With a light drizzle falling over Los Angeles and an electric hush gripping Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito's courtroom, prosecutors in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson delivered their closing arguments Tuesday, disavowing one of their own witnesses and piecing together an array of evidence they say proves one of America's best known personalities is a double murderer.
The prosecution arguments, expected to conclude today, were broken into two parts Tuesday, one low-key and persistent, the other fiery and personal.
"You have a wealth of evidence in this case, all of it pointing to one person: the defendant," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia Clark, who went first with her understated presentation, delivered one year to the day since jury selection in the trial began.
Clark, who spent more than six hours arguing without referring to Simpson by name, urged jurors to see past defense conspiracy, two-killer and evidence-planting theories, part of what she called an effort to "systematically fragment the case."
"Smoke and mirrors, ladies and gentlemen," Clark said as Simpson, his family and relatives of the two victims, Ronald Lyle Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, looked on, the family members sometimes weeping softly as the prosecutor wove together the long chain of evidence that she said links the former football star to the crimes.
Then, as a long court day drew to a close Tuesday night, Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher A. Darden bounded to his feet and capped Clark's argument with an impassioned speech of his own, one that bluntly accused defense attorneys of deception and their client of murder.
"I'm not afraid to point at him," Darden said, gesturing in Simpson's direction and, with his conversational style and forceful delivery, discarding Clark's reluctance to personalize the defendant.
"Nobody's pointed him out and said he did it," Darden said. "I'll point at him. Why not? The evidence all points to him."
Defense attorneys had no chance to address the jury Tuesday, but will probably get their chance beginning today. As he left court, lead Simpson trial lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. seemed upbeat but would say only: "We'll respond in court."
Upstairs, in the offices of the Los Angeles County district attorney, colleagues greeted Darden and Clark with cheers and applause at the end of the long court day. Legal analysts praised the work of both lawyers.
As with much of the prosecution case, the prosecutors' comments were both aggressive and defensive, simultaneously emphasizing the forcefulness of their evidence and denouncing the Simpson team's efforts. Clark dismissed conspiracy theories and suggestions of evidence planting as inconsistent, illogical and "insulting to your intelligence."
Nowhere was the prosecution's defensiveness more pointed than in Clark's immediate and startlingly thorough repudiation of former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman, who testified for the prosecution but then was discredited by the defense. Clark called Fuhrman a racist who never should have worked for the Los Angeles Police Department, but said that was no reason to let a killer walk free.
Most jurors seemed to follow Tuesday's session closely, but few took notes, and one seemed to have trouble paying attention, at least at first. During the morning session, his eyes closed occasionally, and one alternate juror yawned.
But just before the evening dinner break, Clark turned to an emotional description of the murder scene. Jurors snapped back to attention, a funereal air descended on the courtroom, and relatives of the victims softly sobbed.
As with virtually every aspect of the trial, Tuesday's session combined the now customary elements of drama and chaos: Midway through the afternoon session, a courtroom camera operator briefly focused on Simpson's hands as he took notes. Ito, obviously incensed, said he considered that a violation of the attorney-client privilege, and he temporarily halted television and radio coverage of the most closely watched trial in history.
That move sent television audiences into paroxysms and media attorneys scrambling to the courthouse.
But after a brief new round of arguments--one blacked out to the television and radio audience--lawyers for the two sides and the media emerged with a deal: The local radio and television news association was fined $1,500, and Ito agreed to turn the camera back on.
Pieces of a Puzzle
Rising nine months after prosecutors first addressed the jury to lay out their case, Clark urged the panel to ignore the theories that Simpson's lawyers have raised in defense of their client, who has pleaded not guilty to the June 12, 1994, murders.
"They were roads raised, created by the defendant to lead you away from the core truth and the issue that we are searching for the answer to, which is who murdered Ron and Nicole," said Clark, her voice low and serious and her eyes heavy with the exhaustion that has gripped the lawyers in recent weeks.
"These roads, ladies and gentlemen, these are false roads," she said. "The false roads were paved with inflammatory distractions, but even after all their tireless efforts, the evidence stands strong and powerful to prove to you the defendant's guilt."
