FBI Agent Says Simpson Defense Expert Lee Erred

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The FBI's ranking shoe print specialist appeared to kick major holes in one of the most intriguing parts of O.J. Simpson's defense Friday, when he testified that famed forensic scientist Henry Lee erred in claiming to have discovered unrecognized bloody imprints at the scene where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman were murdered.

Defense attorneys have suggested that the imprints Lee said he discovered on the walkway outside Nicole Simpson's Brentwood condominium, as well as on Goldman's trousers and on an envelope found at the site, were left by the shoes of a second assailant.

But FBI Special Agent William Bodziak, who analyzes footprints for the agency's crime lab, testified that what Lee characterized as impressions on the walkway actually are the tool marks and footprints left by the workmen who originally poured it. As it turns out, the walk--which previous testimony consistently described as tiled--actually is a poured slab of colored concrete inscribed and grouted to create the sort of faux-tile effect frequently used in so-called Southwestern landscaping schemes.

Bodziak displayed numerous photo blowups to support his contention that the marks Lee, who worked from photos, saw as blood imprints, actually were artifacts left years ago by the masons who did the job. He also testified that another stain Lee photographed June 25, 1994, more than a week after the murders, simply wasn't there the night of the crimes. It does not appear, Bodziak pointed out, in any of the photographs Los Angeles police investigators took the morning after the murders. The agent praised that photo evidence as thorough and of "high quality."

Bodziak speculated that the stain Lee found was left by someone who walked through the scene in the intervening days, possibly crushing underfoot the numerous berries that litter the site.

It was the most damaging rebuttal testimony yet offered by the prosecution, in part because it seemed to strip the mantle of infallibility from the shoulders of Lee, the dean of American forensic scientists and a witness who appeared to make a favorable impression on the Simpson jurors.

Defense Suffers Another Blow

Less than two hours into the morning session Friday, lead prosecutor Marcia Clark wrapped up her direct examination with a sequence of questions that went to the heart of the matter: "Based on your analysis of all of the evidence, including Dr. Lee's photographs, is there any evidence that more than one set of bloody shoe prints were left at the scene at the time of the murders?" she asked.

"No, there is not. . . . All the bloody shoe imprints were made by Size 12 Bruno Magli design shoes," Bodziak replied.

Clark then inquired, "Has anything changed your opinion that the defendant cannot be excluded as a wearer of those Size 12 Bruno Magli shoes?"

"No," the agent responded.

The defense suffered still another blow after court recessed at noon Friday. Speaking by telephone from his laboratory in Connecticut, Lee told The Times that he regrets his involvement in the Simpson case and will not only resist testifying in any retrial, but also in the sur-rebuttal phase of the current case--perhaps to the extent of fighting any defense subpoena. Sur-rebuttal is the defense's reply to the prosecution's rebuttal case.

"I'm sorry I ever got involved in the whole thing," he said. "I feel a little bit disappointed about the whole process. I got a phone call from [defense attorneys] Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck this morning, but I wasn't planning to come back for sur-rebuttal. More likely I'm not going to come back. Life has to go on beyond the O.J. trial.

"This trial has become a game," he said. "I don't like to play games."

Lee insisted, however, that "I stand behind the scientific facts in my testimony. There are imprints on the piece of paper, on the envelope, on the blue jeans. There is imprint evidence on June 25 on the walkway. That is true imprint evidence. That is not workmen's scratches or shoes."

He also was at pains to stress that "I never said that all the imprints were shoe prints. That's misquoted. I called one imprint on the Bundy walkway on June 25 a shoe print. I don't think the FBI Agent Bodziak disagreed with me about that.

"I used the term imprint. That is an acceptable scientific fact. Unfortunately, some people twisted my words and said I said it was a shoe print. That's upsetting."

Lee Defends FBI Laboratory

Lee also seemed to undercut one of the themes Simpson's lawyers hope to develop if they are allowed to call disgruntled FBI scientist Frederic Whitehurst to the stand. Whitehurst alleges that his colleagues in the federal crime lab, including one who testified in the Simpson trial, have falsified data and routinely slant their findings to assist prosecutors.

