Case Had Many Holes, Juror Says : Panel: Group agreed with forensic expert Lee that there was 'something wrong' with prosecution's evidence, he reports. Opportunities for contamination are cited.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In the end, what swayed them wasn't the impassioned rhetoric of Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. or the calmer but no less dramatic appeals of Marcia Clark.

They didn't buy the prosecution's so-called mountain of evidence, from a barking dog to DNA. They didn't buy the motive, a husband exploding in jealous, murderous rage.

And the race card, played so brazenly in the defense team's blistering attacks on former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman, rated "barely a blip" for the most part on their mental radar screens.

In the end, said Lionel (Lon) Cryer--the juror who will long be remembered for his raised-fist salute to O.J. Simpson at the close of the fractious and unpredictable murder trial--what mattered was what wasn't there, the holes he said jurors kept finding in the prosecution case.

"It was garbage in, garbage out," Cryer, known as the juror in seat No. 6, said Tuesday about the prosecution's evidence. "There was a problem with what was being presented to [prosecutors] for testing from LAPD. We felt there were a lot of opportunities for either contamination of evidence, samples being mixed or stored together."

That summed up the panel's "whole mode of thinking" very soon after the 10 women and two men entered the deliberations room Monday morning, Cryer said in an exclusive interview with The Times. As they walked into that room on the ninth floor of the Downtown courthouse, Cryer said, the words of noted forensic pathologist Dr. Henry Lee, whom Cryer said the jury viewed as "the most credible witness" of all, reverberated in their ears.

Lee, Cryer recounted, said, "There is something wrong here."

"He had a lot of impact on a lot of people. A lot of people were in agreement that there was something wrong" with the prosecution's case, he said.

Their job finished at last, most jurors Tuesday tried to do a fast vanishing act, only to discover that their homes--in communities including Mid-City Los Angeles, Bellflower and Boyle Heights--had been staked out by media hordes.

But Cryer, a hefty 44-year-old telephone company marketing representative, decided to speak out, painting a picture of a panel that deliberated for the most part without acrimony or the racial tensions that many pundits had feared would tear it apart.

He said the 12 jurors began deliberations ignorant of one another's views.

"A lot of people thought we already had our minds made up," he said. "That was definitely not the case."

But, Cryer said, the determination that they were near agreement came barely half an hour into their discussions.

The morning began with the court clerk, Deirdre Robertson, rolling in a cart laden with the scores of exhibits that had been paraded before the panel over the past eight months.

Looking at that cart, Cryer recalled thinking, "This is going to take a long time."

But by 10 a.m., less than an hour after they had begun, they elected to take a straw vote. The secret ballots, collected in a jar, tallied "10-2, not guilty," he said. He still doesn't know who the two were. The discussion then narrowed to one theme: inconsistencies in the prosecution case.

The panel was troubled by the marking of evidence and the order of its introduction. "There were erasures on reports," he said. "We felt that there were some problems . . . that they were trying to cover their rear ends by making changes in reports."

He theorized that the LAPD "had such a bad track record with their high-profile cases in the past that they pounced on this case to try to not blow it at all costs. 'No matter what, we're going to make this case.' "

They also questioned why Detective Philip Vannatter would carry a vial of blood taken from Simpson from Parker Center back to Brentwood.

The bloody glove found at the Rockingham Avenue estate was the one piece of evidence Cryer himself "couldn't get past," he said, adding that he had serious questions about where it was found "and the fact that there was no other blood in that area at all."

The prosecution's contention that Simpson's rage and his need to control his ex-wife formed the motive for murder was unconvincing to jurors, Cryer said.

"I don't want to come off as being insensitive about brutality against women," he said, but prosecutors only presented one instance in which Simpson physically abused his former wife. "The 1989 incident was significant for all of us, because from '89 until her death, there were no other incidents where he touched her."

Quickly they agreed that they needed to re-examine the testimony of Allan Park, the conscientious limousine driver who kept checking his watch and looking for signs of his passenger, Simpson, whom he was to drive from the ex-athlete's Brentwood home to the airport.

