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O.J. Simpson trial: The gloves don't fit

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(Court TV) -- Developments in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson from June 12-16, 1995

On the anniversary of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, the prosecution withdrew its plan to call as a witness the controversial pathologist Dr. Irwin Golden, who has been shown to have committed a variety of errors in the autopsies of the two victims.

Instead of calling Golden, prosecutor Brian Kelberg told Judge Lance Ito early Monday that he would continue his direct examination of Golden's supervisor, Los Angeles coroner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran.

Upon hearing Kelberg's announcement, defense lawyer Robert Shapiro said he planned to subpoena Golden to appear as a witness for the defense.

Golden failed to document injuries or misdescribed them in his autopsy report, according to Dr. Sathyavagiswaran. Golden also failed to preserve the contents of Nicole Simpson's stomach.

Kelberg has elicited testimony about Golden's mistakes from Dr. Sathyavagiswaran apparently in anticipation of the defense trying to prove that sloppy work on the autopsies has led to incorrect conclusions about the double murder.

After pointing out Golden's mistakes, Dr. Sathyavagiswaran downplayed their importance.

The coroner also described more of Goldman's wounds. The defensive wounds to Goldman's hands most likely were caused by Goldman's open hands flailing about, hitting a tree, a gate or a sapling, causing abrasions on top of bruises, he said.

The hand injuries don't appear to be the result of a clenched fist hitting another person, Dr. Sathyavagiswaran said, undermining the defense theory that Goldman punched his assailant. Simpson shows no sign of bruises in photographs taken at the request of his legal team a short time after the murders.

The families of Nicole Simpson and Goldman marked the anniversary of their deaths with candlelight vigils for friends and family in separate ceremonies outside Los Angeles.

Nicole Simpson's father filed a wrongful death suit against O.J. Simpson, charging that the former football star "planned and prepared to assault, batter and murder Nicole Brown Simpson."

The suit, filed in Santa Monica on the last day before the statute of limitations was to run out, asks for unspecified damages. The Goldman family has two similar suits against Simpson.

One of the alternate jurors was overcome with distress and suddenly left the jury box as a coroner continued his gruesome testimony about the murders.

Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran was demonstrating how the murder weapon was plunged into Ronald Goldman's rib cage when the juror left the courtroom, prompting Judge Lance Ito to call a 25-minute break in the proceedings.

This was the second time that the trial has been interrupted by a juror being overcome during the showing of graphic autopsy photos and detailed testimony about the killings.

Dr. Sathyavagiswaran spent a seventh day on direct examination giving detailed testimony about the 58 autopsy photos and accompanying written reports, reviewing them injury by injury, line by line.

He described three of the fatal stab wounds to Ronald Goldman: two gashes to the chest that cracked through a rib and punctured Goldman's right lung and a third that hit the aorta, the major artery leading from the heart. Earlier, he spoke of a fatal cut across Goldman's neck.

The coroner told jurors that after slashing his throat, Goldman's killer may have poked him in the face at least four, perhaps five times with a knife to see if he was dead.

"They are all superficial punctures, and I have no way of knowing exactly why they were done," the coroner said of the red gashes on the right side of Goldman's face. "It could have been inflicted to check whether he was still alive or not. That would be one conclusion I would draw, also."

Using blowups of autopsy reports, charts showing the victim's head and hands and display boards of autopsy photos, Lakshmanan said Goldman's swollen and bruised knuckles could not have come from punching his assailant. He said the injuries were likely caused by Goldman flailing around while under attack, striking tree branches and stumps in the small, partly enclosed area where he died.

He also conceded that he no longer thinks that his office did a very good job on the autopies. He termed the autopsies adequate in light of the more than 30 errors committed by Dr. Irwin Golden, the deputy medical examiner who performed the autopsies.

Before the day's session opened, defense attorney Robert Shapiro complained that the prosecution was prolonging Lakshmanan's testimony.

"This appears to be an unprecedented marathon, to present evidence that is readily susceptible of reading from a crystal ball," Shapiro told the judge. "The people continue to talk and press and go into minutia and details most people looking at this are mystified by. It's time for your honor to step in and say the jury has enough evidence on the real issues at hand."

The defense began its cross-examination of Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran by trying to show the coroner could provide only a few definitive facts about the murders. In a tone at times mocking, defense attorney Robert Shapiro pointed out that Dr. Sathyavagiswaran established only four facts during eight days of direct testimony: Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered; the wounds wer sharp force injuries; the victims' throats were cut; and they bled toi death.

