January 16, 1997 in Nation/World

Criminalist Recants Testimony Fung: ‘I Was ‘Mistaken’ About Glove At Simpson Civil Trial

Los Angeles Times

Seeking to debunk a theory that he inspired, criminalist Dennis Fung on Wednesday recanted testimony he gave last week in the O.J. Simpson civil trial, insisting that no one tampered with a bloody crime-scene glove.

Fung had jolted the trial when he told jurors last week that he was “not sure” the left-hand leather glove tagged as evidence in the civil trial was the same one he collected near the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman on June 13, 1994. He had observed a tear in the leather on the glove’s ring finger shortly after collecting it, he testified - yet the glove introduced as evidence had no such damage.

The defense trumpeted that discrepancy as proof that someone replaced the actual glove with a look-alike as part of a conspiracy to frame Simpson for murder. So the plaintiffs called Fung back on their rebuttal case to tell jurors he had goofed.

Acknowledging that he found himself in a “bad spot,” Fung told jurors there was no conspiracy. “It is the same glove,” he said.

Fung, who looked downcast and drained, explained that his “memory was shaken” by police photo the defense produced showing a white mark on the glove’s ring finger a few days after the murders. He had assumed last week that the mark was a hole in the glove, he said, but it was actually debris clinging to the leather.

That explanation seemed to satisfy plaintiffs attorneys. But it left some unanswered questions.

Last week, Fung repeatedly told jurors that he remembered seeing some damage - which he characterized as “a rip or a cut” - underneath a chip of stucco or small rock that lay atop the ring finger of the left-hand glove at the crime scene. In fact, he testified, the rock was “embedded in a damaged area” of the leather. Fung also said last week that when he examined the gloves in his lab the day after the murders, he “found some cuts on them,” implying that both the left and right hand gloves were damaged.

Reading out that testimony in a voice ringing with sarcasm, lead defense attorney Robert C. Baker pressed Fung about why he had told jurors several times that the left-hand glove was damaged. Fung’s answer was simple: “I was mistaken.”

The plaintiffs devoted much of their rebuttal case Wednesday to damage control.

First, they called former FBI photo analysis chief Gerald Richards to scrutinize the white mark that appears on the glove in the crime lab photo. Richards testified that the mark was debris, not a hole. But defense attorney Daniel Leonard pointed out on cross-examination that Richards has “no way of knowing whether there’s a damaged area under that rock.”

Next up was Gregory Matheson, the assistant director of the Los Angeles Police Department crime lab. Matheson, too, told jurors that the white mark was debris, crusted over with dirt and encircled by a hair or fiber. And he pointed out that the glove in court has dark stains that correspond with the location and size of the blood smears visible in a photo of the glove before it was moved from the spot where police discovered it. Matheson also showed jurors the circles and arrows he drew on the leather to point out the bloodstains.

Defense attorney Phil Baker pointed out that Matheson did not examine the glove for cuts.

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