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Simpson Jury Hears Details on Shoe Prints

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Prosecutors in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson turned Monday from bloody gloves to a trail of footprints, detailing the size, make and manufacture of the shoes worn by the killer--all of which, they said, suggested Simpson as the culprit but which their witness could not positively link to him.

William J. Bodziak, an FBI shoe imprint expert, testified that the prints left at the scene of the June 12, 1994, murders were created by someone wearing expensive, Size 12, Italian-made Bruno Magli shoes.

Although far less definitive than the prosecution’s DNA evidence, the shoe print testimony offers intriguing details that the government lawyers say help tie Simpson to the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman. Simpson, who has pleaded not guilty to the killings, wears Size 12 shoes, and clearly could have afforded the $160 price tag for a pair of Bruno Maglis.

In addition, Bodziak testified that fewer than 10% of all shoes sold are Size 12s, and that most men who wear them are between 6 feet and 6 feet, 4 inches tall. Simpson is 6 feet, 1 inch tall.

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Under cross-examination, however, Bodziak acknowledged that he could not definitively link Simpson to the shoe prints, only that the prints appeared to come from shoes that were Simpson’s size. F. Lee Bailey, one of Simpson’s defense lawyers, sarcastically dismissed the significance of that evidence, suggesting that it shed little light on the case.

Bailey and the FBI agent sparred for much of the afternoon. When Bailey accused the witness of making an unfounded assumption, for instance, Bodziak forcefully responded: “The physical evidence at the scene, which doesn’t lie, is making that assumption.”

A calm and professional witness, Bodziak opened the morning session by describing the international hunt to identify the prints at the Brentwood murder scene. He then turned to a long description of how and where Bruno Magli shoes are made, including a photographic tour of the company’s Italian shoe factory, and ended the prosecution examination by tracing the murderer’s bloody footprints, some of them faint, others rich in identifying detail.

With each footprint, Bodziak said he had compared the marks left in blood to the soles of a Size 12 Bruno Magli shoe--actually a European Size 46--and found that they matched.

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The shoe prints ran along a walkway where the two bodies were discovered, fading gradually as the prints led away from the victims. In addition, Bodziak said the assailant appeared to have doubled back at one point and added that heel prints on Nicole Simpson’s dress and back could have been made by the same shoes.

The footprints on Nicole Simpson’s dress and body bolstered testimony from the county coroner, who said that her assailant might have stood on her back, pulled her hair back with one hand and slashed her throat.

When the photograph of Nicole Simpson’s back was displayed, jurors leaned forward attentively, staring closely at the smudged image. Tanya Brown, one of the victim’s sisters, began to cry silently as the testimony turned to the blood on Nicole Simpson and her dress.

Demonstrating how the footprints could have been tracked away from the bodies of Nicole Simpson and Goldman, prosecutors on Monday displayed a gory crime-scene photograph showing the two victims lying in blood. Simpson, who was tried to avert his eyes from the crime scene photographs, stared directly at that one. He blanched noticeably, blinked, licked his lips, wiped his face with his hand and reached for a cup of water.

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After gulping it down, Simpson glanced over his shoulder several times at Deputy Dist. Atty. Hank Goldberg. The prosecutor continued posing questions to the witness, apparently oblivious to Simpson’s stare.

More Gloves to Come

Although helpful to the prosecution, the expert’s testimony unfolded in the shadow of last week’s much-criticized glove demonstration, in which Simpson struggled, strained and announced that the gloves found at the scene of the crime and outside his house did not fit him.

Prosecutors moved on to the shoe evidence Monday, but Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher A. Darden said at the outset of the session that the prosecution was not yet finished with the topic of the gloves.

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“We are going to revisit that issue again,” Darden said, turning to lead Simpson trial lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. “I don’t know which day, and I would ask that Mr. Cochran keep his file relative to the glove handy.”

Cochran, whose baiting of Darden has grown increasingly fierce in recent weeks, responded with a self-confident grin.

“They haven’t had enough of the gloves yet, Your Honor?” he asked mockingly outside the jury’s presence. “OK, we will be ready.”

Although Darden did not specify what additional evidence prosecutors hope to present regarding the gloves, a transcript of a sidebar conference shed light on what is yet to come.

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“We will get into this later,” Darden said during a sidebar conference last Friday. The transcript was released Monday. “We have gotten gloves out of O.J.'s master bedroom and out of his drawer and they are all extra-large. Some are actually large.”

