January 24, 1995 in Nation/World

Defense Blitzes Prosecution In Simpson Trial Opening Statements Delayed As O.J. Asks To Address Jurors

Shirley E. Perlman Newsday
 

In a day of surprises - including a highly unusual request by O.J. Simpson to address the jury - Simpson’s defense team unveiled evidence Monday that includes what could be the first supporting testimony for its claim that the football great was at home when his ex-wife and her friend were murdered.

Heated arguments over the new developments delayed opening statements until today.

The defense also won a major victory when Superior Court Judge Lance Ito ruled it could question detective Mark Fuhrman, who found a bloody glove at Simpson’s estate, about his alleged racial bias.

In court papers filed Monday, the defense said, “Mr. Simpson requests permission to participate in the opening statement in two ways: by giving a brief (approximately one minute) introductory statement to the jury before Mr. Cochran’s opening statement; by approaching the jury box to demonstrate to the jurors physical scars, injuries and limitations.”

Prosecutors objected and Ito said he would not rule on the request until the prosecution has completed its opening, but he said he would be inclined to allow Simpson to show the scars. Sources said the defense plans to say Simpson was so hobbled by past injuries that he could not have jumped over a fence to his estate after committing the murders, as the prosecution is expected to claim.

The defense revealed that it had found a woman - a housekeeper named Rosa Lopez who works next door to Simpson’s Brentwood estate - who will testify that she saw Simpson’s Bronco outside his home June 12 at 8:30 p.m. and again at 10:15 to 10:20 p.m. That testimony would support Simpson’s claim that he was home at the time prosecutors say the murders were committed, between 10:15 p.m. and 10:50 p.m. that day.

Defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey charged that Fuhrman interviewed the woman but told nobody else about it. He said that was all the more reason they should be allowed to question the detective about allegations by a woman named Kathleen Bell that Fuhrman made racist statements.

“So if he suppressed evidence,” Bailey told Ito, “and claimed to find incriminating evidence, I think we hardly need go further before we have the right to ask him, ‘And by the way, haven’t you said on past occasions that you are in favor of genocide?’ Because what he really said was ‘Let’s put them all in a pile and burn them all.’ And I haven’t heard that come from anyone since Adolf Hitler.”

Defense lawyers had said they would argue that Fuhrman was a racist in order to show he was capable of planting evidence against Simpson, who is black. But Monday Bailey said they wanted to introduce evidence of racism to impeach Fuhrman’s credibility.

“We’re not trying to prove that he planted anything because we don’t have to,” said Bailey. “We’re simply saying if the only evidence you have that this glove came from O.J. Simpsons’s home is Detective Mark Fuhrman, that isn’t enough evidence to convict a rat, let alone a human being.”

On Friday, Ito ruled that the defense could not ask Fuhrman about three incidents dealing with allegations of racial bias - including a 1981 workers compensation suit, and allegations that he moved evidence in a prior investigation.

But he left the door open on the Bell incident pending an offer of proof by the defense that Fuhrman planted the bloody glove.

Simpson’s lawyers have contended that Simpson was framed by police and that he is the victim of a bungled investigation. Although the opening statements were delayed, the evidence revealed Monday, and the unusual request to address the jury, gave insights into the defense strategy and its intention to refute each piece of the prosecution’s case.

Among other items in dispute Monday were a defense videotape purporting to show police officers trampling through the crime scene, exhibits the defense wants to show the jury including a poster suggesting that part of the blood sample that Simpson gave to police was “unaccounted for,” and a blown-up photograph of a smiling Simpson with his daughter, Sydney, 9.

The videotape of the crime scene was taken by a news organization that was posted across the street from Nicole Simpson’s condominium on the morning of June 13. Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark seemed shocked by the tape, which she viewed for the first time Monday. Clark noted that the tape, which shows an employee of the coroner’s office standing in blood and one of the lead detectives, Phillip Vannatter, walking through the crime scene, was made up of excerpts that had been compiled by the defense on a laser disc.

The defense also presented of a list of 34 prospective witnesses, some of whom its own investigators had not questioned. The last-minute move infuriated prosecutors.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with story: On trial Monday: Opening statements were delayed because of lastminute bickering over what the jury would be allowed to hear. O.J. Simpson asked in a legal filing to be allowed to talk to jurors for about a minute and show them “physical scars, injuries and limitations.” The prosecution objected. Judge Lance Ito put off a ruling. Ito refused to grant a one-week delay sought by Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman to examine new defense material, although the judge barred the defense from mentioning some disputed items in opening statements. What’s next: Before opening statements, Ito will rule today on whether Simpson can talk to jurors and show his scars.

This sidebar appeared with story: On trial Monday: Opening statements were delayed because of lastminute bickering over what the jury would be allowed to hear. O.J. Simpson asked in a legal filing to be allowed to talk to jurors for about a minute and show them “physical scars, injuries and limitations.” The prosecution objected. Judge Lance Ito put off a ruling. Ito refused to grant a one-week delay sought by Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman to examine new defense material, although the judge barred the defense from mentioning some disputed items in opening statements. What’s next: Before opening statements, Ito will rule today on whether Simpson can talk to jurors and show his scars.


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