddlers Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong.
Simpson and Stewart are not accused of wielding guns themselves. Two former co-defendants, Michael McClinton and Walter Alexander, have pleaded guilty to reduced charges and testified that they brought guns to the room.
Prosecutors are trying to use Riccio's recordings to bolster the testimony of about 25 witnesses, including McClinton, Alexander and two other men who took plea deals and agreed to testify against Simpson and Stewart.
Riccio's testimony was interrupted several times while attorneys argued about whether his recordings were complete - including a tape he made when he met Simpson with a large group of people around a hotel-casino pool hours before the alleged heist - and whether transcripts of the conversations were accurate.
Two FBI forensic audio experts have testified they couldn't say whether recordings made in the hotel room had been edited or tampered with. Riccio, who sold excerpts to an Internet gossip site eight days before turning the recordings over to police, identified several instances in which transcripts prepared by Caldwell and his partner misidentified or misquoted speakers.
"The tape is the tape," Riccio said. "It's exactly what happened."
Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass settled disputes about whether to let the jury hear the recordings while using the police transcripts to help them sift through the noise and chatter with a ruling that the recordings were evidence in the case, but the line-by-line transcriptions of who said what were not.
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