Cryer said there were four points the panel wanted to double-check: how many cars Park said were in the driveway, how definitive was his memory of whether the infamous white Bronco was parked at the curb, what the dark figure Park said he saw entering the mansion was wearing, and where exactly Park spotted him.

The jurors' discussions were "excited" but not hostile, Cryer said. They soon concluded that Park was mistaken about how many cars were in the driveway, that he may have been influenced by photographs that had been taken later.

"There were a lot of photographs showing Arnelle's car in the driveway. But it was not there that night," he said, recalling her testimony. He said jurors wanted Park's testimony that he had seen two cars read back because they did not recall those statements. That discrepancy called all of Park's testimony into question, he said.

After the Park testimony was reread in open court, the panel immediately took a second vote--about 2:30 p.m. "That was the decisive vote," he said. "I didn't think we would all come together on the same mind-set so quickly."

As the jury left Judge Lance A. Ito's courtroom Tuesday morning, Cryer thrust a clenched left fist into the air. "It was like a 'right on' to you, Mr. Simpson," he said. "Get on with your life. Get your kids. Be happy. Get some closure in your life."

The strongest statement in support of the prosecution came from the older of the two white jurors. Cryer remembers her saying, "I really think he could possibly have done it. But I'm not sure."

In an ABC news interview, the daughter of Anise Aschenbach, the older white juror, said Fuhrman played a strong role in her mother's decision to acquit.

Aschenbach called the daughter at her Paramount home during the interview, crying about the outcome of the case.

"She told me, 'I think he probably did do it, but what happened was that the evidence was not there, mainly because of Fuhrman,' " said the daughter, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Denise. "She's real shook up and she's real upset. . . . It was like I felt she was so upset about what had to be done. . . . This was the only answer they could come up with because the involvement with Fuhrman in the case somehow screwed up the evidence."

Still, the jurors were united at the end. Cryer said he hoped their stunning dismissal of the prosecution case has not sent the wrong message to the victims' families.

"I hope that our verdict does not in any way reflect that we have any lack of concern or remorse or care for the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. I know my heartfelt sympathy goes out to them tremendously, and I understand that nothing I could ever say would ever [relieve] the pain and the grief that this whole incident has caused in their lives."

Neither should the panel's swift acquittal of Simpson be taken as a sign the jurors rushed to judgment, suggested another juror.

"We've been there nine months. That's enough," Brenda Moran, 45, a computer technician known as Juror No. 7, said when asked why they made up their minds so fast.

Flanked by her mother and brother, the haggard-looking Moran slipped into her parents' Compton-area house at half past noon Tuesday, greeted by the excited shouts of neighbors.

"I think we did the right thing, and I'm really glad to be back home," she said, just before disappearing into the house for a reunion with her family and her first home-cooked meal in almost a year.

They were survivors, the 12 jurors who scattered from the Downtown courthouse Tuesday morning, leaving word with Judge Ito that they did not wish to talk with reporters or the lawyers on either side of the notorious case.

The family of one juror, a Compton postal worker, said her husband picked her up from the courthouse and headed straight out of town. The juror called her mother Tuesday afternoon, saying she was "on the run right now" and would see her when the hubbub died down.

Outside the Bellflower apartment of another juror, neighbors, drawn out of their homes by the crush of reporters, marveled to learn they had a connection to the Simpson trial. Women brought their babies and small children to watch and wait with the media for a glimpse of the returning juror, even after a family friend announced she would not be coming home.

"It just shows how you can be right in the middle of something and not even know it," said Rex Ott, 55, who lives next door.

Outside another juror's house in Norwalk, police had to clear the street because so many neighbors had gathered.

The street outside the forewoman's two-story stucco apartment building near the Crenshaw district was lined with five satellite-equipped television trucks, and journalists from around the world milled about on the sidewalk.

