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THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL

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UCLA law professor Peter Arenella and Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson offer their take on the Simpson trial. Joining them is Los Angeles defense attorney Gerald L. Chaleff, who will rotate with other experts as the case moves forward. Today’s topic: baggage handling.

PETER ARENELLA

On the prosecution: While under no legal obligation to explain what happened to the murder weapon, bloody clothing or the mystery duffel bag, prosecutors are trying to fill these gaps in their story line by ‘evidentiary innuendo.’ Marcia Clark used the limo driver and the skycap to suggest that O.J. Simpson left Rockingham with more bags than he had at the airport. Clark hopes the jury will believe that Simpson dumped the missing bag or bags in an airport trash can.

On the defense: Johnnie Cochran gambled when he offered a uniquely patterned golf bag cover to Allen Park for identification. When Park insisted that the cover was different, the jury may have thought the defense was pulling a cheap stunt akin to F. Lee Bailey’s miniature gloves because the real cover may have been incriminating. Cochran may have rehabilitated himself by showing that this cover was checked in when Simpson returned from Chicago.

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LAURIE LEVENSON

On the prosecution: It was a great day for the prosecution, thanks in large part to a botched defense tactic. By trying to trick Park with different luggage, the defense only highlighted how important it is that no one can account for Simpson’s small knapsack. Prosecutors seized the opportunity to plant in the jurors’ minds that the bag contained the knife and bloody clothes and was discarded by Simpson in the airport.

On the defense: The defense was left holding the bag. By offering luggage that did not match the bags seen by Park, the defense looked like it was desperate to account for the missing pieces. The defense also may have lost credibility with the jury by trying such a tactic. At the end of the day, the defense’s concerns shifted to the new DNA results, which they concede ‘change the ball game.’

GERALD L. CHALEFF

On the prosecution: The major theme of the prosecution’s day was the missing duffel bag, which the prosecutors traced from Simpson’s home to the top of a trash can at LAX, suggesting to the jury that this is how Simpson disposed of the bloody clothes and knife. Out of the jury’s presence, Chris Darden implied that they now have evidence to show what happened to the clothes. Prosecutors also used Park to drive home their contention that the Bronco was not there before at least 10:45.

On the defense: Cochran’s cross-examination of Park brought out the point that Simpson would have had to take off the bloody clothes, shower, dress and make it back downstairs appearing calm, all within five or six minutes. Cochran also showed that the driver failed to see the Bronco, even when everyone else concedes it was there. Unfortunately, the day did not end on a high note when defense questioning placed Simpson at the trash can where prosecutors suggest the mysterious bag was discarded.

Compiled by TIM RUTTEN / Los Angeles Times

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