Again and again, Clark and Darden appealed to the jurors' "common sense." And after unveiling each section of the government case, Clark compared it to a jigsaw puzzle, using the screen above the witness stand to display another chunk falling into place and announcing: "Another piece of the puzzle."
At day's end, she displayed the electronic puzzle pieces one at a time, putting it together before the jury's eyes. Together, they formed a picture of Simpson's face.
"There he is," Clark said before yielding the floor to the domestic violence portion of the presentation. "You haven't even heard the why of it, why he did it, and you know he did it."
That came near the end of Clark's six-hour summation, which opened with a bang, as she quickly established one of the prosecution's goals--to distance itself from the testimony and person of Fuhrman.
"Just so it is clear," Clark said. "Did he lie when he testified here in this courtroom saying that he did not use racial epithets in the last 10 years? Yes. Is he a racist? Yes. Is he the worst LAPD has to offer? Yes. Do we wish that this person was never hired by LAPD? Yes. Should LAPD have ever hired him? No. Should such a person be a police officer? No.
"In fact," she continued, gathering speed and emotion, "do we wish there were no such person on the planet? Yes. But the fact that Mark Fuhrman is a racist and lied about it on the witness stand does not mean that we haven't proven the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and it would be a tragedy if with such overwhelming evidence, ladies and gentlemen, as we have presented to you, you found the defendant not guilty in spite of all that because of the racist attitudes of one police officer."
With those comments, Clark attempted to rid the prosecution of one of its most vexing problems: the heft that Fuhrman's lies have added to the Simpson team's conspiracy allegations. As she frequently has outside the jury's presence, Clark argued Tuesday that Fuhrman's racism and willingness to lie ultimately said nothing about the case because there was no chance for him to plant evidence against Simpson.
Darden, who is black, seconded those remarks by urging jurors not to get sidetracked.
"This case," Darden said, "is about this defendant, O.J. Simpson, and the M-word, 'murder,' not about Mark Fuhrman and the N-word, and you know what that is."
The final arguments, which are expected to stretch out over this week in a series of special court sessions that will continue into the evenings, debuted in a city once again riveted on a case that began in the early hours of June 13, 1994, when police discovered the bodies of Goldman and Nicole Simpson sprawled outside her condominium.
Every major local television station carried Tuesday's session live, and hundreds of spectators gathered outside the courthouse in the drizzling rain to see for themselves the arrival of the now familiar personalities at the center of the long, arduous trial.
A few spectators cheered the arrival of Cochran, who entered the courthouse flanked by half a dozen representatives of the Nation of Islam; prosecutors, as usual, entered the building more inconspicuously.
Once inside Ito's courtroom, the proceedings began with rancor, confusion and delay.
Simpson's lawyers protested the prosecution's plans to use a number of display boards to illustrate their closing argument. Some of the boards, Cochran complained, were misleading or false.
Among other things, Cochran complained that prosecutors were misrepresenting Simpson's relationship with Paula Barbieri, a model and sometime companion of the football Hall of Famer. In one prosecution board, the government lawyers said Barbieri had rejected Simpson--an act that they viewed as helping to precipitate the murders.
"There was no rejection," Cochran said.
Clark--who despite her evident weariness seemed in high spirits Tuesday, jauntily exchanging comments with reporters and colleagues before the jury was brought in--dismissed the defense objections by defending the exhibits and noting that if she said anything that proved false, the jury could draw whatever conclusion it thought appropriate.
As for Barbieri, the prosecution's position was pointed. "He [Simpson] was abandoned by Nicole. He was abandoned by Paula," Clark said. "And that's why we're here."
During that argument--one so spirited that Ito remarked, "I see we're in fighting moods today"--prosecutors displayed their boards and slides for the defense and the audience that packed Ito's courtroom.
For all their differences, the family members of the victims and their accused killer have reached out to one another during the trial. As the proceedings moved to closing arguments, relatives on both sides of the case said they were tired and unclear how it would end.
