THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL : Kardashian Strategically Moved Next to Simpson

Regular watchers of O.J. Simpson's double murder trial have noticed a new face at the defense table--the former football star's close friend and now attorney, Robert Kardashian.

Kardashian's promotion from his usual seat at the rail that divides spectators from the lawyers in Judge Lance A. Ito's tiny courtroom was not a casual move. According to sources close to the defense, Simpson's lawyers were concerned about how their client would conduct himself during the display of grisly photographs of his murdered former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

As one of Simpson's closest friends, Kardashian was thought to be in the best position to steady the defendant, if he became overwrought. Tuesday, Kardashian assumed another role, that of human shield. When Simpson's lawyers assessed Monday's session, they became concerned that the courtroom camera, which may not focus on the jurors or the photos on display, was trained mainly on their client's face.

So on Tuesday Kardashian was repositioned, sitting slightly forward at the counsel table, blocking the camera's view of Simpson most of the time. When testimony resumed after the lunch break, Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., the former football star's lead attorney, took the further step of protesting the camera's apparent fixation on his client.

Ito declined to intervene.

Defense attorney Albert De Blanc Jr., a frequent television commentator on the case, said that he had "noted Kardashian's new role and his shift in position" and that it and the camera's preoccupation with Simpson were to be expected.

"It is a smart defense move to put Kardashian or anyone else there," De Blanc said, "so the jury can't see him display extreme displeasure at any part of this testimony.

"If it blocks the camera, so be it. From the defense standpoint, that's not nearly as important as blocking the jury. If they can't see him, they'll forget him for the moment. It's the right thing for his lawyers to do and the smart thing."

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