CNN O.J. Simpson Trial

Private detective tracked down Fuhrman tapes

August 22, 1995

From Correspondent Art Harris

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- While Judge Lance Ito debates whether to admit the Mark Fuhrman tapes as evidence in the O.J. Simpson trial, the private investigator who found the tapes says he still doesn't know exactly what's in them. But he won't forget the anonymous call that led him to them.

[Cochran] Everyone wants to hear just what the former Los Angeles Police detective said on the tapes made by an aspiring screenwriter. According to Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran, there are at least 17 incidents on the tapes in which Fuhrman talked about "planting evidence and covering up police misconduct." (170k aiff)

[McKenna] Much of what is known so far is what Simpson lawyers have said in court, along with what's been leaked to the press. Even Pat McKenna, the Simpson private detective who tracked down the tapes, is in the same boat. All he knows is he had to work to get them. It was an anonymous call he got in July 1995 that pointed him to the tapes. "This individual said there's a woman named Laura, gave me a phone number and said this woman had Mark Fuhrman on tape and I should listen to it," McKenna said.

[McKinny] McKenna called the number. "Laura" turned out to be Laura Hart McKinny, a college professor and aspiring screenwriter in North Carolina. When he spoke to her, McKenna said, "I told her I was an investigator on the Simpson case and in my heart of hearts I felt this man was innocent. And I understand she had some tapes, and please don't hang up the phone. I said, 'Let me beg. Don't hang up. I'm begging to hear those tapes.' You have to beg in this business once in a while."

But begging wasn't enough. The defense had to go court in North Carolina to get the tapes turned over.

McKenna has been pounding the pavement for Simpson's defense team for more than a year, visiting the crime scene and talking to Simpson in jail, trying to dig up information lawyers can use to raise reasonable doubt. Attorney F. Lee Bailey said, "My colleague Melvin Belli once said, 'If your investigator is good enough, most any lawyer will do.' That's a bit of an overstatement, but not by much." Still, McKenna says he often has to tell the dream team another promising lead has turned into just a dry hole.

"There's a lot of too-good-to-be-true. These tapes were too good to be true. But you still press and pursue. I've had a 100 too-good-to-be-trues, and 99 of them were too good to be true. But the tapes were good and true," he said.

McKenna claims he's found dozens of witnesses to impeach Fuhrman, but other Fuhrman tips have turned out to be nothing more than wild rumors. "We had a tip that he'd been to the South African embassy and made a big stink in there how he loved apartheid and how it was legal to shoot black people in South Africa," McKenna said. He checked it out, but the people at the embassy told him it was bogus.

[Garcetti] Since the tapes came to light, both sides in the case have tried to take credit for them. District Attorney Gil Garcetti, for example, has said on camera, "We were the first ones who brought it to the attention of the court."

Defense sources tell CNN that if the Fuhrman tapes are ever admitted, they may not need to call other witnesses to prove their claim Fuhrman is a racist who lied under oath. And if Simpson's lawyers can prove Fuhrman lied, sources say, the defense will ask the judge to throw out not only the bloody glove Fuhrman found, but also the rest of the evidence police gathered at Simpson's home.


Copyright © 1995 Cable News Network, Inc.