Simpson Team to Fight D.A.'s Use of Grand Jury at Hearing : Courts: Defense says any evidence gathered by panel should be suppressed. Embattled police detective asks judge to deny request for personnel records.
Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito on Thursday granted O.J. Simpson’s lawyers an emergency hearing today in which they will try to block prosecutors from gathering more evidence against the former football great during a grand jury inquiry of Simpson’s longtime friend Al Cowlings.
Meanwhile, a police detective whom the defense has claimed is racist and possibly corrupt, fought back Thursday by asking Ito to deny a defense request for his personnel records. Lawyers for Detective Mark Fuhrman are expected to argue that issue before Ito on Monday.
At the closed emergency hearing this afternoon, Ito is expected to hear arguments on whether Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti is improperly using the grand jury to glean information to further implicate Simpson in the June 12 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Lyle Goldman.
In court papers, the defense argues that Garcetti should be sanctioned because such use of a grand jury is improper and that any evidence that the panel has produced against Simpson should be suppressed. The lawyers also asked that Ito dismiss the murder case against Simpson.
The papers assert that the “grand jury is not empowered to conduct roving investigations, or assist the district attorney in conducting his own roving investigations.”
The defense team’s constitutional expert, Gerald F. Uelmen, cites in the papers remarks Garcetti made Wednesday to reporters in which he said he was using the grand jury for “strictly investigatory purposes” in the Cowlings case.
Suzanne Childs, a spokeswoman for Garcetti, declined to comment on the defense contentions, saying “we will respond in court.”
The grand jury inquiry of Cowlings, Garcetti said Wednesday, is aimed at determining whether enough evidence exists to charge him with trying to help Simpson flee from police June 17, the day that Simpson was to surrender to authorities on the murder charges.
Instead of turning himself in, Simpson and Cowlings fled from the Encino home of another Simpson friend, Robert Kardashian. Cowlings and Simpson later led authorities on a nationally televised chase in a white Ford Bronco before winding up at Simpson’s estate.
The district attorney’s office last month declined to charge Cowlings with aiding a fleeing felon, but reserved the right to do so later.
Donald Re, Cowlings’ lawyer, has said that if a grand jury investigating Cowlings happens upon evidence relevant to the Simpson case, the prosecutors could use it. On Thursday, Southwestern University School of Law professor Robert A. Pugsley agreed.
Pugsley noted that Garcetti has said he wants to investigate not only Cowlings, but everyone who had been at Kardashian’s house the day Simpson fled.
That being the case, he said, “the grand jury can legitimately remain in session for as long as it takes to follow up the necessary leads to see if there is any basis for indicting any of those other people.”
As the defense scrambled to block the prosecution’s use of the grand jury, Fuhrman sought to block the defense from gaining access to his Los Angeles Police Department personnel records.
The defense wants access to any documents involving citizens’ complaints against Fuhrman related to racial and other prejudices, falsifying evidence or civilian misconduct.
The defense hopes to attack the credibility of the detective, who has testified that he found a bloody glove behind a guest house at O.J. Simpson’s estate. That glove is an apparent match of a bloody glove found at the murder scene.
Defense sources have been quoted as saying Fuhrman may have planted the glove on Simpson’s property. Widespread media attention also has focused on a 1989 interview that Fuhrman had with a psychiatrist in which he allegedly used a racial slur when referring to black people. Simpson’s lawyers also have obtained an affidavit from a woman who said Fuhrman once made derogatory remarks to her about interracial couples and black people in general, an allegation that Fuhrman has denied.
The defense lawyers also cite a lawsuit in which a man contends that Fuhrman in 1987 took a knife from one location and placed it at his feet after Fuhrman and another officer shot him. In court papers filed Thursday, Robert H. Tourtelot, Fuhrman’s lawyer, argued that the defense request for the personnel records is “stuffed to the gills with irrelevant evidence that could only be calculated to harass Detective Fuhrman and taint potential jurors.”
Simpson’s lawyers do not begin to establish a link between any alleged improper conduct by Fuhrman and the personnel records they seek, Tourtelot said.
In another development Thursday, a woman who spoke to Simpson’s house guest Brian (Kato) Kaelin the night Nicole Simpson and Goldman were killed disputed a magazine article suggesting that she and Kaelin may have perjured themselves during court testimony.
Rachel Ferrara labeled as false an Aug. 29 Time magazine article that said she had told friends that Kaelin saw Simpson outside his guest house moments after Kaelin was startled by a loud noise at the rear of the structure. The bloody glove was later found near the spot where the noise originated.
If Time’s account were true, prosecutors could place Simpson in the area where the glove was found. Ferrara insisted that the magazine is wrong. A Time spokesman contacted Thursday stood by the article.
Times staff writer Robert Lopez contributed to this story.