"I just don't have a feeling of what will happen," said Patti Goldman, stepmother of Ron Goldman. "It's a roller coaster. If the jurors focus on the facts of the case, rather than on their past experiences, I think justice will be done."
Carmelita Durio, one of Simpson's sisters, said she could not predict the outcome of her brother's trial.
"I just don't know," she said. "I'm so exhausted. I just want it over."
Clark Turns to Timeline
Once the last-minute skirmishes were dispensed with, jurors entered the courtroom for the first time since Friday, when both sides rested their cases.
After accepting good-luck hugs from Goldman's father and stepmother--hugs that the jury did not see--Clark launched her argument, a modulated, soft-spoken presentation that encouraged jurors to consider the case coolly and rationally. She spent all day arguing, hampered occasionally by lapses in choreography as prosecutors wrestled with piles of display boards and other exhibits.
Clark seemed unflustered, however. She stood a few feet away from the panel and spoke directly to the jurors, watching them carefully as she launched her comments with an effusive expression of thanks.
"This was a tremendous sacrifice," Clark said to the jurors, who have been sequestered since January and whose energy seems to have faded in recent weeks. "Your selflessness and your devotion will long be remembered."
After her opening remarks--including her crisp repudiation of Fuhrman--Clark moved to one of the most powerful and provocative aspects of the prosecution case: its timeline for the murders and for Simpson's lack of explanation for his whereabouts during a crucial hour and 18 minutes.
If anything, that portion of the prosecution case only has grown more forceful since the trial began. During her opening statement, Clark told jurors that Simpson could not account for his whereabouts for 70 minutes, and though Cochran told the panel it would hear testimony about Simpson chipping golf balls during that period, no evidence ever was offered to support that argument.
On Tuesday, Clark reminded the jury of the timeline primarily by recounting the testimony of several key witnesses, most notably limousine driver Allan Park, who got no answer to his ring at Simpson's gate until moments after he saw a shadowy figure resembling Simpson enter the house just before 11 p.m.; and Brian (Kato) Kaelin, who heard three loud thumps on his wall a few minutes before that.
"Just think about that," Clark said of the thumps. "Regardless of where or how they happened, just the fact that they happened shortly after the murders . . . and just before the defendant walked up his driveway in dark clothing like the dark blue or black sweat outfit that Kato described, you just put those facts together and you realize what has happened: The defendant came back from Bundy in a hurry. Ron Goldman upset his plans and things took a little longer than anticipated. He ran back behind the house.
"He was in a hurry," Clark continued. "He was moving quickly down a dark, narrow pathway overhung with trees, strewn with leaves, and in his haste he ran right into that air conditioner that was hanging over that south pathway. And running into that air conditioner caused him to fall against the wall, making the wall of Kato's room shake."
That, Clark said, was easily understood by lay people and experts alike.
"You don't need science to tell you that," she said. "You just need reason and logic."
'I Would Not Be Laughing'
At each stage of her argument, Clark highlighted actions by Simpson that she said were inconsistent with those of an innocent man.
"Why was it important for him to make Allan Park believe that he had been at home?" she asked. "I think we all know the answer to that question. Because he hadn't been at home."
Similarly, she questioned Simpson's story about cutting himself while breaking a glass in a Chicago hotel room. That, she said, "shows his effort to conceal" because Simpson knew that police would question how he got cut.
And when Simpson was notified by police of the death of his ex-wife, Simpson again did not react as an innocent man would, Clark argued.
"Wouldn't you think that the first reaction would be one of disbelief?" she asked.
Posing perhaps her most provocative question, Clark asked near the end of Tuesday's session, what about Simpson's demeanor during the famous courtroom glove demonstration?
"If I were asked to try on the gloves that were worn by the murderer of the father of my children, I would not be laughing," she said icily. "I would not be mugging. I would not think that was funny at all. Is that the attitude you expect, the laughing and the mugging, putting on the bloody gloves that were used to murder the mother of your children?"
For the first time all day, Cochran objected. Ito sustained the objection and called the lawyers to a sidebar. When she returned, Clark moved on to another topic.