Dr. Sathyavagiswaran conceded he could not, without any degree of medical certainty, say how many people were responsible for the murders or whether only one single-edged knife was used in the attacks.

Near the end of direct testimony, Dr. Sathyavagiswaran testified about the important time of death issue. He said the victims were probably murdered between 9:40pm on June 12, and 12:13 am the next morning, when the bodies were discovered.

The contents of Nicole Simpson's stomach, he explained, suggested that she died between 10pm and 10:30 pm - the time frame presented by prosecutors. He based this conclusion on the fact that Nicole Simpson completed her meal between 8pm and 8:30pm and on the length of time it takes for a stomach to become empty after a meal of pasta and wine. He said general studies show that it can take between 90 minutes and six hours - depending on whether a meal was light, medium or heavy - for food to be digested and the stomach to become empty.

The coroner also acknowledged that he had never testified in a trial where the doctor who performed the autopsy was called as a witness. Shapiro is expected to continue questioning Dr. Sathyavagiswaran about the errors in the autopsy conducted by Dr. Irwin Golden.

In one of the most dramatic moments of the trial, O.J. Simpson struggled to put on the gloves that prosecutors say he wore to commit the murders.

Simpson first put on latex gloves. When he stood before the jury, he struggled to put the gloves on, often clenching his face in agony to show that the gloves didn't fit.

But did they?

The prosecution did not believe Simpson's performance and asked him to clench his fists and grasp a marker while wearing the gloves. When doing this , the gloves appeared to fit. The prosecution contends that the latex gloves, along with Simpson opening his hands while putting the gloves on gave the impression that the gloves didn't fit.

So while the demonstration may have had a dramatic effect on jurors, many observors believe the prosecution's gamble backfired.

The demonstration came after testimony suggesting that Nicole Brown Simpson bought the unique style of gloves during a 1990 trip to Bloomingdale's in New York. Only about 300 brown, extra-large gloves in that style were ordered by Bloomingdale's for 1990. The store sold between 200 to 240 gloves and returned the rest to the manufacturer.

Deputy District Attorney Christopher Darden had witness Richard Rubin, former vice president and general manager of Aris Isotoner Inc., inspect Simpson's bare hands. Rubin held his hands up to Simpson's, eyeballed his knuckles and declared that Simpson was a size large or extra large.

The gloves police collected after the murders were size extra large.

"At one point in time, those gloves would actually be, I think, large on Mr. Simpson's hands," Rubin told jurors.

After court, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. said the gloves were too small, and he said his client's struggle was sincere.

"I don't think he could act the size of his hands," Cochran said. "He would be a great actor if he could act his hands larger."

The glove testimony came after defense attorney Robert Shapiro finished his cross-examination of Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, the Los Angeles County coroner.

Shapiro second-guessed the coroner on just about every aspect of his testimony, including his opinion that the knife wound that killed Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman came from a right-handed person.

Shapiro also tried to suggest that the injuries on Goldman's body indicated a fierce struggle with his assailant and that the attacker would have had to sustain injuries himself in the process.

The prosecution scrambled to recover Friday after asking O.J. Simpson to try on the infamous bloody gloves Thursday and they didn't fit. Glove designer Richard Rubin testified that leather gloves shrink when exposed to liquid.

Christopher Darden  the same prosecutor whose strategy backfired when he asked Simpson to try on the gloves  elicited testimony that normal exposure would cause two to five percent shrinkage.

Rubin is a former vice president of Aris Isotoner, the company that manufactured the right-handed glove found on Simpson's estate and the left-handed glove found outside Nicole Brown Simpson's condominium after she and Ronald Goldman were murdered.

A saleswoman from Bloomingdale's department store in New York testified Thursday that in December 1990 Nicole Simpson bought two pairs of extra-large Isotoners.

Rubin told the court that if such gloves were severely saturated they could shrink 15 percent.

Over a pair of latex gloves, Rubin tried on the right-handed glove. Though the glove was marked extra-large, Rubin said it had shrunk to "a little bit about average of a large but well below an extra-large."

Under cross-examination, Johnnie Cochran informed Rubin that the glove absorbed only three cubic centimeters of blood, an amount too small to have an effect upon the glove, Rubin said.

Rubin was unable at first to put on the left glove because the lining came out.

With the jury outside the court, Darden asked Judge Lance Ito for permission to question Rubin about the lining to find out if there was anything blocking the fingers.

Defense lawyer Robert Shapiro argued that he had tried on the gloves and there were no impediments. He also said that he witnessed a defense expert dislodge the lining.

After Rubin was allowed to replace the lining he said the glove had shrunk to between a large and extra-large. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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