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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 defense lawyer Gerald L. Chaleff, who will rotate with other experts as the case moves forward. Today’s topic: More trouble for the defense.

PETER ARENELLA

On the defense: “Wednesday’s defense witnesses continued a recent trend by helping the prosecution as much as the defense. Tow truck driver John Meraz supported the defense’s claim that police planted blood in the Bronco because he saw none on June 15. But pictures of the Bronco taken the previous day tell a different story. And the exercise video’s trainer felt O.J.’s infirmities made him a poor choice, but O.J. managed to rise to the occasion.”

On the prosecution: “Like the defense, the prosecution has had an easier time tearing down its adversary’s case than making its own. Marcia Clark had a field day attacking Meraz’s credibility: He lied in the past and didn’t see fingerprint residue only a blind man could miss. Chris Darden’s cross showed O.J. was a real ‘gamer’ who accepted trainer Richard Walsh’s challenge to finish a long day of exercises. Darden’s unstated point: June 12 was also a ‘game’ day for O.J.”

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LAURIE LEVENSON

On the defense: “Exactly why did the defense call those witnesses? One after another, they backfired. Meraz claimed not to see blood in the Bronco, but admitted taking vouchers, lying and failing to see obvious fingerprint powder on the Bronco. Walsh then confirmed what prosecutors have been saying: O.J. can be physical when motivated. The defense must hope that photographer Willie Ford, who didn’t see the socks in O.J.’s bedroom, fares better on cross.”

On the prosecution: “It was almost too easy. Clark and Darden quickly turned Meraz and Walsh into prosecution witnesses. Meraz admitted he had lied and tampered with evidence. Walsh said O.J. loved a challenge and could work out for hours on end. Finally, jurors were reminded of the tremendous sacrifices that police officers make, learning of the tragic death of one of their bailiffs--Deputy Gev Geuvjehizian--who was killed in the line of duty.”

GERALD L. CHALEFF

On the defense: “The defense continued its campaign of contamination, evidence-planting and O.J.’s physical inability to commit the murders. Unfortunately, their first two witnesses proved more harmful than helpful: Trainer Walsh was unable to belie pictures with words, and the tow truck driver didn’t hold up on cross. Fortunately, the defense’s final witness, the police photographer, laid the foundation for their claim that blood was planted on the socks.”

On the prosecution: “Cross-examination is more dramatic and more fun. Clark attacked Meraz’s credibility by showing he was fired for theft, yet is suing for wrongful termination. She used photos and Meraz’s earlier testimony to attack his statement that there was no blood in the Bronco. Darden highlighted how physically fit O.J. really was--a ‘gamer’ who could perform feats beyond his physical limitations--and repeatedly stressed O.J.’s joke about hitting his wife.”

Compiled by HENRY WEINSTEIN / Los Angeles Times

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