Eighteen red roses were delivered by a Beverly Hills florist who would not say who had sent them. Tabloid TV reporters could be heard discussing the hefty checks they were prepared to write her in exchange for what had to be one hell of a story.

But the forewoman herself was nowhere to be seen. Her daughter rebuffed all entreaties.

Cryer said he could not return to his mid-Wilshire apartment because he didn't want to run a media gantlet. His bags had been packed since Friday, when deliberations began. Contrary to media speculation that the bags meant the jurors had already made up their minds, Cryer said they were only following orders from deputies.

"We were told to have all of our stuff packed and ready to go because you can't judge how long [deliberations] might go," he said.

The packed bags were not the only misread signals, Cryer said. He said there was never a juror revolt over the dismissal of some deputies, as many reports stated.

"We had some [conversations] with Judge Ito when the deputies were kicked off. There was some sympathy among the jurors for the deputies."

A petition, he said, was circulated in support of the deputies but he refused to sign it because he did not want to be seen as aligned with any group of jurors. "I never heard the word revolt. Every day we were supposed to go in, we went in. I don't recall not going in any day, or even saying we were not going in.

"It's untrue that jurors refused to leave their hotel rooms."

Nonetheless, sequestration was a trying experience with "tremendous highs and lows," he said. Proceedings were halted one day when Cryer had to be rushed to a hospital for high blood pressure. At another point he said he went to Ito and asked to be removed from the panel.

"You have good days and bad days," he said. "I was just tired. I was very stir crazy."

Cryer said the many delays when jurors were left in their hotels while lawyers argued various motions in court were "horrible. The attorneys, the judge, the sheriffs, the reporters--everybody in that courtroom, they all got to go home at night. We went back to that hotel room."

He said he believed sequestration could have played a role in the speed with which the verdicts were reached.

"You've got to remember, nine months and people are just agonizing about when is it going to be over? We want to get out of here." He described sequestration as being in a high-priced jail.

"Worse than that. There are probably some things inmates can do or have access to that we didn't--read a newspaper, watch television, listen to the radio."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

What the Jury Didn't Hear

Before the jurors were sequestered last January, the nation witnessed O.J. Simpson's famous low-speed chase, with the ex-football player slumped in the back seat of Al Cowling's Bronco, reportedly holding a gun to his head. As police cars tailed the Bronco through Southland freeways, a friend held a news conference and read a note from Simpson which sounded alarmingly like a suicide letter. After Simpson surrendered, police found $10,000 in cash and Simpson's passport in the car. But jurors are not allowed to consider those events, which were not brought into evidence. In this trial, the public knows much more than jurors do about the case.

Here are some other examples:

THE ISSUE: BLOOD IN THE BATHROOM

What Happened: Phenol tests performed in Simpson's bathroom revealed signs of blood in the sink and shower. The defense said those tests were never confirmed and thus do not definitely establish that the substance recovered was blood, much less suggest a possible source.

What Jury Was Told: Criminalist Dennis Fung described the steps that he took to collect and test bloodstains and other items, including bloodstains in Simpson's foyer, master bathroom, bedroom and Ford Bronco. The jury never heard about the test results.

****

THE ISSUE: A GLARE FROM THE BRONCO

What Happened: A Santa Monica resident named Jill Shively testified to a grand jury that Simpson "turned around and glared" at her after almost hitting her car with his Ford Bronco just after the killings were committed nearby. Prosecutors dropped her as a witness when they found out she sold her interview to a television tabloid show for $5,000 before she testified to the grand jury.

What Jury Was Told: Nothing.

****

THE ISSUE: FOUR MYSTERY MEN

What Happened: Mary Anne Gerchas, who purportedly told Simpson's attorneys that she saw four men rushing away from the murder scene about the time of the slayings, was dogged by allegations that she committed fraud and skipped out on payments. In late July, she was sentenced to six months in jail for lying on a car loan application.

