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O.J. Simpson trial: Judge Ito rules that jury can see autopsy photos

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Editor's Note: As part of's new Crime section, we are archiving some of the most interesting content from

(Court TV) -- Developments in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson from May 30-June 2, 1995

MAY 30
With the threat of losing more jurors hanging over the trial, defense attorney Barry Scheck's cross examination of a police criminalist focused on the defense theme that sloppy police and laboratory work contaminated the key evidence in the case.

Scheck also tried to ask Collin Yamauchi about a statement O.J. Simpson gave police on June 13, 1994. The questions prompted Prosecutor Marcia Clark to attack Scheck and ask the judge to issue sanctions against the defense attorney.

Scheck spent the day pecking away at numerous areas of perceived weakness in the handling of evidence. He tried to show that Yamauchi did not change gloves before handling different pieces of evidence, failed to adequately document blood testing and generally did not follow rules designed to safeguard against contaminating the blood.

Scheck may have made his strongest point at the end of four hours of questioning. Yamauchi conceded that he did not see blood spots on the socks, recovered from O.J. Simpson's bedroom, on June 29, 1994. He also said he did not see any reddish powder on the laboratory paper that had been placed underneath the socks.

While the testimony supports the prosecuton theory that the blood stains were not easily visible, it also supports the defense argument that the criminalists did not see the blood because it wasn't yet on the socks. The defense wants the jury to believe the blood was planted on the socks at a later date.

Under persistent questioning Yamauchi also said he suddenly remembered he got blood on his plastic gloves last summer while handling a vial holding Simpson's sample.

Scheck then tried to show that Yamauchi could have transferred Simpson's blood from his hand to other evidence, including a glove found on Simpson's estate. But the effort was hampered by Yamauchi's failure to record the time that he processed each piece of evidence, so it was unknown whether he handled the glove before or after he handled the vial.

Yamauchi said the last thing he did was write his initials on the glove, an action Scheck indicated would require him to grip the glove by its wrist notch -- the only area where Simpson's blood was found.

The fireworks of the day occcured when Scheck tried to elicit testimony from Yamauchi about Simpson's June 13 statement to police. Judge Lance Ito had ruled Friday that Yamauchi's testimony had not opened the door to the defense to introduce the statement. So Scheck tried to bring in some of the statement through a series of questions to Yamauchi.

Yamauchi said criminalist Dennis Fung, who had talked with detectives, told him in advance that Simpson had a cut on his hand which might be connected to the slayings. But when Scheck asked Yamauchi if he knew the detectives had taken a statement from Simpson, Judge Ito sustained a prosecution objection.

Moments later, with the jury of out the courtroom, prosecutor Marcia Clark ripped into Scheck, saying, "no lawyer with half a brain or an IQ about 5" would have asked that question. She demanded that Scheck be sanctioned and reported to the California bar. Scheck did not respond to the personal attack but insisted the question was proper.

Judge Ito disagreed, telling Scheck to cease that line of questioning.

"To couch your questions in terms of a statement you cannot bring in through this witness is unduly confusing and time-consuming, isn't it?" the judge said.

In other developments:

  • There were indications that two jurors were being investigated and that one is about to be dismissed. One juror allegedly is being investigated for passing a note to Francine Florio-Bunten, the juror who was dismissed last week. The note may have concerned Florio-Bunten's alleged deal to write a book.
  • In a memo to attorneys, Judge Ito proposed longer court hours to speed up the trial's pace. Court would run from 9am to 6pm three days a week. The judge rejected a jury request for Saturday sessions, saying it would be far too costly.
  • Defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. denied tabloid newspaper reports that the Simpson defense is negotiating a plea bargain. "There are not now, nor have there been, nor will there be any plea bargaining discussions in this case," he said.
  • MAY 31
    The prosecution won a major victory when Judge Lance Ito ruled that most of the autopsy photos of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman could be shown to the jury.

    The judge described some of the photographs as "horrible" and "terrible" but said their probative value outweighed any potential prejudice.

    The defense had argued that the pictures would cause "revulsion and horror" in jurors. "It's unlikely anyone would look at these photos and not get sick to their stomach," defense attorney Robert Shapiro argued during a hearing earlier this month.

    The prosecution argued the photos will help jurors understand how the murders were committed. The prosecution has theorized that Simpson killed his former wife while she was face down on the ground by pulling back her head and slashing her throat. Goldman also was killed by a neck wound.

    In his nine-page ruling, Judge Ito said the jury could see 40 of the 44 photographs -- 23 of 26 photos of Goldman and 17 of 18 photographs of Nicole Simpson.

