January 21, 1995 in Nation/World

O.J. Wins One: Jury Will Hear Police Detective’s Racial Epithets Defense Tries To Show Fuhrman As Capable Of Altering Evidence

Kenneth B. Noble New York Times

In a victory for lawyers defending O.J. Simpson against murder charges, the judge in the case Friday approved their request that the jury should be allowed to hear a racial epithet used by a crucial witness in the case.

At issue is the prosecution’s efforts to block defense lawyers from questioning a Los Angeles police detective, Mark Fuhrman, about his racial views, particularly about whether he ever uttered the word “nigger.”

Fuhrman, one of the first investigators at the crime scene, is a potentially significant figure in the case because he has also testified that he found a bloody glove outside Simpson’s home a few hours after the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were discovered June 12.

Defense lawyers want to cross-examine Fuhrman and put on witnesses about numerous incidents in his past that suggest that he is a racial bigot and have tampered with or even planted the glove on Simpson’s Brentwood estate to frame him.

In a four-page opinion released late Friday afternoon, Judge Lance A. Ito of Los Angeles Superior Court, wrote:

“If the challenged racial epithet was used in a relevant incident, it will be heard in court.”

On a related issue, however, Ito ruled that defense lawyers could not use records from a police disability hearing and from a shooting in which he was involved, saying that both formed only tenuous links to racism and were based on speculation.

But Ito said a conversation described by a woman who said Fuhrman made disparaging remarks about blacks and expressed hostility toward interracial couples was relevant.

To support its theory that Fuhrman was capable of tampering with evidence, the defense has submitted excerpts from a psychiatric report in the early 1980s, when the detective was seeking a disability pension for psychological reasons.

The psychiatrists quote Fuhrman, apparently in the course of several interviews, repeatedly making hostile and derogatory states about people who are black or Hispanic.

The defense also wants to introduce a sworn statement by Kathleen Bell, a California real estate agent who said she met Fuhrman at a Marine Corps recruiting station in 1985 or 1986, and told her that as a police officer he routinely pulled over interracial couples if he saw them together, even if he had no cause.

In the statement, Bell said that when she asked Fuhrman how he would feel about interracial relationships if the couple was in love, the detective “appeared to get disgusted with me and stated, “If I had my way, they would take all the niggers, put them together in a big group and burn them.”

Fuhrman’s lawyer, Robert Tourtelot, has since denied that Fuehman ever met Bell. Prosecutors have also indicated they will challenge Bell’s credibility.

Among other things, they indicated last week that at least two other Marines were in the recruiting office and are prepared to say that Fuhrman never made the statements attributed to him.

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