Cochran seemed equally unimpressed by that evidence.

“I love when you guys get into stuff,” the defense lawyer said, according to the transcript.

Missing Link

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However provocative, the evidence about the expensive shoes is missing an element: Despite exhaustive investigation, authorities are unable to show that Simpson ever bought or owned any such footwear.

Bodziak said he had obtained a list of 40 stores in the United States and Puerto Rico which sold the two types of Bruno Magli shoes that could have left the tracks at the crime scene. The names of those stores were turned over to the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI, but both styles of shoe were discontinued several years ago, and the investigation came up empty.

“To your knowledge, was a salesperson located who could recall having sold a Bruno Magli shoe . . . to the defendant?” Goldberg asked.

“No,” said Bodziak. “To the best of my knowledge that was never done, because every store had a problem searching their records back that far.”

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Later, under cross-examination, Bodziak added that investigators had determined that 299 pairs of the shoes were distributed in the United States. None could be traced to Simpson, he acknowledged.

Without that evidence, the most Bodziak could say was that, based on Simpson’s shoe size and his comparison with another pair of Simpson’s shoes, that the agent “could include him as a candidate for possibly having worn those shoes.”

Bodziak was able to more definitively deflate another defense argument, however, saying that he saw no evidence of a second pair of shoe prints at the scene. Members of the defense team have said there is evidence of two sets of shoe prints leading away from the bodies.

If so, that would bolster the defense theory that multiple assailants were responsible for the killings. But prosecutors contend that no evidence supports such a contention, and Bodziak agreed.

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“Mr. Bodziak,” Goldberg asked, “based upon your analysis of all of the items that we’ve discussed, was there any indication that more than one pair of shoes was involved in this crime?”

“No,” Bodziak responded firmly. “There was not.”

Bailey pounced upon that testimony, squabbling with the agent during the afternoon session and suggesting that Bodziak was stretching his account. Bailey suggested that a second person, perhaps wearing an identical pair of shoes, accounted for some stray shoe prints at the scene.

The agent dismissed that as ridiculous. Most criminals, he said, were not sophisticated enough to plot such a deception, and even if they were, Bodziak added, they would be foolish to choose such a distinctive, expensive pair of shoes rather than picking a simpler, harder-to-trace pair.

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But Bailey continued to challenge Bodziak’s testimony. He suggested, for instance that the agent’s height estimates for various shoe sizes, for instance, were only rough approximations.

To demonstrate, Bailey asked Carl Douglas, another one of Simpson’s lawyers, to stand next to him. At first Bailey asked the witness to estimate Douglas’ height by comparing the height of the two lawyers, who were standing side by side.

“You’ve got raised heels on,” the agent said to Bailey, drawing a low moan of surprise from the audience. “So I don’t know.”

Bailey, whose glove size had earlier been derided by Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia Clark, testily brushed off the latest insult: “I hadn’t asked you that,” he said.

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Put-downs aside, the combination of the prosecution’s handling of the glove evidence and its failure to link Simpson directly to the Bruno Magli shoes had some of his attorneys crowing boastfully Monday. The only thing the prosecution had shown, said Robert Blasier, one member of the Simpson team, was that “we have a killer with big feet and little hands.”

Prosecution Winding Down

The shoe print testimony came as prosecutors are beginning to wind down their case. Only a few more areas are left for the government attorneys to present: At least two more witnesses will detail more alleged instances of domestic abuse by Simpson of his ex-wife, a statistician will describe issues involving DNA evidence and then at least one other witness will testify about hair, fiber and other trace evidence recovered from the scene of the crimes and elsewhere.

First, prosecutors expect to call a Bloomingdale’s shoe salesman, apparently to testify about selling Simpson a pair of shoes. That witness, Samuel Poser, is expected to be on the stand today.

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Prosecutors, however, have dropped plans to call Keith Zlomsowitch, a former boyfriend of Nicole Simpson who testified before the grand jury and described being spied on and intimidated by Simpson.

Two limousine drivers are expected to say that they saw the defendant strike Nicole Simpson, which would undercut the defense allegation that there was only a single incident in which Simpson hit her.

And prosecutors have asked to take testimony from two more, recently surfaced, domestic violence witnesses. Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito granted a defense request for more time to study those allegations. The judge scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.


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