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THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL

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Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, defense lawyers Jill Lansing and Carol K. Lysaght comment on developments in the O.J. Simpson trial. Peter Arenella, a regular Legal Pad commentator, will be off most of this week. Today’s topic: The prosecution presents powerful hair evidence.

LAURIE LEVENSON

On the prosecution: Who said their case will end with a whimper? Marcia Clark effectively used the hair and fiber evidence to weave together the prosecution’s entire case. Using photos and physical evidence, her expert began to reconstruct the crime. Alone, the hair evidence might not do it, but it is one of the more intriguing pieces of the puzzle.

On the defense: It’s not Independence Day yet. The defense must find a way to explain O.J.’s hair on the crime scene evidence and the victims’ hair on the glove at his house. Undoubtedly, the blanket will be cited as a likely culprit. The police mistakes and conspiracy theories are also likely to re-emerge.

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JILL LANSING

On the prosecution: For any jurors mystified by DNA and population genetics, hair and trace evidence works at a very common sense level. The presence of hair with the “same microscopic characteristics” as O.J.’s embedded deep into the cap found at Bundy carries a powerful message. Science aside, the prosecution can argue that if it walks like a duck. . . .

On the defense: Unlike when a stranger is charged, much of the trace evidence connected to O.J. at the crime scene can have an innocent explanation. Although his hair at Bundy could be from a normal visit and later be transferred, the cap is more problematic. However, for jurors unconvinced by DNA, this science may not be any more compelling.

CAROL LYSAGHT

On the prosecution: The prosecution rebounded spectacularly from Judge Ito’s ruling that Doug Deedrick could not testify that certain hairs “matched” known samples. Instead, he testified umpteen times that questioned hairs and known hairs shared “same microscopic characteristics,” connoting a far greater degree of certainty than the outlawed verb.

On the defense: The defense must meet two challenges on cross-examination. It must immediately remind jurors that hair and fiber analysis is inherently inconclusive--light years short of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It also must avoid opening the door to the compelling Bronco carpet fiber evidence that Ito excluded.

Compiled by HENRY WEINSTEIN / Los Angeles Times

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