Defense’s New Fuhrman Witness Adds Twist to Case
In a chaotic court session, it was just one furious exchange among many.
But when attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. demanded Friday that Judge Lance A. Ito order prosecutors to disclose any additional information they have on former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman’s racial bias or alleged misconduct, he also produced a startling new witness for the defense.
Attached to Cochran’s motion was a supporting declaration by a deputy district attorney. And the labyrinthine tale of how it came to be there opens a door on one of the behind-the-scenes struggles that have helped turn O.J. Simpson’s double murder trial from courtroom drama to social epic.
The deputy district attorney, Lucienne Coleman, a 17-year veteran of the office and former head of its sex crimes division, has told fellow prosecutors, Internal Affairs investigators and now members of O.J. Simpson’s legal defense team that police officers had told her and several other deputy district attorneys about allegations that Fuhrman had committed an act of anti-Semitic vandalism and had boasted of an intimate relationship with Nicole Brown Simpson.
During an Internal Affairs investigation earlier this year, two of the police officers named by Coleman and her fellow deputy district attorneys denied making any such statements about Fuhrman. Contents of a third police officer’s statement could not be obtained. And a prosecution source described Coleman’s statements as “multiple hearsay, really just gossip.”
Defense lawyers take a different view. And, as pieced together from the declaration Coleman gave them, from interviews with sources inside the district attorney’s office and the LAPD, as well as transcripts of interviews conducted by Internal Affairs, the sequence that brought Coleman to the attention of the defense unfolded this way:
On July 19, 1994, The Times reported defense allegations that Fuhrman may have planted the bloody glove found at Simpson’s Brentwood estate.
That day, LAPD homicide Detective Andy Purdy presented a murder case to Deputy Dist. Attys. Coleman and Julie Sergojan, who work in the office’s Downtown complaints division.
According to sources within the district attorney’s office, Coleman said to Purdy, “Jesus Christ, did you see this story on Fuhrman? Can you believe it?”
The detective, the declaration says, then told Coleman and Sergojan that in the mid-1980s he worked with Fuhrman in West Los Angeles. “At that time, Purdy had recently married a Jewish woman and Fuhrman had painted Purdy’s locker with swastikas,” Coleman’s declaration says.
Later, the declaration says, Coleman also was told “that Fuhrman walked around on weekends wearing Nazi paraphernalia.”
Coleman, according to police sources, told investigators she does not recall what the outcome of the locker incident was. Sergojan told friends and co-workers that Fuhrman was disciplined, but that the matter was “handled at the division level, so that no record went into his packet Downtown.”
In fact, police sources familiar with Fuhrman’s personnel records say they contain no mention of any such incident. Purdy declined to be interviewed by The Times.
In the weeks following July 19, 1994, Coleman, Sergojan and another deputy district attorney in their division, Ellen Burke, told investigators they heard other stories about Fuhrman from other LAPD officers.
According to transcripts of interviews conducted by investigators from the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Division, Coleman and another deputy district attorney said they were told by Detective Mark Arneson of the LAPD’s 77th Division that he had talked with two officers to whom Fuhrman had confided that he had had an intimate relationship with Nicole Brown Simpson and to whom he described her breast augmentation.
In the meantime, according to the transcripts of other Internal Affairs interviews, Burke told investigators she was told by Detective Daryl Maxwell of the Rampart Division that an officer he knew had overheard Fuhrman bragging that he had slept with Nicole Brown Simpson and that Fuhrman had described her “boob job.” (Arneson and Maxwell later denied to investigators that such conversations had occurred.)
According to an Internal Affairs transcript, Coleman subsequently told LAPD investigators: “Quite honestly, I agonized for about a week or two what I should do with the evidence because obviously if it was true, I felt ethically it had to be turned over to the defense.”
Coleman, sources say, decided that because she was a friend of Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark and respected William Hodgman, the other assistant district attorney on the case, she would go to them and report what she and her colleagues had heard.
Early in August, 1994, Coleman met with the prosecutors in Clark’s office and, according to the declaration, “told them what I had heard” about the locker and Nazi paraphernalia.
“When I told Clark and Hodgman what I knew, Clark stated, ‘This is b-------!’ Hodgman suggested that the office looked into these allegations. Clark said, ‘This is just b------- being put out by the defense!’ ”
Later in the conversation, the declaration says, “Clark then angrily stated that she was ‘tired of other D.A.'s trying to get involved in her case for their own self-aggrandizement.’ ”
Coleman was so upset about the incident that she related the exchange in detail to numerous friends in the office.
When she subsequently was interviewed by Internal Affairs, Burke said she recalled the incident “quite well because I remember how upset Lucienne was. . . . She went upstairs to tell Bill and Marcia and came down very angry because she felt that nobody--well, no, I should take that back--that Marcia was not interested in what she had to say.”
On Aug. 24, according to her declaration, Coleman was called by Purdy, who she says told her “he would deny having told me anything about Fuhrman and that he would lie about the whole thing.” The next day, the declaration says, Purdy called again. According to Coleman, he said his “story” would be that Fuhrman was suspected of the vandalism, but that it never was proven.
“Purdy also said that he kept a log of all the incidents involving Fuhrman when they both worked in West L.A.,” the declaration states, “but that he had destroyed the log that morning at 3 a.m. so that he would not have to turn it over to the prosecution.”
Six months later, on Feb. 13, 1995, Coleman was called at home by Hodgman. He said the district attorney’s office had been told that she and at least two other deputy district attorneys were in possession of information about Fuhrman. Hodgman said if that were true, Coleman should speak with investigators from the LAPD’s Internal Affairs unit.
Coleman reminded Hodgman of their earlier meeting with Clark, but, the declaration says, he professed not to recall it. Coleman’s declaration says she also told Hodgman about her conversations with Purdy and about the log.
The next day, according to her declaration, she received a call at home from Purdy. He “said he had destroyed the logs and that he would not testify against the prosecution ‘no matter what’ . . . Purdy said he could lose his job for speaking out against Fuhrman in view of the fact that LAPD was ‘circling the wagons.’ ”
Detective Arneson was interviewed on Feb. 21, and Internal Affairs documents report that he “denied having any information regarding Fuhrman having seen Nicole Simpson’s breast augmentation. He denied discussing the matter in any fashion with Coleman.”
When he was interviewed by Internal Affairs on Feb. 14, “Maxwell denied telling Burke that . . . Fuhrman had seen Nicole Simpson’s breast job,” police documents say. “He denied having a conversation with Burke regarding Detective Fuhrman.” And Maxwell is quoted as saying, “I like Ellen, but I would say she is lying.”
A source inside the prosecution team, who asked not be identified, says there are good explanations for both the reception Coleman received and the delay in investigating the information she provided. “You have to remember what it was like here in August, when these conversations occurred. There were only two prosecutors on the case” [Hodgman and Clark].
“The information Lucienne provided was multiple hearsay, really just gossip,” the source said. “It was an isolated rumor and nothing more was heard of it for a long time. When it resurfaced early this year, it was Marcia who suggested that the matter be investigated by LAPD’s Internal Affairs Division. When their investigation was completed, we brought the results to the attention of the court.”
Earlier this year, Simpson’s lawyers received copies of those documents, which had been redacted by Ito. All mention of Nazi symbols, the alleged locker incident and Purdy’s log had been excised by the judge.
Simpson’s lawyers now want to know why. In the motion they filed Friday, they wrote: “The defense can only conclude that either the court was misled about the full details of Coleman’s statement, or the defense has been misled by the court’s redacted version.”
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