    Several of the photographs of Nicole Simpson show how the murderer slashed her throat. The autopsy photos of Goldman include those depicting knife wounds across most of his body.

    In making his ruling, the judge determined that the photos will help the jury understand numerous factors. These include the number of weapons used in the attacks; the time of death; whether the victims struggled with their attacker, and whether the killings were premeditated.

    Meanwhile, criminalist Collin Yamauchi returned to the witness stand for a fifth day as testimony focused on his feelings towards defense DNA expert Dr. Henry Lee.

    Defense attorney Barry Scheck tried to cast doubt on Yamauchi's earlier testimony that he did not see Lee change gloves when he inspected blood-stained socks in February at the Los Angeles police department laboratory.

    At one point, Scheck asked, "You have no feelings of resentment or irritation with Dr. Lee at all?"

    "No," Yamauchi answered. "Actually he seems like a nice, congenial man."

    Yamauchi was the first technician to conduct sophisticated DNA tests on evidence gathered at Simpson's home and the crime scene where Nicole Simpson and Goldman were slain.

    Scheck was given 10 minutes this morning to conclude his cross-examination of Yamauchi after telling the judge he forgot a few questions.

    Under redirect examination by prosecutor Rockne Harmon, Yamauchi denied he held any animosity toward Lee.

    Asked why he pointed out in his notes that Lee did not change gloves during the examination, Yamauchi said: "Basically he has a good reputation, and he handles evidence in the same fashion we do."

    Yamauchi also denied being part of a police conspiracy to frame Simpson.

    After Yamauchi concluded his testimony, California Department of Justice senior criminalist Gary Sims resumed his testimony, and the jurors got the chance to act as criminalists.

    During Harmon's re-direct examination of Sims, the jurors were asked to step out of the jury box and one by one look through a crime lab microscope at a "reddish" substance on one of the socks found in Simpson's home. The prosecution was trying to show why no criminalist initially saw blood on either of the socks: the stains were not visible to the naked eye and only could be seen with the use of a microscope.

    JUNE 1
    The scientific evidence phase of the trial ended as the state prepared to begin offering the autopsy results of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

    The Los Angeles County coroner is scheduled to testify Friday. He is to be followed by the Deputy Medical Examiner, Dr. Irwin Golden, who performed the autopsies on Nicole Simpson and Goldman.

    Judge Lance Ito recessed court early after defense attorney Barry Scheck finished questioning a state DNA expert about the blood stains found on the rear gate of Nicole Simpson's condominium.

    California Department of Justice scientist Gary Sims acknowledged that foliage can contaminate samples. He noted that plants can be seen brushing against the condo's rear gate in photos taken of the scene. But, he added, he did not see any plant material or bacterial contamination of blood samples taken from the back gate three weeks after the killings. Scheck suggested this was odd since samples collected from the front walkway the day after the killings showed substantial bacterial degradation associated with plants and soil.

    The defense claims the gate blood, which matched Simpson's DNA type, was intentionally placed there after the first evidence was collected June 13. The gate blood was collected July 3.

    In other developments:

  • A hearing was scheduled in Kansas City to determine whether Kansas City Chiefs running back Marcus Allen should be required to appear in Los Angeles to testify. The defense alleges that Simpson apparently forgave Allen for having an affair with his former wife and even allowed Allen to use the Simpson mansion for his wedding. Allen has denied having an affair with Nicole Simpson.
  • Judge Ito spent 90 minutes in chambers with lawyers to discuss new allegations of juror misconduct. At least two more jurors are believed to be under investigation. There are only four remaining alternate jurors. Defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. said the defense would be willing to continue the trial with fewer than 12 jurors. The prosecution has not commented on that issue.
  • JUNE 2
    Los Angeles County Coroner Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran took the witness stand as the prosecution started to introduce the autopsy results.

    Sathyavagiswaran acknowledged that one of his deputy medical examiners, Dr. Irwin Golden, made some mistakes while performing the autopsies on Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

    The defense is expected to attack the findings of Golden, who is expected to be the next witness. The defense has suggested more than one weapon was used in the fatal stabbings and that there could be more than one killer.

    The defense also contends Golden's failure to save Nicole Simpson's stomach contents eliminated one way of double-checking the prosecution's estimate of the times of the murders. Golden also failed to note some of the victims' wounds in his autopsy reports, and an internal coroner's office memorandum listed a number of other potential problems with the way evidence was handled.

    Meanwhile, Judge Lance Ito told the jurors that they can ask for breaks and leave the courtroom if graphic autopsy photos make them too uncomfortable. The judge ruled earlier this week that prosecutors could show more than 40 autopsy photos to the jury. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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