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O.J. Simpson trial: Opening statements; testimony begins

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(Court TV) -- Developments in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson from January 23-27, 1995

Opening statements were delayed a day because of a flurry of pre-trial arguments and motions.

O.J. Simpson asked Judge Lance Ito for permission to speak with jurors before his attorney's opening statement and to show jurors his scars, injuries and physical limitations while attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. delivers his remarks.

The defense surprised the prosecution with a list of 34 new witnesses and a videotape of police walking through blood at the murder scene. The judge barred the defense from mentioning many of the witnesses during opening statements, and the defense agreed not to use the video.

The defense offered evidence of an alibi for the first time -- a witness (Rosa Lopez) who said she saw Simpson's white Ford Bronco outside his home at a time when the prosecution alleges he was two miles away committing murder. The defense claimed that police detective Mark Fuhrman suppressed the information.

Judge Ito ruled the defense could cross-examine Fuhrman about allegedly racial comments he made to Kathleen Bell in 1985 or 1986.

Opening statements began after Judge Lance Ito rejected an unusual motion from O.J. Simpson's defense team to allow the football legend to address the jury.

Deputy District Attorney Christopher Darden was the first to speak for the prosecution. He said that beneath Simpson's image as a star athlete and actor was a jealous batterer and ultimately a murderer.

"He killed her (Nicole Brown) out of jealousy," Darden told the jury. "He killed her because he couldn't have her." He called Simpson "an extremely controlling and possessive man" driven by obsessive love. He then described 17 years of physical and emotional abuse that culminated in the murders.

Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark then described the evidence against Simpson, saying there was a path of "blood where there should be no blood," leading from Nicole Brown's condominium to Simpson's home. "That trail of blood from Bundy through his own Ford Bronco and into his house in Rockingham is devastating proof of his guilt," she told the jury.

But as the trial finally got underway, Judge Lance Ito suddenly pulled the plug on live coverage after Court TV inadvertently televised the face of an alternate juror. Judge Ito announced that he would decide Wednesday whether to allow continued televised coverage of the trial.

The judge rejected Simpson's request to address the jury after Clark denounced the idea as "a blatant attempt to impress the jury with his charisma and star appeal."

"The motion to allow the defendant to directly address the jury will be denied," Ito ruled. "The motion to allow him to exhibit to the jury his knee injuries or the result of the scarring and the surgeries will be allowed."

The scars on his knees, which Ito is letting Simpson exhibit, would presumably illustrate how old football injuries would have hindered his ability to overpower two people and stab them to death.

O.J. Simpson's lawyer told jurors that the former football legend is an innocent man, wrongfully accused by a prosecution that wants to win the case at any cost.

Johnnie Cochran began his opening statement after Judge Lance Ito decided to allow continued television of the trial. On Tuesday, Court TV had accidentally broadcast the face of an alternate juror and the judge threatened to pull the plug on television coverage.

The central theme of Johnnie Cochran's opening remarks was the prosecution's rush to judgment. "This case is about a rush to judgment, an obsession to win at any costs," he told the jury.

Cochran said police ignored at least two witnesses who offered information that could clear Simpson. The witnesses include a woman who said she saw four men walking near the murder scene the night of June 12 and another woman who saw Simpson's car at home that night.

"After Mr. Simpson left, after 12 o'clock, she heard men's voices over on the Simpson property...'til about 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning, " Cochran told jurors. "She didn't know what was going on."

The trial was adjourned until Monday after the lawyers engaged in bitter arguments over what the prosecution called serious misconduct by the defense. The prosecution claimed defense lawyers "ambushed" them by failing to inform them of names or statements of witnesses until the defense's opening statement.

The prosecution asked Judge Lance Ito to strike from the record certain remarks made by defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran during his opening statement Wednesday and to instruct the jury to disregard the comments. Prosecutors also want the judge to tell the jury that the defense had engaged in misconduct, give the prosecution an unprecedented opportunity to deliver a second opening statement, and delay the trial for 30 days.

Judge Ito said he would announce his decision Monday. But he also told the defense to be prepared to finish its opening statement Monday and the prosecution to be ready to call its first witnesses if he decided to let the double-murder trial proceed immediately. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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