March 18, 1995 in Nation/World

Another Odd Day In Trial; Juror Excused, Phony Bomb Found

Tony Freemantle Houston Chronicle
 

The O.J. Simpson double murder trial, delayed by the discovery of an apparent pipe bomb outside the criminal court building, lurched forward Friday minus another member of the jury.

The juror, a 52-year-old Amtrak trainer of mixed Native American and white descent, was excused for reportedly keeping a journal on a laptop computer.

He was replaced by a 60-year-old retired clerk, a divorced white woman from Norwal who has extensive jury experience, including a murder case in which she managed to sway 11 members of the panel to her way of thinking.

Before the trial got under way Friday, the entire block around the downtown Los Angeles County Criminal Courts building was cleared after a suspicious device, a pipe with both ends taped and a note attached to it, was discovered on a grassy area near the front entrance.

The device was exploded by the Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad.

Attached to the pipe, police said, was a note protesting “British Imperialism” that was signed by the “Fenian Brotherhood,” a radical group of Irish expatriates founded in New York in 1858 to try and free Ireland from British rule.

Other than delaying the start of court proceedings, the device did not appear to have any connection to the Simpson trial.

When court convened about 90 minutes late Friday, Detective Philip Vannatter, the lead investigator into the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman on June 12 took the stand under questioning by prosecutor Christopher Darden.

Vannatter testified that it did not take him long, after finding a bloody glove at Simpson’s estate that matched one found at the murder scene, to conclude that the former football star was a prime suspect. A trail of blood in the defendant’s driveway also raised the detective’s suspicions.

“He became a suspect as soon as I saw the glove at the site of the house,” Vannatter testified. “It appeared to be a match to the glove, the opposite glove, I had seen earlier at Bundy (where Nicole Brown Simpson’s condo is located). And then after coming out into the driveway and finding the blood trail, he became a very strong suspect.”

“And how, if at all, did your observations of the blood inside the Bronco figure into your decision that Mr. Simpson was a suspect?” Darden asked.

“That appeared to be the mode of transportation that had transported the blood trail from Bundy to Rockingham,” Vannatter said.

Simpson has pleaded not guilty to the killings.

The detective said that Simpson, who had left for a business trip to Chicago the night of the murders, arrived back at his Brentwood estate shortly after noon the next day and was briefly handcuffed.

Vannatter said that although he considered Simpson a suspect and had “enough probable cause” to arrest him, he removed the handcuffs because he was not ready to charge Simpson and wanted to conduct further investigations.

“Why did you take the cuffs off Mr. Simpson?” asked Darden.

“Because he was not under arrest at that time,” Vannatter said.

“But you considered him a suspect; is that correct?” said Darden.

“He was a very strong suspect,” Vannatter replied.

Vannatter said Simpson agreed to accompany the detective to police headquarters downtown and to give a statement.

During that session, a cut on the middle finger of Simpson’s hand was examined by the detective.

Before jurors retired for the weekend, they were left with an image shown on the giant screen in Judge Lance Ito’s courtroom of Simpson’s middle finger.


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