UCLA law professor Peter Arenella and Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson offer their take on the Simpson trial, though today Levenson has the day off. Joining Arenella are criminal defense attorneys Gerald L. Chaleff and Gigi Gordon. Today's Topic: The prosecution pulls the puzzle pieces together.


On the prosecution: "Mark Fuhrman's lies and racism continue to haunt the prosecution, prompting Marcia Clark to start her closing argument not with a powerful and succinct overview of the overwhelming phsyical evidence linking O.J. Simpson to the murders, but with an apology: for the trial's undue length and a ringing indictment of Fuhrman. She had to separate the prosecution from Fuhrman's taint, but the jury still may wonder why the prosecutors initially vouched for such a man. Clark effectively ridiculed an alibi defense that did not account for O.J.'s whereabouts at the time of the murders. Perhaps, there was too little passion and too much fatique in her closing as compared to her opening statement. But Christopher Darden provided that emotion by using Nicole's own words to the police: 'You never do anything about him. . .He's going to kill me.' Will the jury believe her?"


On the prosecution: "The prosecution's closing themes were that the murders were personal, pointing only to one person and that, if the jury 'uses the tools God gave them'--common sense, logic and reason--they can come to only one conclusion: that O.J. Simpson brutally murdered Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. The argument started slowly and proceeded to methodically lay out the compelling nature and scope of the evidence. Clark's understated style, while perhaps lacking the drama and fire many expected, presented the jury a coherent framework that should allow them to understand what the evidence shows and how it all fits together. Her quiet description of the murders' brutality refocused the case on the crimes. Darden's moving and passionate conversation with the jury about Simpson's history and pattern of domestic violence made it clear that only Simpson had a motive to kill."


On the prosecution: "Darden's argument made you believe that this killing was as inevitable as death itself. Simpson, as Darden described him, was like a bomb with a slow-burning fuse, finally exploding in a murderous blast of rage and jealousy. For one chilling moment, Darden was not so much a lawyer as a medium, interpreting the message that Nicole Brown left behind and letting the jurors hear her own voice. Clark, on the other hand, was like a spider, intent on her task, cooly and with calculation spinning together each strand in the web of circumstantial evidence ensnaring Simpson. Both Clark and Darden met the Fuhrman question head-on, banishing the N-word and replacing it--for the moment--with the M-Word. If the evidence is reliable, than Simpson's fate, like that of the fly, is inevitable."

Compiled by TIM RUTTEN / Los Angeles Times

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