A Long-Running Show Winds Down : Bizarre Simpson trial in final arguments, at last

It is Topic A in L.A.

Final arguments are under way in what's being called the Trial of the Century. The end is near at last.

Though it seems ages have passed, it was 15 months ago, on June 12, 1994, that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman were killed. Five days later, O. J. Simpson was charged with their murders.

Thus began the O. J. Simpson Epoch, an unusual period that this city, and indeed this nation, will never forget. The glare expanded worldwide during the low-speed freeway chase. Simpson and his pal Al Cowlings, in a white Bronco, led authorities along Interstate 405. That incident has now been captured on commemorative watches ranging in price from $18 to $25 (figures likely to jump).


FAME AND INFAMY: You can't say the trial has never had a dull moment, but it's also been full of high drama. Tuesday the proceedings in Department 103 came to a temporary halt when Judge Lance A. Ito pulled the plug on the courtroom television camera because he feared that a note Simpson had written could be read by TV viewers. Television pundits decried the decision almost hysterically. Ito turned the camera back on, after issuing a fine.

O. J., Ito, Marcia, Johnnie and a few others have become household names. The proceedings have meant fame for some, infamy for others.

Closing arguments will bring reminders of the likes of Kato Kaelin, Simpson's freeloading house guest, who now has his own talk-radio show. Rosa Lopez, a defense witness who worked next door to the Simpson mansion, fled from an unkind spotlight, returning to El Salvador, after her faulty memory became the butt of jokes. Meanwhile, jurors never heard a word she said.

They heard plenty from Mark Fuhrman, the now-retired LAPD detective, who said he found a bloody glove at the Simpson estate. He denied he had used the N-word in the past 10 years. He had. On tape. He returned to the stand only to take the 5th Amendment. The spectacle coined a word: Fuhrmanized, to be victimized by a cop.

Jury selection began a year ago. The panel, now sequestered for eight months, has lost more people than an Agatha Christie novel. Some of the dismissed jurors are writing books about the trial and, of course, have their own lawyers.


LAWYERLY BONANZA: Many lawyers not involved in the case have gotten a piece of the action. TV lawyers, sometimes in a display more of theater than law, have provided analysis and even mock one-minute closing arguments. One lawyer of national reputation performed his mock closing argument on network TV while wearing familiar-looking dark leather gloves. Yes, really. At this point, why should anyone be surprised at anything?

The lawyers representing the people and the defendant are now at center stage. They are presenting closing arguments to 12 jurors and two alternates.

Unfortunately, this case is not a fictional whodunit. All the loony theatrics aside, it is about murder, and justice.

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