"I personally have worked with people at the FBI lab for 18-19 years," Lee said. "It is a very highly respected laboratory. They have many excellent forensic scientists. I have served on various committees at the FBI lab. I'm very impressed with their knowledge and their scientific accomplishment."

Defense attorney Scheck, whose cross-examination of Bodziak was incomplete when court recessed Friday, denied that Lee's comments represent a split between Simpson's lawyers and their star forensic witness.

"He's infuriated because the prosecution is misstating what he said," Scheck insisted.

"He's on the phone with me day and night. I regard him as a dear friend. Angry at the defense? Absolutely not. Angry at other people? Absolutely yes."

Still, Scheck said of Lee, "we'll subpoena him if we think it's necessary. I don't think it is."

Scheck's comments were echoed by another defense lawyer, Robert L. Shapiro, who brought Lee into the case: "Henry Lee is the most ethical man I know. If he believes he was wrong, he will say so. But we currently have no plans to recall him."

Any estrangement between Lee and Simpson attorneys could have serious repercussions, said Southland defense lawyer Gerald L. Chaleff.

"A disgruntled witness, particularly a disgruntled Henry Lee, cannot help the defense cause," he said. "If Dr. Lee does not want to return to California to testify in this trial, they will not call him. If that is the situation, that would limit their ability to end the case on the high note of Henry Lee returning to explain why the FBI agents' testimony was incorrect.

"When you have a witness as trustworthy as Henry Lee, this loss is a great one," Chaleff said.

With Bodziak still on the stand, another of Judge Lance A. Ito's assurances to the long-suffering jury went unfulfilled Friday, as the prosecutors did not conclude this phase of their rebuttal as scheduled. In fact, there were mixed signs of good humor and impatience during the abbreviated court day.

Ito drew smiles from several panelists when he noted their "Friday casual" attire as they entered the jury box. Later, however, as lawyers from both sides haggled over which letter labels to affix to various items of photographic evidence, the proceedings began to sound like a recitation from a bowl of alphabet soup.

At that point, a 37-year-old African American woman seated in the first row of the box, dissolved in laughter and loudly exclaimed, "Let's go!"

As court recessed for the weekend, a smiling Ito praised the jurors for their obvious attention to Friday's detailed testimony, and ended the week with a pep talk: "I know it's tough. But hang in there, we're almost there."

New Discovery Material Appears

But knotty matters remain to be dealt with. Bodziak's cross-examination is incomplete, and Ito has yet to rule on the admissibility of Whitehurst's testimony. Moreover, late Friday, sources close to the defense said Simpson's lawyers had received new discovery material bearing on the conduct of Los Angeles Police Detective Philip L. Vannatter, one of the lead investigators in the Simpson case.

One source said that the material dealt with comments Vannatter allegedly made to a witness in another case. Vannatter reportedly told the witness in the presence of another law enforcement agent that when deputies went to Simpson's Brentwood estate early on the morning of June 13, 1994, just hours after the murders, they already considered Simpson a suspect. That would contradict testimony of Vannatter and other detectives that they went to Simpson's home to tell him his former wife was dead and to make arrangements for custody of the estranged couple's children.

Suzanne Childs, a spokeswoman for Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, released the following statement in response to a question after a closed-door court session attended by Deputy Dist. Atty. William Hodgman and defense lawyers Carl Douglas and Shapiro:

"Information came to our attention this week that may pertain to previously litigated search and seizure issues in the Simpson case. An inquiry was immediately conducted, and in an abundance of caution, our office promptly brought the matter to the attention of the court and defense attorneys. This afternoon, the materials gathered are being turned over to the defense. Because we anticipate that the matter may be subject to a hearing next week, no further information will be provided. We anticipate only a minimal delay in the proceedings and remain eager and hopeful to quickly get the case to the jury."

Times staff writer Jim Newton contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
59°