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THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL

UCLA law professor Peter Arenella and Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson regularly offer their take on the Simpson trial. Arenella has the day off. Levenson is joined by former L.A. County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner and defense lawyer Gerald L. Chaleff, who will rotate with other experts as the case moves forward. Today’s topic: Brian Kelberg and Michael Baden, toe-to-toe

IRA REINER

On the defense: Baden has been a strong witness, mainly because of a role reversal. Usually, the defense has been trying to sell snake oil. But in Kelberg’s direct exam of the coroner he was trying to sell snake oil in scripted testimony that tried to so precisely choreograph every nuance of the murders as to be preposterous. Baden demolished eight days of the coroner’s testimony with one great line: ‘A bald midget’ could have committed the murders. On the prosecution: Robert Shapiro demonstrated on direct that the D.A.'s office had given Baden the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval by using him in a murder case this year. But Kelberg attempted to portray Baden as a charlatan, stressing that he had never used Baden. How can Kelberg imagine that plays on the jury other than to hurt the prosecution? Is he demonstrating his own moral superiority to everyone else, or questioning a prosecution witness?

LAURIE LEVENSON

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On the defense: Comic corner. Baden tried to use humor to defuse the impact of Kelberg’s cross. Though his wisecracks may have made him more approachable, you have to wonder what is so funny about autopsies? Through Baden, the defense has tried to push back the time of death and to portray the murders as lengthy struggles that would have left marks on Simpson. But Baden’s opinions seem no surer than those of the expert he criticizes.

On the prosecution: Kelberg was in no laughing mood. He battled to the end over the length of time needed to digest rigatoni. When the jurors could stomach no more, he moved on to the nature of the attacks, reminding jurors of their brutality by displaying photos of the victims. Baden finally admitted one knife could have inflicted all the injuries and, in a very bizarre moment, became a staunch supporter of Dr. Irwin Golden, the prosecutor’s much-maligned coroner.

GERALD L. CHALEFF

On the defense: When the bell rang at the end of the last round, Baden was still standing, as self-assured and combative as when his match with Kelberg began. Shapiro showed his satisfaction with Baden’s performance by ignoring all of the cross-examination and using his unusually brief redirect to highlight the unprecedented absence from the witness stand of Golden, who actually performed the autopsy. The net effect: The coroner’s testimony has been neutralized.

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On the prosecution: In the most contentious cross-examination to date, Kelberg and Baden were like two prizefighters standing in the middle of the ring artlessly trading punches. Kelberg attempted to have Baden support the prosecution’s theory that a single killer, acting quickly, committed these murders. But Baden refused to be drawn in and seemed to have an answer for everything, even if it was a disarming, ‘I don’t know,’ or a digression into semantics.

Compiled by Tim Rutten / Los Angeles Times


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