Many waited, but only 10 were chosen


LOS ANGELES -- They waited through the night for the chance to attend the television drama -- yesterday's court hearing in the murder case against O. J. Simpson.

Only 10 were chosen to watch prosecutors and Mr. Simpson's lawyers argue over the admissibility of evidence.

"If my mom hadn't died, she would have been here," said Rose Brown, 46.

She was kept company by 50 other hopefuls who spent Wednesday night in line at the Los Angeles County Courthouse. She was also one of the lucky ones to get in.

Heidi Romeo, a recent law school graduate, and her mother, Ingrid Martinez, also were among the lucky.

"I just never went to sleep," said Ms. Romeo, who studiedfor the bar exam all Wednesday and hopped in her car with her mother about 10:30 p.m. for the 90-minute drive downtown.

Until the courthouse doors opened at 7 a.m. yesterday, she continued with her studies. At the suggestion of Ms. Brown and her sister, Linda Phillips, they compiled a list of those waiting.

"We are experienced on these high-profile cases," said Ms. Phillips, who had nabbed a seat at the Simi Valley trial of the police officers charged with beating motorist Rodney King. "If it wasn't for that list, we'd be in deep trouble."

Several others in the line that had grown to 100 had tried to jump ahead of Ms. Phillips and company. With only 28 seats available for the public -- 18 went to friends and relatives of the victims and the defendant -- spots were at a premium.

But the list prevailed. Seats were on a first-come, first-served basis. Those attending had to pass through a metal detector before entering the courtroom.

The parents and sisters of Nicole Brown Simpson and the family of slain waiter Ronald L. Goldman occupied a row of seats. Two of Ms. Simpson's sisters and her mother wore a gold angel lapel pin in memory of the victims.

The somber, often tedious, proceedings inside the courtroom were a sharp contrast with the impromptu speeches outside.

Jimi Kelbo, a 45-year-old musician, stood in the noonday sun, hawking $5 cassettes of a song he wrote in support of Mr. Simpson.

Mr. Kelbo said that at Venice Beach he sold "hundreds." The first stanza of "The O. J. Simpson Song Story" goes like this:

O. J. are you OK?

Running down the freeway.

Keeping police at bay.

Got us wondering what's your story.

The world gets stranger every day.

We're pulling for you.

Alberta Gentile, a 60-something grandmother, slapped a sign on the front of her adult tricycle yesterday and headed for the courthouse from her home in South Central Los Angeles. The sign, depicting a picture of the bloody steps of the crime scene, read: "No Way Not O. J."

Stefan Lambert, a 31-year-old college student, held aloft a pencil sketch of Mr. Simpson nailed to a cross. Mr. Lambert said the Simpson case is just another example of an unfair justice system.

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