As jurors read each not-guilty verdict, Simpson licked her lips and shook her head. Acquitted of all the charges, she began to sob. Later, she declined to comment.
“Clearly, the jury felt she acted in self-defense,” said Christopher Griffiths, Simpson’s attorney.
Frazier’s family did not react audibly to the verdict and left the courthouse with sheriff’s deputies as escorts. One deputy turned reporters to another exit as the family left.
Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said she was “absolutely stunned” by the verdict. She added that though she didn’t know what jurors were thinking, Simpson was a “sympathetic defendant.”
The verdict punctuated an emotional final day of Simpson’s trial — one in which the young woman delivered her first public account of the September 2011 incident that left her roommate fatally slashed.
By her telling, one of the three young women who had fought her earlier was trying to pull her into a room at Bowie State University’s Christa McAuliffe residence hall. Simpson testified Thursday that she swung a knife as she tried desperately to break away.
“I was just scared,” Simpson said. “I didn’t know what they were going to do.”
Jurors could have convicted Simpson of charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter, depending on whether they felt her conduct was premeditated or intentional, and to what degree — if any — she acted in self-defense. Even if they concluded she acted in partial self-defense, they could have convicted Simpson of voluntary manslaughter. Defense attorneys had argued that she should be acquitted of all the charges because she acted only to protect herself.
Prosecutors had accused Simpson of instigating two fights with Frazier, the second of which led to the stabbing. In closing arguments, Assistant State’s Attorney Christine Murphy slowly traced Simpson’s steps as she retrieved a knife and went to her roommate’s room. “As she walked, she had time to think about what she was doing,” Murphy said.
Simpson acknowledged she hit Frazier first during the first brawl, but she claimed she was then attacked by Frazier and two others. She said that before the stabbing, one of those women tried to pull her into Frazier’s room.
“I thought that if I was to get the knife they would leave me alone,” Simpson testified.
Several other witnesses, including two who both sides agree were not involved in the brawl, contradicted pivotal portions of that account, testifying that Simpson claimed to have been “jumped” when she wasn’t.