THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL : Tales of Bodyguards, Ribbons and Krazy Glue
Kicking off her closing argument, prosecutor Marcia Clark smiled, placed a well-manicured hand over her heart, and urged jurors to focus on the evidence--even though, she acknowledged, “the sideshows may be very interesting.”
Under no such obligation ourselves, we hereby present the Simpson sideshows:
Talk about omens . . .
When the lawyers arrived at court to review the prosecution’s exhibits, defense counsel Peter Neufeld discovered that his glasses were broken--so he couldn’t see the display boards he was supposed to be critiquing.
Judge Lance A. Ito quickly supplied a solution. The judge, who has amazed courtroom spectators with his stash of supplies, from double-sided sticky tape to handy Post-its, came up with a fix that could stand in as a metaphor for his efforts to hold the nine-month trial together.
He handed Neufeld some Krazy Glue.
After months of striding solo through the admirers clogging the courthouse steps, lead defense lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. appeared Tuesday morning surrounded by six beefy bodyguards.
The bodyguards, all members of the Nation of Islam, were hired to protect Cochran after recent death threats.
Wearing sober suits and trademark bow ties, a few toting walkie-talkies, they hung out in the first-floor lobby and outside Ito’s ninth-floor courtroom throughout the day.
The Nation of Islam security force, a branch of Louis Farrakhan’s religious organization, has long been deployed in crime-scarred inner-city neighborhoods. But the bodyguards also protect prominent African Americans, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson. And at least one of the tall, muscular men shadowing Cochran has provided security for Farrakhan.
They certainly were diligent: Two even followed Cochran into the men’s room.
Ever eager for clues to jurors’ thinking, trial watchers started buzzing about the panelists’ choice of attire as soon as they stepped into the ninth-floor hallway.
Most arrived as spiffy as usual, dressed as though they were heading to church, or perhaps a nice dinner on the town. Even the most impatient juror, a middle-aged black man who has been known to don a rebellious leather jacket and shades in court, wore a respectful suit and tie.
But wait! The dapper Latino man, usually impeccable down to the handkerchief poking out of his jacket, showed up in . . . a sweater vest. And one or two others looked a tad more casual than customary. What could it possibly mean?
The defense team’s jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, gave no clues. But she certainly scrutinized the panelists. Dimitrius, for what it’s worth, looked snazzy herself in a sharp royal blue suit.
On this most-hyped of many hyped days, even the lawyers’ outfits created a stir.
Prosecutor Christopher A. Darden showed up with a red AIDS awareness ribbon, pinned to his dark suit with three Guatemalan worry dolls. The flourish intrigued both Cochran and Clark, who hurried over to quiz him on his choice of accessories.
Cochran sported a conversation piece on his lapel--an enamel pin of the Statue of Liberty, engraved with the word liberty.
Explaining his pin, Cochran said: “That’s what we’re trying to get--liberty for our client.”
Didn’t their mothers tell them to get sleep before a big day?
The prosecution’s technical wizard, Jonathan Fairtlough, announced to the judge that he had been working until 4 a.m. to organize slides and laser discs for Clark’s presentation. He was back in court by 8 a.m. to display his work to the defense.
“I was still dropping slides to laser at 3 last night, and I was in the office bar-coding until about 4,” he said, inventing a new verb in his fatigue.
Darden looked pretty worn out as well.
Slouched in his chair, he stared impassively as Clark recited the prosecution’s evidence. He twiddled his thumbs. Folded his hands over his mouth. Took off his glasses and rubbed his temples.
It turns out that Darden had been holed up in the courthouse until nearly midnight Monday--then caught a few hours of sleep in a Downtown hotel rather than drive back to his South Bay home. Clark, who had to take care of her children, sneaked out at 8:30 p.m. Monday. Still, even artful makeup could not disguise deep bags under her eyes.
The defense team didn’t look as drained.
Barry Scheck, his shaggy hair newly trimmed, scribbled notes on a yellow legal pad. He also gave his face muscles a workout as he commented on Clark’s presentation by rolling his eyes, raising his brows and puffing out his cheeks in obvious disgust.
Meanwhile, his fellow Dream-Teamers consulted with their client and their computers.
O.J. Simpson jotted notes with a chewed-up pen, read his lawyers’ hasty scrawls and muttered under his breath. From time to time, Simpson seemed to be mouthing silent protests as the argument rolled on.
Prosecutors ate their lunch (roast beef on kaiser rolls and macaroni salad) in the same 18th-floor “war room” where, more than 15 months ago, Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti held a televised news conference to plead for the fugitive Simpson to turn himself in.
Eventually, of course, Simpson did.
And now, 465 hours of testimony later, his trial is finally coming to a close. But the defense could not drag themselves out of the courtroom, even during the lunch break. They huddled over their legal pads, eating takeout.
No word on what the jurors had for lunch.
Rested, as promised, after a three-day weekend, Ito arrived in court ready to keep the lawyers in line with his customary sarcastic humor.
He summarized one defense outburst quite crisply: “Mr. Cochran,” he explained to bewildered prosecutors, “is arguing a sophisticated version of tit for tat.”
After handling an angry early morning squabble, Ito gave a small sigh, then ordered the jurors ushered into the courtroom. In a remarkable understatement for this Trial of the Century, Ito remarked: “It’s been interesting. As always.”