O.J. Simpson’s lawyers branded him a racist cop who had planted evidence, but a review by the public defender’s office has found no other such allegations against retired Los Angeles Police Department detective Mark Fuhrman.
“I was somewhat surprised; Fuhrman came up pretty clean,” said Michael Clark, an administrator in the Los Angeles County public defender’s office who conducted the review.
The two-month study involved about 35 public defender cases in which Fuhrman was the investigating officer. Cases dated to 1988 and involved car thefts, robberies and other non-homicide felonies.
In reviewing court documents and talking to witnesses and public defenders, Clark said he came across no suggestions that Fuhrman had planted evidence, used racial slurs or engaged in racist conduct on the job.
In fact, some suspects made favorable comments about Fuhrman, said public defender Michael Judge.
“Based on what I saw, I thought it would be unlikely that Fuhrman would have planted the glove,” Clark said.
Fuhrman now is living in Sandpoint, working as an electrician’s apprentice. He did not return phone calls Thursday, nor was he at his home.
Clark downplayed the significance of the review, noting its narrow scope. The study excluded cases in which defendants pleaded guilty or no contest, and it did not involve new interviews with defendants.
During the Simpson double-murder trial, defense attorneys portrayed Fuhrman as a racist rogue cop who framed the football star by planting a bloody glove on his Brentwood estate.
Later, taped conversations between Fuhrman and aspiring screenwriter Laura Hart McKinny prompted investigations by the Los Angeles Police Department and the state attorney general’s office.
In the conversations, Fuhrman used racial slurs and talked about planting evidence and beating up minority suspects.
“I suspect he might have exaggerated a lot of that stuff to get in a movie or a script,” Clark said of Fuhrman’s invective-laced language.
The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating at least 100 cases in which Fuhrman participated, but LAPD Cmdr. Tim McBride said the review is months away from being complete.
Meanwhile, the state Attorney General’s Office is deciding whether Fuhrman should be charged with perjury for stating on the witness stand that he had not used the word “nigger” in the past decade.
A spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday that the Public Defender’s findings mirror those of a review conducted by prosecutors of Fuhrman prior to his testimony in the Simpson trial.
“We heard consistently that he was an excellent detective,” said Suzanne Childs.
A private defense attorney critical of Fuhrman’s conduct in a kidnapping and robbery case said the review should have included interviews with defendants and cases involving pleas.
“This survey means nothing,” said lawyer Michael Sacks from the Venice section of Los Angeles.
Sacks is seeking to reopen a case in which Fuhrman was the lead investigator. The attorney said the former detective coerced a confession from a co-defendant, who implicated his client, Howard McCowan. As a result, McCowan pleaded no contest, Sacks said.
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