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Secret Tape: Nicole Accused Simpson of Having ‘Animalistic Look’

November 19, 1996 GMT

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ Nicole Brown Simpson told police that O.J. Simpson had an ``animalistic look″ that scared her during a 1993 argument that triggered a highly publicized 911 call, according to a secret tape recording played in Simpson’s wrongful death trial today.

On the tape, made surreptitiously by a police sergeant who went to Ms. Simpson’s home that night, Ms. Simpson can be heard telling officers she was struggling to cope with her domestic problems with Simpson and his angry outbursts over issues that ``he doesn’t let go of.″

``He gets this animalistic look to him,″ Ms. Simpson said on the tape. ``... I get scared when he looks like that.″

She told officers she lived in fear of what Simpson might do next during their arguments.

``I always felt that if it happened one more time, it would be the last time,″ she said.

Simpson could not be heard well on the tape. His booming voice created distortion, but jurors could hear Simpson’s protesting that he had done nothing wrong and Ms. Simpson was overreacting.

``She flies off and I fly off ...,″ Simpson said. ``I’m surprised she called you guys. She wasn’t in any danger.″

Simpson also denied that he caused most of the damage to the back door that Ms. Simpson claimed he crashed through. Simpson said the damage was there already but then tells police, ``I’ll pay for it. What the hell?″

The tape was played as part of the testimony of police Sgt. Robert Lerner, one of the officers who responded to Ms. Simpson’s 911 plea for help when Simpson came to her house screaming one night in October 1993, eight months before she was killed.

The tape was made by Lerner’s supervisor, Sgt. Craig Lally, without Lerner’s knowledge. Neither the defense nor prosecution sought to use the tape in Simpson’s murder trial, although both sides had it.

Lally released the tape to ABC’s ``Primetime Live,″ saying he wanted to show that the Los Angeles Police Department acted properly in its investigation of the June 12, 1994, killings of Ms. Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Lally’s reason for making the tape was never made clear. Such taping would be legal as part of a police investigation.

On the tape, Lerner can be heard trying to calm both Simpsons and sort out what caused the argument. The fight apparently started when Simpson heard that an ex-boyfriend of Ms. Simpson, Keith Zlomsowitch, was dating an alleged prostitute. Simpson saw a photograph of Zlomsowitch at Ms. Simpson’s house, left, then returned enraged and shouting profanities.

At the time, Simpson and his ex-wife were divorced and living separately.

The police never arrested Simpson, even though Ms. Simpson portrayed his actions as ``breaking and entering.″ One of the officers can be heard noting to Simpson that he was a celebrity.

``We don’t want to make a big thing out of this,″ the officer is heard saying.

Under cross-examination, Lerner said Simpson never physically hurt Ms. Simpson and the source of his anger was that Zlomsowitch, and perhaps the prostitute he was said to be dating, had been in the house where Simpson’s children were staying.

Plaintiffs had three witnesses left to call before Simpson is scheduled to testify, probably later this week. Among them: Simpson houseguest Brian ``Kato″ Kaelin.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki barred former Detective Mark Fuhrman’s previous testimony, a big blow to the defense _ and perhaps Simpson’s best ammunition for a possible appeal.

The ruling essentially renders Fuhrman a memory, crippling any defense effort to elicit evidence that brands Fuhrman a lying racist who could have framed Simpson.

Lacking the Fuhrman material, defense lawyer Robert Baker probably can refer during closing arguments only to some slim, circumstantial possibilities that unidentified police with unknown motives may have planted or tampered with evidence.

``It does real damage,″ Loyola University Law School Dean Laurie Levenson said. ``They’ve already had some of the other parts of their case cut out. Now they have lost the ability to play the race card. Mark Fuhrman’s is the picture on the race card.″

In his ruling, Fujisaki said the law forbids calling a witness just to discredit him, and all the details Fuhrman could have provided have been covered by other witnesses.

Simpson can use it as a major point on appeal if he loses, said Southwestern University law professor Robert Pugsley.

``This without a doubt is the judge’s most risky use of discretion,″ he said. ``If there is one single error on which a liability verdict could be reversed, this would probably be it.″

Simpson, 49, was acquitted of murder last year. The victims’ relatives are suing Simpson for unspecified damages.