Advertisement

Simpson Prosecutors Focus on Shrinkage of Gloves : Courts: Witness says moisture would cause the problem. Clark, Dershowitz clash over dwindling jury.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Aiming to blunt the stinging, riveting image of O.J. Simpson struggling to don the infamous bloody gloves, prosecutors recalled a witness Friday who testified that moisture had caused the extra-large leather gloves to shrink nearly a full size and lose much of their elasticity.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher A. Darden spent more than an hour questioning glove expert Richard Rubin as he sought to explain away the brief drama that held jurors spellbound Thursday afternoon: a grimacing Simpson saying “too tight” as he tugged on the gloves that prosecutors contend he wore to murder Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

Simpson has pleaded not guilty to the crimes. Prosecutors, however, contend that a “trail of blood” links Simpson to last June’s slayings--a trail marked by matching frayed brown gloves, one of which was found at the crime scene and the other on Simpson’s estate.

Although his attempt to connect Simpson and the gloves through a live demonstration fell short Thursday, Darden indicated that he will try again later in the trial.

Advertisement

The next time, however, he will ask Simpson to slip on brand-new Aris extra-large gloves--identical to the pair he tried on Thursday, except unsullied by blood and moisture.

Ironically, Darden had hoped to use a clean pair of gloves Thursday. But defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. firmly objected, according to the transcript of a sidebar conference. Ito then suggested that “it would be more appropriate” for Simpson to try on the bloodied gloves. “Exactly my point,” Cochran said.

“The only problem,” prosecutor Marcia Clark objected, “is that he has to wear latex gloves underneath . . . and they’re going to alter the fit.”

“We’ll take that up when we get there,” Ito responded.

Advertisement

After Simpson’s display, Darden asked Rubin how the latex gloves affected the fit, but the witness said he lacked the experience to answer.

Before Darden took up that issue again Friday, Clark and defense attorney Alan Dershowitz sparred in a heated exchange about why the jury has dwindled and what to do if the number of panelists falls below 12.

During the debate, Clark struck a defiantly confident tone about the prosecution’s presentation and said for the first time that her side might be willing to continue the trial with fewer than 12 jurors. “We want this jury to reach a verdict,” she said.

‘An Interesting Day’

The Clark-Dershowitz tussle took place outside the jurors’ presence. When they filed in, Rubin, the former general manager for the Aris glove company, stepped back to the witness stand for his second day. Although Darden estimated that his direct examination would last 15 minutes, he ended up questioning Rubin far longer in an effort to rebound from Thursday’s display.

Rubin started out by repeating an observation he made Thursday, testifying that “the gloves in their original condition would easily go onto the hand of someone of Mr. Simpson’s size.”

He added that he tried an experiment after court Thursday: He put on a pair of latex liners like the one Simpson wore, and tried to put on his own gloves. Pulling them over his hands, he testified, was more difficult with the latex liners.

Darden then picked up a line of questioning he had ignored Thursday, asking Rubin about when, why and how much leather gloves shrink.

Advertisement

Wearing a cheery Snoopy tie and looking relaxed, Rubin testified that gloves can shrink up to 15% if they are drenched in moisture. Even if stretched, the crime scene gloves could never return to more than 92% of their original size, he said.

“These gloves,” Rubin added, “will never return to their original size and shape.”

Following every word intently, the jurors paid careful attention to the entire glove episode. Several watched with special interest when Rubin put on the gloves--the third player in the trial to wear the evidence in the courtroom, after Simpson and Cochran.

At first, Rubin complained that the cashmere liner in the left-hand glove was pulled out of place, making it impossible to extend his fingers.

The sight of Rubin with the glove hanging half off his hand created some drama, and even seemed to hint at a tantalizing explanation for Simpson’s trouble in pulling the leather over his palm. But after a break, even prosecutor Darden agreed that the lining most likely bunched up when experts turned the glove inside-out Thursday night--several hours after Simpson’s courtroom demonstration.

After trying them on, Rubin described the extra-large gloves as “a little bit above average for a [size] large, but far below an extra-large at this time.”

Pressing the point that Simpson should fit into extra-large gloves before any shrinkage, prosecutors hauled out Simpson’s heavy black golf bag, which has already been placed in evidence.

At Darden’s request, Rubin rooted through the pockets and pulled out three white gloves, all extra-large. Simpson, an avid golfer since he retired from pro football, smiled somewhat wistfully as the witness displayed his golf gloves.

Advertisement

Despite Ito’s attempts to hurry the attorneys, Cochran and Darden each questioned Rubin several times. The jurors stopped jotting notes as the session wore on and Rubin patiently answered question after question about his contacts with prosecutors and his experience measuring glove sizes.

