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Simpson’s Defense Team Prepares Its Counterattack

Mon., Dec. 2, 1996

Fresh from a long weekend with time to regroup and recoup, O.J. Simpson’s defense will try to counter his bruising days on the witness stand and present an alternative story.

The plaintiffs in the wrongful death trial may finish up this week after calling 32 witnesses - including some of Simpson’s closest buddies - to contradict his testimony. For an emotional finale, the lawyers plan testimony from the relatives of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Then it’s Simpson’s turn, and his lawyers face an uphill battle.

The trial resumes on Tuesday.

Jurors headed into the Thanksgiving break carrying a final image of Simpson denying yet again - during questioning by the plaintiffs’ lawyers - that he stabbed Nicole Simpson and Goldman.

With a heavier burden of proof and so much physical evidence to explain away, it is understandable that lead defense lawyer Robert Baker chose not to ask Simpson any “rehabilitative” questions last week, analysts said.

“The defense needs to tell their story to the jury before calling Mr. Simpson back to the stand,” UCLA law professor Peter Arenella said. “What you’re going to see in the defense is an instant replay, in an abbreviated fashion, of the garbage-in-garbage-out theory, combined with a more aggressive attack on Ms. Simpson’s character, to suggest why someone other than O.J. Simpson committed the murders.”

As it did in the criminal trial, the defense likely will promote the theory that police planted or contaminated evidence. Expect to see more of criminalist Dennis Fung, a favorite target of the defense for his alleged sloppiness.

Simpson’s lawyers also are expected to bring back former Detective Phil Vannatter, a brief witness in the plaintiffs’ case, for questioning about allegedly lying on a search warrant affidavit and for violating police policy by carrying around a vial of Simpson’s blood.

As for an explanation of why there was so much blood evidence against Simpson, defense attorneys will likely present testimony from Dr. Henry Lee, star defense witness from the criminal trial.

Lee is expected to repeat his suggestion that something was wrong in the police crime lab. Lee’s power as a witness, however, will be diminished since he will appear only on videotape.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden will likely testify that the killings took longer than the plaintiffs have suggested, and that Simpson, under the tight time line, didn’t have time to kill.

A photographic expert may be called in to denounce as a fake a photo of Simpson wearing shoes similar to those that left bloody prints at the scene.

The defense also will try to portray Nicole Simpson as an emotionally unhinged woman who in her final weeks was running with a crowd of drug abusers and prostitutes.

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