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(Court TV) -- Developments in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson from September 25-29, 1995
Judge Lance Ito cancelled a vacation and set 11-hour court days this week. The judge also barred the use of videotaped excerpts from the trial. The decision came after defense lawyers -- who wanted to use the footage -- failed to meet a morning deadline for submitting the tapes for the judge's review.
Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark began her closing arguments with a preemptive strike against police detective Mark Fuhrman before taking aim at O.J. Simpson.
Calling Fuhrman a racist and a liar, Clark said, "It would be a tragedy if, with such overwhelming evidence, you find the defendant not guilty because of the racist attitudes of one officer."
Clark began her five-hour argument speaking softly, methodically presenting the basic elements of the prosecution's case with a jigsaw puzzle motif. She described each piece of evidence as another interlocking piece that fit together, pointing to Simpson's guilt. While there are "missing pieces," she urged jurors not to lose sight of the big picture.
Early in the afternoon, as Clark was talking about the cuts and bruises on Simpson's hands, she was abruptly interrupted when Judge Lance Ito imposed a TV blackout. Ito was concerned that the courtroom camera was showing Simpson's private notes in panning on his hands.
Calling it a "Flagrant violation" of attorney-client privilege, Judge Ito terminated TV coverage.
About an hour later, after a conference with lawyers from both sides and media attorney Kelly Sager, Ito allowed TV coverage to continue. Though replays of the camera close-ups do not appear to have show Simpson's notes, Ito ordered that the camera only shoot people in the courtroom from above the shoulders.
Ito also fined the local radio and television press association $1,500. The camera is operated by Court TV.
Clark took jurors through the evening of the murders, showing Simpson was unaccounted for between 9:36pm and 10:54 and that he left a trail of evidence from the murder scene to his home.
Darden, who argued for a little more than an hour, focused on Simpson's history of abusing his wife to prove he had motive to kill her. Darden also brought up Fuhrman, telling the jury not to lose focus on the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
"If it doesn't fit, you must acquit," Johnnie Cochran, Jr. repeated to jurors in closing arguments yesterday, attempting to equate the prosecution's failed glove experiment with other evidence used to incriminate O.J. Simpson.
Following prosecutor Christopher Darden, who claimed the defense was throwing up a smoke screen, Cochran launched an attack on the prosecution's timeline and police investigators, whom he charged with botching the investigation, conspiring to frame Simpson and lying on the witness stand.
Using the same words Simpson had used last week when he waived his right to testify, Cochran said Simpson "could not, would not, did not commit these crimes."
Cochran then said the jury was on a "journey toward justice" as he gave his version of the events of June 12, 1994, the night of the murders, starting with a video tape of Simpson and his ex-wife at their daughter's dance recitals.
Darden had repeatedly described Simpson as a time bomb with a burning fuse, growing increasingly closer to a full explosion. Cochran attempted to reduce the impact of accounts of Simpson's domestic violence by describing Simpson as imperfect, "not proud of some of the things he did. But [these things] don't add up to murder."
Scoffing Darden's charge that only Simpson had the rage to carry out such a ruthless attack on Nicole Brown, Cochran suggested that professional killers could have been after Ronald Goldman on the night of the killings.
Cochran pointed out that defense wittiness Dr. Henry Lee, a crime scene expert, visited the crime scene about two weeks after the incident and found an envelop at the crime scene that could have been the source of the crime. Police never found the envelope because competency "took a back seat right at the beginning," he said.
"They [the police] very soon pretended to solve this crime and implicated an innocent man and they never, ever looked for anyone else."
Cochran's two main targets on the LAPD were detectives Mark Fuhrman and Philip Vannatter. Describing Fuhrman as "the man who found the glove," and Vannatter as "the man who carried the blood," he worked from giant boards listing the "big lies" that they told in their efforts frame O.J. Simpson.
Cochran said that the gloves found at the murder scene and Simpson's estate didn't fit Simpson simply because they weren't worn by Simpson. "Their [the prosecution's] case from that day forward was slipping away from them," he said.
"We may all live to be a hundred years old and I hope we do, but you will always remember those glove, when Darden asked him to try them on, didn't fit."
