More than 10 weeks after delivering their opening statement to the jury, prosecutors in the trial of O.J. Simpson on Monday began the painstaking process of using blood, hair and fiber samples to link Simpson to the murders of his ex-wife and her friend.
They began that phase of their case with a methodical look at the blood leading away from the two victims and at the series of stains running from Simpson’s Ford Bronco to his front door - the drops that prosecutors have described as a literal trail of blood linking Simpson to the crimes.
In describing evidence found at the crime scene, Los Angeles Police Department criminalist Dennis Fung said shoeprints and blood drops suggested that the assailant, who authorities contend was wounded in the attack, walked rather than ran from the victims and toward a back alley.
Simpson had two cuts on the middle finger of his left hand when he was questioned by police on the day after the killings. He has pleaded not guilty to the June 12 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.
Under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Hank Goldberg, Fung identified the most hotly contested single piece of evidence in the case - the bloody glove found on the grounds of Simpson’s estate that prosecutors say links Simpson to the murders and that defense lawyers say was planted by a police officer they accuse of being a racist.
The debut of the crucial phase of the prosecution case came just after the two sides squared off outside the jury’s presence regarding the limits of cross-examination of one of the government’s upcoming witnesses, Deputy Medical Examiner Irwin Golden. Golden performed the autopsies on the two victims, but defense attorney Robert L. Shapiro appeared to get the better of him during the preliminary hearing.
As the prosecution embarked on the physical evidence portion of its case, Goldberg, who has not questioned witnesses in the Simpson case, assumed the lead role in examining Fung, though he consulted frequently with lead prosecutor Marcia Clark.
Fung’s handling of the evidence has come under attack from the Simpson defense team.
Fung said a junior associate, Andrea Mazzola, was the on-duty criminalist on the weekend of June 12, and that she was the first to be called into action. She then informed Fung, and the two traveled to Simpson’s estate.
Fung and Mazzola spent the day together, traveling back and forth between the estate and the crime scene. Goldberg walked the criminalist through that day one step at a time on Monday.
The last item that Fung booked was a vial of blood from Simpson himself, one that the former football star gave police at their request when he was questioned June 13.
Goldberg used his early questioning of Fung to address several anticipated line of defense attacks on the evidence collection: Simpson’s lawyers have suggested that the handling of evidence was left to the inexperienced Mazzola, an allegation they base on a log showing her as the “officer in charge” of evidence collection. But Fung testified that Mazzola had filled out that log before the two criminalists arrived on the scene.
Once there, Fung said he decided he should take charge. “When I found out that it was going to be a high profile case and that it was a complicated scene,” Fung said, “I decided that she would … take the back seat.”