December 17, 1996 in Nation/World

Two Killers Likely, Pathologist Testifies Defense Expert Rejects Possible Fingernail Gouging Of Simpson

Los Angeles Times
 

A renowned pathologist Monday attacked the theory that O.J. Simpson slaughtered two people in less than two minutes, testifying that victim Ronald Goldman actively struggled for up to five minutes and that the double homicide probably involved at least two assailants.

Defense expert Michael Baden also rejected the provocative theory - advanced by a pathologist testifying for the plaintiffs - that the murder victims clawed fingernail gouges into Simpson’s left hand as they struggled to break free of his lethal grip.

“I’ve never seen a fingernail mark produce that long and deep a wound on somebody,” Baden said. Nicole Simpson’s fake fingernails were intact, indicating that she did not dig them into anyone’s skin, and Goldman’s nails were clipped extremely close, making it unlikely he could have inflicted serious damage on a foe, Baden added.

Jurors scribbled notes attentively as Baden said that the deepest cut on Simpson’s hand could have been caused by a jagged knife, but most likely was inflicted by a piece of glass. That analysis is consistent with Simpson’s testimony that he cut himself while scooping up broken glass in his Chicago hotel room the morning after the murders.

Baden’s testimony sets up a credibility contest between him and the plaintiffs’ expert pathologist, Dr. Werner Spitz.

Spitz’s scenario of a speedy killing - with very little blood splashing onto the assailant - fits perfectly with the plaintiffs’ theory that Simpson committed the murders at about 10:35 to 10:40 p.m. and still had plenty of time to dash home, hide the knife and clean up before his limo driver spotted him outside the front door at 10:55 p.m.

Baden’s reconstruction, however, would make it nearly impossible for Simpson to be the killer. The veteran medical examiner told jurors he thought Goldman’s killing took at least 10 minutes, including up to five minutes of active struggle. During that frantic fight, Goldman punched his assailant hard enough to bruise his own hand - yet Simpson had no marks on his body other than the cuts and abrasions on his hand, Baden testified.

And as a practical matter, Baden told jurors, “I can’t understand how these two people could be murdered and not yell out unless there were two (assailants) there.”

Only one witness has reported hearing any screams from the scene.

Robert Heidstra testified he was walking his dog behind Nicole Simpson’s condominium when he heard a male voice shout “Hey, hey, hey” and a deeper voice rumble in answer at about 10:35 to 10:40 p.m. on June 12, 1994.

On cross-examination, attorney Ed Medvene tried to portray Baden as a publicity-hungry advocate who exaggerated the certainty of his conclusions to help the defense.

Before Baden took the stand, the defense presented forensic scientist Herbert MacDonell.

MacDonell testified a bloodstain on one of the socks recovered from O.J. Simpson’s bedroom appeared to have been created by someone deliberately dripping blood onto the material - an explanation that bolstered the defense contention that the blood was planted.


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