Further mocking the prosecution's case, Cochran donned a knit cap, similar to the one prosecutor's entered into evidence. Cochran said it is absurd to think that Simpson would wear the cap as a disguise. "You have been seeing me for a year," Cochran said. "I put this knit cap on, who am I? I am still Johnnie Cochran with a knit cap. . . O.J. Simpson in a knit cap from two blocks away is still O.J. Simpson.," he said.
"Even the prosecutors say he is so famous that he can't go anywhere he wouldn't be recognized."
While it will be left to defense lawyer Barry Scheck to discuss the DNA evidence, Cochran asked the jurors why, if Simpson was rushing back from a bloody crime scene, there was no blood found on the door knobs, banister or white carpets at Simpson's Estate.
O.J. Simpson's defense team wrapped up its final arguments with a verbal one-two punch: one aimed at jurors' hearts, the other an appeal to their heads.
Johnnie Cochran Jr., told jurors that by setting Simpson free, they would make themselves custodians of the Constitution and saviors of the Los Angeles Police Department. Cochran began the day and ended it, quoting the Bible and urging jurors to vote their feelings as well as their intellect. He concluded by urging the jurors "to come to "a well-reasoned decision."
In between Cochran's two appearances was Simpson lawyer Barry Scheck, who attacked the state's blood and other evidence. "There is a cancer at the heart of this case," he argued. "And that's what this evidence shows."
On the second day of his impassioned final summation, Cochran accused police of falsely implicating Simpson in "a rush to judgment, an obsession to win at any cost." At the center of the alleged plot was former detective Mark Fuhrman, who Cochran described as a "lying, perjuring, genocidal racist" with a long-time vendetta against Simpson.
Fuhrman, he reminded jurors, lied to them in March, when he denied uttering racist slurs in the past 10 years. He also was a racist, Cochran said, recalling Roderick Hodge, a black man who testified last month that Fuhrman had called him "nigger."
To reiterate his point, Cochran played a segment from the Fuhrman tapes, in which the former detective makes a racial slur. He followed that with a letter written by another witness, who testified that Fuhrman once said all black people should be collected and burned.
"There was another person who talked about burning people," Cochran said. "That person was Adolf Hitler."
Accompanying Fuhrman on the morning after the killings was Detective Philip Vannatter, who also lied to keep their case intact, Cochran said. They were "twins of deception," he said.
Fuhrman had hated Simpson since answering a domestic-violence call at the former football star's Rockingham Avenue home in 1985, Cochran told jurors. When he had a chance to frame Simpson with a leather glove, he and other detectives didn't hesitate to "win at any cost," he said.
Then, they carried it further, planting blood and other evidence to tie Simpson to a crime he didn't commit, Cochran said. And no one in the department, he said, tried to stop the "cover-up."
Cochran leaned toward the jurors and smiled. "If you grew up in this country, then you know there are Fuhrmans out there," he said.
Fuhrman was just one corrupt cop among several, and his dishonest tactics ultimately tainted other police officers, too, said Cochran.
"There is something about corruption," Cochran said. "There is something about a rotten apple that will ultimately infect the entire barrel.
Scheck picked up on the theme, saying Fuhrman and others went to great lengths to build an unfair case.
"Something is terribly wrong" with the physical evidence against Simpson, said Scheck, alluding to testimony from forensics specialist Henry Lee, who once characterized the prosecution case as "something wrong."
He questioned the blood samples and DNA findings taken from a pair of socks taken from Simpson's bedroom. The socks, which prosecutors said contain blood and other evidence tying Simpson to the crime, should be inadmissible, said Scheck.
The socks had been soaked in blood after the killings, said Scheck -- not during a bloody struggle, as police and prosecutors claim. At the crime scene, some of the blood collected at the Bundy Drive site was tainted because it wasn't refrigerated in time, said Scheck.
And Vannatter was allowed to carry a sample of Simpson's blood, drawn the day after the killings, to Simpson's estate, said Scheck -- proof again, he said, that police were trying to cook up a case against Simpson.
He also hammered at criminologists Dennis Fung and his assistant, Andrea Mazzola, criticized for their blood-collection methods earlier in the trial. Fung's assistant, said Scheck, was a rookie, and she committed rookie errors.