What Jury Was Told: In opening statements, the defense told the jury that they would be hearing from a witness who saw four men rushing from the murder scene. But she was never put on the witness stand. Gerchas was mentioned by name.

****

THE ISSUE: A POTENTIAL ALIBI

What Happened: Rosa Lopez, the housekeeper at a home next door, gave halting, confused, videotaped testimony about seeing Simpson's Bronco parked outside his house when the murders were committed. Lopez admitted to lying about some aspects of her testimony and professed to be unable to remember other details.

What Jury Was Told: In opening statements, the defense told the jury a witness would back up Simpson's alibi for his whereabouts. Lopez never testified before the jury.

****

THE ISSUE: DRUG-SLAYING THEORY

What Happened: Judge Lance A. Ito precluded the defense from questioning Faye Resnick's ex-boyfriend, Christian Reichardt, about her drug habits. The defense had hoped to suggest that drug dealers gunning for Resnick mistakenly killed Nicole Simpson.

What Jury Was Told: Reichardt testified only about Simpson's jovial mood on the night of the murders.

****

THE ISSUE: CLAIMS ABOUT A JEALOUS SPY

What Happened: Keith Zlomsowitch, a former boyfriend of Nicole Brown Simpson, testified to the grand jury that Simpson once spied on his ex-wife and him through a window as they engaged in a sex act on the living room couch. He related a series of incidents indicating that Simpson became intensely jealous and angry when he saw his ex-wife with another man.

What Jury Was Told: Zlomsowitch never testified.

****

THE ISSUE: A FIBER MATCH

What Happened: Ito excluded evidence from FBI hair and fiber expert Doug Deedrick, who was to testify that threads found on a knit cap left at the crime scene and on a bloody glove discovered on the Simpson estate almost certainly came from the carpet in Simpson's Ford Bronco.

What Jury Was Told: Blue-black cotton fibers were mentioned in the cross-examination, but no specific mention of the Bronco was made.

****

THE ISSUE: BRUTAL BOASTS

What Happened: Outside the jury's presence, the defense played Fuhrman's taped boasts of brutalizing and framing suspects, manufacturing probable cause and singling out minorities for mistreatment. The tapes contradicted his sworn testimony that he had not used the racial epithet in the last decade.

What Jury Was Told: Screenwriter Laura Hart McKinny testified that Fuhrman used the racial epithet in taped interviews. But jurors hear only two passages, one on tape and the other in transcript form.

****

THE ISSUE: TAKING THE 5TH

What Happened: Fuhrman, returning to the stand, asserted his 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination three times, refusing to answer questions by the defense lawyers, who charge that he planted evidence. An appeals court prevented Ito from telling jurors that Fuhrman was "not available for further testimony" and that they could weigh that fact in judging his credibility.

What Jury Was Told: Jurors, who waited in an upstairs lounge during Fuhrman's brief appearance, heard nothing about Fuhrman invoking the 5th Amendment or being unavailable. Nor did they hear inflammatory racist comments and descriptions of brutal beatings of suspects Fuhrman made in taped statements to McKinny.

****

THE ISSUE: A FBI DOUBTER

What Happened: FBI chemist Frederic J. Whitehurst, a defense witness who had accused fellow FBI Agent Roger Martz of misconduct in previous case, including the World Trade Center bombing, was not allowed to testify to cast doubt on Martz's credibility. Martz had testified that blood on a sock found at Simpson's house and on a gate at the crime scene did not necessarily indicate the presence of EDTA, a preservative used by authorities on blood samples.

What Jury Was Told: Whitehurst did not testify.

****

THE ISSUE: DNA GURU

What Happened: In opening remarks, the defense promised the jurors that they would be hearing from Kary Mullis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning expert on DNA testing procedures.

What Jury Was Told: The flamboyant Mullis, who invented a form of DNA testing but whose drug use and unorthodox scientific views on some subjects have made him an inviting target for cross-examination, was never put on the stand.

Compiled by Times researcher Cecilia Rasmussen and staff writer Stephanie Simon

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