Blood, Fiber, Hair
The questions about Simpson's demeanor underlie one aspect of the prosecution's case, but Clark saved until the afternoon the backbone of the government presentation--the blood, hair and fiber evidence that prosecutors say establishes a literal trail leading from the two victims to Simpson.
Although Clark did not present much of that evidence at trial, she argued it Tuesday with force and vigor. Hairs and fibers at the scene of the crimes, she said, had to have come from Simpson and his car.
More significant, blood drops leading away from the crimes were subjected to a form of DNA analysis known as RFLP. In every instance, the drops showed genetic characteristics identical to Simpson's, and one drop had markers that only could be expected to be found in one person out of 57 billion, she said.
"That's identity," Clark said. "That's his blood."
Blood in Simpson's car contained the markers of the victims, she continued. And blood on the glove found outside Simpson's house contained the markers of both victims and Simpson himself. Fibers likewise linked that glove to the car, and a hair found inside the glove could have been one of Simpson's body hairs, she added.
The blood trail at Simpson's house, Clark argued, could have been left after the defendant hastened to get ready and perhaps reopened a cut to his left hand while trying to fetch a cellular phone from his car, not while he was trying to enter the house. That explanation, offered for the first time Tuesday, would solve one of the lingering mysteries of the prosecution case, the question of why no blood was found near the glove behind his house.
Another hole, the missing murder weapon and bloody clothes, Clark also tackled head-on, attempting to convert a strength of the defense case into a plus for hers. Murderers, the experienced prosecutor said, almost always try to dump the weapon and think that having done so, they are "home free."
They are almost always wrong, she said, because they leave other evidence behind.
And the evidence in the Simpson case, Clark and her colleagues have long argued, forms a compelling web of hair, fiber and blood pointing to a single suspect: Simpson.
"We have linked the defendant to the crime scene," said Clark during a presentation that emphasized the findings of DNA tests, not the complex technology that produced them. "We have linked the defendant to the victims, we have linked the defendant and the victims to his car and that link has reached from Bundy into his bedroom at Rockingham.
"They are all interwoven by time, by space, by occurrence, by science," she said. After pausing, Clark repeated: "All linked."
'The Fuse Is Lit'
Darden did not take the lectern until almost 7 p.m., by which time the jury had heard more than six hours of argument. But any chance of the panel dozing off was quickly dispatched by Darden's forceful, pugnacious presentation that he addressed directly to the jurors, engaging them in a one-sided conversation about the experience they have shared with the lawyers over the past 12 months.
Darden set the tone for his comments immediately, when Ito asked if he was ready to begin.
"No better time than right now, Your Honor," he responded.
Over the next hour he spun a tale of abuse and control, of Simpson lighting a fuse of rage early in his relationship with Nicole Brown and eventually exploding. When Simpson beat his wife, humiliated her and spied on her, he was demonstrating a desperate desire to control her, Darden said.
"The fuse is lit, and it's burning," Darden said, "but it's a slow burn."
Darden returned to that phrase over and over, muttering it rhetorically and obviously agitating Simpson, who conferred with his lawyers throughout the prosecutor's argument.
In one note of irony, Darden moved from disparaging Fuhrman to citing his testimony about an episode in which Simpson allegedly shattered a Mercedes-Benz window during an argument with Nicole Simpson in 1985.
"We're not hiding Fuhrman," Darden said.
At times, Darden was disarmingly personal, referring to raising his own children and even remarking on his own divorce. "When a woman moves out of your house and files for divorce, as I've learned, it means she doesn't want you anymore."
Ito, who rarely displayed emotion during the long day, smiled slightly at that.
As the day drew to a close, Darden reminded jurors that Nicole Simpson kept a safety deposit box with a copy of her will and photographs of herself after her husband beat her.
"She was leaving you a road map to let you know who it is who will eventually kill her," Darden said. "She knew in 1989. She knew it, and she wants you to know it.
"She didn't know when," Darden added softly, "but whenever that event came, she wanted you to know who did it. Think about that. Just think about that."
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