Mazzola said she initialed paper containers, or bindles, as she collected blood from the site, Scheck told jurors. "Her initials were on no bindles -- zero," Scheck said. "Something is wrong."
Scheck also questioned some of the evidence from the gloves presumed used in the killings, noting that Simpson's arm hairs weren't found on them -- but one, from a white person, was found on the glove at Simpson's house, he said.
He also criticized the blood findings taken from the Bronco, claiming some DNA evidence indicates the late addition of extra blood to frame Simpson.
The questions surrounding the evidence is enough to free Simpson, said Scheck, who likened the prosecution's case to a bug in a bowl.
"How many cockroaches do you have to find in a bowl of spaghetti" before you won't eat it? he asked. "This is reasonable doubt."
The case went to the jury after prosecutors concluded their final remarks with an emotional reminder of the brutal nature of the crime.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark concluded her final remarks by returning to the tortured relationship between O.J. Simpson and his former wife that prosecutors contend set a motive for murder.
She played a tape of one of Nicole Simpson's emergency 911 calls, in 1993, in which she pleaded for police help: "He's back. He's O.J.Simpson.I think you know his record." As the tape was played, images from her life were flashed for jurors: her battered face; a picture of her at a police station, her pants dirty from a fall in the mud; a swollen arm.
The screen then filled with photos taken years later, in 1994 - black socks at the foot of Simpson's bed; the bloody glove at his Rockingham Avenue estate; the blood drops at Simpson's driveway; Simpson's Ford Bronco; blood on the Bundy Drive walkway.
And then, finally, the screen filled with the tightest shot yet of Nicole Simpson's body lying at the foot of steps outside her home. It was followed by a close-up of Ronald Goldman's crumpled body in a gated area.
"I don't have to say anything else," Clark said. "Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the people of the state of California, because we have proven beyond a reasonable doubt, far beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed these murders, we ask you to find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown."
The jury then received final instructions from Judge Lance Ito and met briefly to select a foreperson.
On the final day of the case, prosecutors Clark and Christopher Darden spent five hours reviewing elements of their case, debunking defense team theories and calling for a calm, logical approach to deliberations.
"It's time to stand up. It is time to stand up. The Constitution says a man has no right to kill and get away with it just because one of the investigating officers is a racist," Darden said.
During his rebuttal summation, Darden addressed the emotional arguments raised by the defense, contending that Simpson's attorneys were trying to persuade the jury to hold Simpson to a higher standard.
"No one is above the law -- not the police, not the rich," Darden told the jury. "O.J. Simpson is not above the law...Everybody knows he killed."
Detective Mark Fuhrman is a racist, Darden said, and there is racism in the Los Angeles Police Department, but he warned the jury that acquitting Simpson won't send the message the defense claims it would.
"I told you there would be smoke. . . . Yesterday we heard the smoke," Darden said, referring to defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr.'s closing argument.
After an anecdote about Martin Luther King, Darden told the majority-black jury: "Some folks like to get you all riled up, get you so upset that you move suddenly, so you drown on the minutia, choke on the smoke.
"I heard a lot about courage and you are 14 courageous people and everyone in this room knows that and nobody can ever call you cowards, nobody can ever accuse you people of running away," Darden said, responding to Cochran's argument that acquittal would take courage. "I think the courageous thing to do in this case would be to look at all the evidence," Darden said.
Darden also ridiculed Simpson's alibi.
"Chippin' golf balls. There were golf balls in that little black bag," he said, mocking the defense explanation of Simpson's alibi.
"That was the night he was supposedly suffering from acute arthritis," Darden said. And the black bag that Simpson refused to let houseguest Brian "Kato" Kaelin put in the limousine on the night of the murders was supposedly put in Simpson's golf bag, he said.
Darden pulled out the golf bag and said there was nothing in it.
"They want you to throw your common sense out the window, just chuck it out the window. You can't do that," he said. "They have one racist cop."
Clark also meticulously worked through the evidence, picking apart defense evidence-planting and contamination theories and dismissing them as absurd.
At one point, she asked why why police would plant a sock at the foot of Simpson's bed, then plant blood on that same sock severak weeks after it was collected.
"What we have here is logic and evidence and common sense," Clark told the jury. E-mail to a friend