September 7, 1995 in Nation/World

Fuhrman Takes Fifth Amendment Ex-Detective Refuses To Answer Whether He Planted Evidence In Simpson Case

Mark Davis Philadelphia Inquirer
 
Tags:trial

Former detective Mark Fuhrman, denounced as a racist and rogue cop, returned to the stand Wednesday and declined to answer whether he had planted evidence in the case against O.J. Simpson.

In a five-minute appearance closed to jurors, a subdued and somber Fuhrman responded to three pointed questions by invoking his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

Simpson attorney Gerald Uelmen first asked whether Fuhrman had lied in court during last year’s preliminary hearing, then asked whether he ever had falsified a police report.

The final question was at the core of the former football star’s defense.

“Detective Fuhrman, did you plant or manufacture any evidence in this case?” Uelmen asked. Fuhrman paused. “I assert my Fifth Amendment privilege,” he answered.

With that response, Fuhrman left the courtroom, where in March he told jurors he had found a bloody glove outside Simpson’s home the morning after the June 12, 1994 stabbing deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

It was an electrifying moment, played out before a packed courtroom and a nation of television watchers. Fuhrman, dressed in a dark-gray suit, his calm demeanor betrayed only by an occasional tightening of his lips, took the stand after almost two hours of arguments between prosecutors and defense attorneys. His appearance was a pivotal moment in the case, which in the past two weeks had focused on the former police detective.

Simpson’s lawyers hailed Fuhrman’s refusal to answer the question about planting evidence as a victory for their client - proof, they said, that the former NFL running back is innocent and that Fuhrman planted the bloody glove to frame Simpson.

“Today, you saw an unprecedented event,” said lawyer Robert Shapiro, flanked by others from the Simpson defense team moments after court concluded for the day.

“You saw a lead detective, who is a person responsible for the discovery of the majority of evidence in this case, refuse to answer on the grounds that the answers he may give may tend to incriminate him,” Shapiro said. “It is unprecedented in the history of jurisprudence.”

“We are not gloating,” added Johnnie Cochran Jr., who heads Simpson’s defense. “We are saying this is a very, very serious day for justice.

“We trust this jury (today) will hear something about what this lead detective has done.”

That decision is up to Judge Lance Ito, who may determine Thursday whether to let the defense put Fuhrman on the stand with the jury watching. Prosecutors oppose the tactic, and spent a desperate day watching their case crumble as jurors listened to a second session of testimony damning Fuhrman.

If Ito grants the defense attorneys’ motion, Fuhrman may be their last witness - and certainly the most memorable, said David Rudovsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s law school.

Fuhrman already has been proven a liar in earlier testimony, and putting him on can only bolster the defense, Rudovsky said Wednesday.

Wednesday also was one of the most memorable days in the monthslong trial - a day punctuated by sign-carrying protesters, by calls for Ito to release the contents of a controversial series of tapes and by more testimony about Fuhrman’s reputed racism.

Despite all the furor, Fuhrman was the reluctant star of Wednesday’s proceedings. Flanked by four or five bodyguards from the District Attorney’s Office, the now-retired detective entered the courthouse through an underground passage.

He walked into the courtroom straight as a gun barrel, but lacking the confident stride he displayed in March. Fuhrman, who now lives in Idaho, also appeared slightly gaunt, and there were circles under his eyes.


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