A car similar to O.J. Simpson’s Bronco sped away from the murder scene, a defense witness acknowledged Wednesday, but he fiercely denied recognizing one of two angry voices he heard that night as Simpson’s.
“Didn’t you (say) … ‘I know it was O.J. It had to be him?”’ Deputy District Attorney Christopher Darden asked during cross-examination.
“I never said that. Absurd!” exclaimed Robert Heidstra, who lives around the corner from the condominium where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were slain and was walking his dogs the night of the murders.
Heidstra’s testimony came during a court session marked by an outburst by Judge Lance Ito against two attorneys for personal attacks on each other.
Heidstra reluctantly confirmed that he once described a white Jeep-like vehicle speeding away from the condo about a halfhour after the time Simpson allegedly had driven his white Ford Bronco there to commit murder. Heidstra acknowledged that the vehicle he saw “could have been a Bronco.”
On redirect examination, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. elicited from Heidstra the observation that the vehicle turned a corner and headed south, away from Simpson’s home.
Heidstra’s testimony is key to the defense, which is challenging the prosecution’s chronology for the night of June 12, 1994, to show that someone other than Simpson could be the murderer.
But the prosecution’s concerted attack on Heidstra’s credibility may have undermined the importance of his role.
“Frankly, he’s not going to be playing a major role in the jury’s decision,” said Loyola University Law Professor Laurie Levenson. “He was a real mixed bag.” Darden intimated
that a woman who often conversed with Heidstra in his native French has told prosecutors he identified one voice he heard that night as Simpson’s.
But Heidstra said he couldn’t have recognized Simpson’s voice because he has never spoken to the defendant or heard him on TV.
He also denied saying that one of the voices he heard was a black man’s and told jurors he would be unable to identify someone’s race from hearing a voice.
Darden’s questioning upset Cochran.
Ito, who shouted at the lawyers and sent jurors out of the room, threatened the two black lawyers.
“I’m so mad at both of you guys that I’m about to hold both of you in contempt,” Ito warned after Cochran accused Darden of asking racist questions.