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THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL

Compiled by HENRY WEINSTEIN / Los Angeles Times

UCLA law professor Peter Arenella and Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson offer their take on the Simpson trial. Joining them is Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law School professor, who will rotate with other experts as the case moves forward. Today’s topic: opening statements.

PETER ARENELL

On the prosecution: “This must have been a terribly frustrating day for the prosecution, not only becasuse they were listening to Johnnie Cochran frequently make arguments to the jury, but also because the prosecutors knew Cochran was making references to witnesses and reports that had never been turned over to the prosecution in violation of the defense’s discovery obligations.”

On the defense: “Johnnie Cochran did a brilliant job in turning the prosecution’s evidence of domestic abuse into a potential negative for the prosecution by recharacterizing it as character asssassination. But the defense’s real bombshell Tuesday was its revelation that type B blood was found under Nicole Brown Simpson’s fingernails and on her body. That blood type matches neither O.J. Simpson nor the victims.”

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LAURIE LEVENSON

On the prosecution: “The prosecution must be livid. Not only could they see that Cochran was scoring points with the jury, but they realized they had been sandbagged in a major way. The prosecutors suspected the defense had information they were not revealing and now they know it, but it’s too late because the jury has already heard the damaging information, such as a woman the defense interviewed in August who said she saw four possible suspects.”

On the defense: “Cochran’s opening statement had everything. It played on the jurors’ emotions; it attacked the integrity of the police and the prosecutors, suggested other possible suspects, put at the scene physical evidence that supports the defense and rehabilitated O.J.'s image. He did so many clever things, like holding up the mystery envelope, knowing the prosecution would object, leaving the impresson in the jury’s mind that the prosecution is trying to hide evidence.”

CHARLES OGLETREE

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On the prosecution: “This was the prosecutor’s worst nightmare--Johnnie Cochran standing before that jury and convincing them that they hadn’t heard all the evidence in the case. The prosecution desperately tried to prevent Cochran from mentioning evidence that they think doesn’t exist, is in dispute or had not been prorperly subject to discovery by the prosecution. While their purpose may be laudable and perfectly legal, the method they used came off as whiney, disruptive and petty.”

On the defense: “Cochran’s opening statement was simply brilliant in style, in structure, and in content. He was able to present an honest, thoughtful and thorough defense of O.J. Simpson that will cause jurors to be constantly reminded of defense evidence every time they hear testimony from a government witness. He was able to portray the conduct of the prosecution in a way that all jurors would be drawn to the conclusion that the case suffers from gross incompetence.


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