O.J. Simpson’s chief defense lawyer labored Friday to show that Simpson failed to press a police officer for details of his former wife’s death not because he knew about it already or was indifferent to the news but because he was too stunned and exhausted to react as someone normally would.
Completing his cross-examination of Ronald Phillips, the Los Angeles detective who told Simpson by telephone that Nicole Brown Simpson had been killed, the lawyer, Johnnie Cochran Jr., suggested that Simpson was too shocked and distraught, indignant and worried about his children to ask any questions. He was also too tired after an all-night flight to Chicago and only an hour’s sleep.
“He seemed to you to be stunned, did he not?” Cochran asked the detective.
“He seemed to be upset,” replied Phillips, who said he had been the bearer of such sad tidings “far too many times” in his 28-year career.
“There’s no book anywhere about how anybody acts when they go into a state of shock?” Cochran then asked.
When prosecutor Marcia Clark resumed questioning, she pressed Phillips on whether Simpson ever stopped his anguished monologue - “What do you mean, she’s been killed? Oh, my God, Nicole is dead,” he repeatedly said - long enough to let Phillips get in a word. He had not, Phillips said.
The detective also said that until he brought up the subject of Simpson’s two young children, Simpson had not asked about them.
Clark pressed Phillips to reflect on Simpson’s apparent lack of curiosity. “Did he ask you if it had been in a traffic accident?” she asked. Simpson had not, he said.
Did next-of-kin generally ask questions under such circumstances? “It usually occurs that way, yes,” he replied. But Cochran objected when Clark asked whether Simpson’s response had been “unusual,” and Judge Lance Ito sustained it.
Testimony concluded Friday with Tom Lange, one of the detectives ultimately placed in charge of the case and the latest white police officer to testify before the largely black jury.
In a dramatic flourish, Clark took Ito’s Swiss army knife, opened up a sealed box and manila envelope, donned a pair of rubber gloves and extracted two exhibits: the black leather glove and blue knit cap found on the crime scene.
Before she unveiled the items, Cochran, who had ostentatiously declared earlier that he would ask for no more time-consuming debates at the bench, pressed for one.
“Why is counsel trying to stop us from introducing the evidence?” Clark asked. Court then broke, but not before Simpson was allowed to inspect the items.