Ito finally dismissed Rubin just before noon. Although prosecutors said they were ready to call another witness to focus on Simpson’s alleged abuse of his ex-wife, Ito elected to adjourn a few minutes early rather than launch into a new phase of testimony. Darden commented wryly, “With our elevator system, it will take [the witness] 15 minutes to get down here.”

“It may have been a short day,” Ito said, “but it was interesting.”

Lawyers Skirmish Over Jury

The action started even before the jury entered the courtroom, when Clark said she would be inclined to favor allowing the trial to proceed with fewer than 12 jurors should the panel continue to dwindle.

“I want a verdict out of this jury,” she said. “If it means that at some point we have to accept fewer than 12, we will make that decision at that time, but with a very strong leaning” toward support of a smaller panel.

As Clark spoke, Simpson raised his eyebrows and grinned. His attorneys believe his glove demonstration made a powerfully positive impact on the jury. Not only was Simpson able to tell the jurors in his own words that the gloves were too small, but he had an opportunity to interact with them in a friendly, relaxed manner for the third time in the lengthy trial.

Simpson has previously been allowed to rise from the defendant’s chair, once to show jurors his knees and another time to display his knuckles. His lawyers contend that Simpson’s joints are so arthritic that the former professional athlete has trouble walking and would never be able to overpower and kill two fit, young adults.

In all three cases, Simpson assumed an air of sheepish good humor as he displayed his body for examination. Sometimes rolling his eyes, sometimes smiling amiably, he seemed to enjoy the close encounters with the jury.

Those jurors took center stage once again Friday morning, when Dershowitz accused prosecutors of trying to pick off panelists they deemed friendly to the defense.

Dershowitz and Clark traded insults as they debated a defense motion to halt all juror investigations until the trial concludes and deliberations begin.

The defense team has previously signaled willingness to accept a verdict by fewer than 12 jurors. But Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, said the defense would challenge any outcome--other than an outright acquittal--on the grounds that “the prosecution is trying to reshape the jury to its liking.”

Fuming, Clark strode to the podium and fired back.

“Of all the defense [tactics], I find this one the most offensive, the most groundless, the most baseless,” she said. “This was a scurrilous attempt to inflame the community, if not the jurors themselves. . . . It shouldn’t even be dignified by the title of ‘motion.’ ” Dershowitz asked Ito for three actions: to toughen the standard for removing jurors from “good cause” to “manifest necessity,” to hold a hearing to review the prior dismissals, and to replace the sheriff’s deputies guarding the jurors with “social workers or neutral officers of the court.”

Especially irate about the dismissal of Willie Cravin, a 54-year-old black postal employee, Dershowitz said the defense needs to know “who commenced the [juror] investigations, what their sources were and whether there was information in the record about other jurors--jurors the prosecution thought to their liking--which were not brought to the court.”

So far, Ito has removed 10 jurors and alternates for various reasons: planning book deals, intimidating other jurors, failing to disclose experiences with domestic violence and having the same doctor as Simpson. Clark danced a jig in the courthouse hallway after one juror was removed. And she acknowledged that her co-prosecutor, Darden, had jokingly told Cochran, “We got one of your boys.”

Still, she insisted that the prosecution was not targeting certain jurors.

“The defense would have it seem that we’re going out investigating, digging up information on the jurors,” Clark said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.” Indeed, she added, five of those jurors were excused at the defense’s request--including one instance in which Cochran received anonymous phone tips in his office about alleged misconduct.

Clark also rejected Dershowitz’s plea for a tougher standard for juror dismissal.

“This is not some special trial,” she said. “This is a murder trial, where the jurors are going to be held to the same standards as in any other case. Mr. Simpson does not get some higher standard for the jurors he likes or doesn’t like.”

Amid all the finger-pointing, the key issue remained what would happen if the panel lost several more jurors.

Dershowitz suggested that the prosecution might be hoping for such an outcome, which could force a mistrial.

Simpson’s glove demonstration, he said, “makes it clear . . . why the prosecution would benefit if they had a second opportunity to try the case. I doubt we would see O.J. Simpson being asked to try on his gloves. I doubt we would see [criminalist] Dennis Fung being called to the witness stand. . . . That’s why the prosecution gets just one shot.”

To try Simpson again with a fresh jury, Dershowitz said, would amount to double jeopardy.

“I have no desire to see this case go to a retrial,” Clark responded. “I have no desire to see a mistrial. I know that I speak on behalf of all my colleagues on the prosecution. We want this jury to reach a verdict.”

In case that does not happen--or in case a guilty verdict is returned--Dershowitz put the court on notice that he would call for a hearing on the juror dismissals.

After several nasty exchanges, Dershowitz and Clark sat down and Ito said he would consider the defense motion. “I’ve never seen a situation where individual jurors have been the subjects of such great public scrutiny,” he mused. “It’s something we’ll have to think about when this case is all over.”

* SIMPSON JURY: As the jury changes, so does the response of both sides. A22


Advertisement