In the latest exercise in questionable judgment to hit the O.J. Simpson case, defense attorney Robert L. Shapiro handed out fortune cookies to two writers at the courthouse, allegedly telling them: “These are from Hang Fung Restaurant.”
At the time Shapiro handed out the cookies Thursday, senior police criminalist Dennis Fung, who is Asian American, was in the midst of a bruising crossexamination by Shapiro’s colleague, Barry Scheck.
Asian Pacific American Legal Center attorney Kathy Imahara said the remark took on greater significance given the racial dynamics of the trial and the fact that only nine days earlier Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., had been forced to apologize after he used a demeaning, caricatured Japanese accent to mock Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito.
“Given what I know of the context of the courtroom … and Sen. D’Amato’s comment, (the Fung remark) feels on the racist side,” said Imahara. “I think if it was just that comment without all the other context I’d give less weight to it and chalk it up as a joke.”
Asked about the incident Friday, Shapiro laughed dismissively.
“Why is an issue being made of this?” he said, before walking away.