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O.J.Simpson Enters Plea of Not Guilty to Murder Charges

By William Claiborne
The Washington Post

Looking exhausted and at times impatient, a subdued O.J. Simpson pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts of first-degree murder in the knifing death of his ex-wife and her male friend.

He was ordered held over for a preliminary hearing on June 30, when the first substantive details of the evidence against him could come to light.

As the arraignment occurred, a grand jury meeting four floors above the courtroom was considering an indictment in the case, in which Simpson is charged with murdering Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and Ronald L. Goldman, 25, June 12. If the grand jury indicts, the preliminary hearing could be canceled, allowing the prosecution to conceal some elements of its case from the defense until closer to the actual trial.

Simpson, dressed in a dark blue suit with a white shirt and no tie, showed little emotion for most of the session as he listened to a public recitation by Judge Patti Jo McKay of charges that, if proven, could result in his execution. At times, his eyes narrowed as he tilted his head sideways. At one point his attorney, Robert L. Shapiro, had to prompt him to verify his name for the record, and he responded, "Yes, I'm sorry.''

Reiterating a theme he has sounded since he took over as Simpson's chief defense attorney last Wednesday, Shapiro said later in a news conference that when he visited Simpson Monday he found him "very, very depressed, exceedingly emotional.'' However, Shapiro declined to reveal whether his defense strategy will be based on a claim of temporary insanity, saying only that "every possible defense has to be considered by any trial lawyer, and I will consider all possibilities.''

Shapiro rejected a suggestion that an insanity defense would be inconsistent with Simpson's assertion of innocence in a rambling, emotional letter made public last Friday. The handwritten letter, which contained suggestions that Simpson was planning suicide, was read to a news conference by his friend and private lawyer, Robert Kardashian, after police revealed that Simpson had broken a prearranged agreement and fled arrest.

"He stated in his letter that he is innocent. ... `` said Shapiro.

The letter was dated June 15, two days before Simpson's arrest.

Responding to a question at the news conference, Shapiro said he had "no knowledge of the letter at the time it was composed'' and did not know when it was written.

In his news conference, Shapiro said the 25-page summary of evidence that he had been given consisted mostly of reports of laboratory analysis of blood samples found at the scene of the murder in front of Nicole Simpson's Brentwood town house and at O.J. Simpson's home.

Shapiro said there was "no conclusive evidence'' from the blood-type information because of the possibility that many other people could have shared the same blood type.