Witness Backs Off Theories Helpful to Simpson Defense
A forensic pathologist Tuesday backpedaled on the portions of his testimony that were most helpful to O.J. Simpson’s defense, conceding during a hostile cross-examination that cuts on Simpson’s left hand could have been fingernail marks and that Ronald Goldman’s murder could have taken just two minutes.
Michael Baden, always an animated witness, argued with attorney Ed Medvene throughout the cross-examination, at times becoming so combative that the judge rebuked him.
In the end, Baden reluctantly acknowledged that a lone killer with a single knife could have slain Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson within minutes. Though he personally believes that the crime involved at least two assailants and a prolonged, messy struggle, he agreed that other scenarios were possible as well.
Baden also softened his previous testimony about three gouges on Simpson’s left hand. While he insisted that he did not believe that they were fingernail scratches, he conceded that “there’s a [scientific] basis for someone else to think they are.”
The plaintiffs’ expert pathologist, Dr. Werner Spitz, has testified that the injuries were fingernail marks, perhaps inflicted as the victims clawed at Simpson’s bare hand during their final struggle.
Baden examined the wounds on Simpson’s hand on June 17, 1994, five days after the murders. At that time, Baden testified, Simpson said he thought he had suffered the cuts in his home in Los Angeles, perhaps while rummaging through his darkened car for his cellular phone.
That explanation appears to contradict at least two of Simpson’s sworn statements--and it had the Goldman family attorneys grinning with evident glee as they contemplated grilling Simpson about the inconsistencies when he again takes the witness stand, perhaps as early as Friday.
Simpson has previously testified that he did not cut himself in Los Angeles, although he said he noticed a dab of blood on his pinkie while getting ready to catch a redeye flight to Chicago. He has also testified that he had his cellular phone with him while he was packing, and only needed to pick up the charger and case from his car.
In his aggressive cross-examination, Medvene ridiculed Baden’s theory about how Goldman died.
Just last month, Baden told a TV interviewer that Goldman remained on his feet for up to 10 minutes after the first serious cut sliced his jugular vein. On cross-examination Tuesday, he acknowledged that Goldman probably would have slumped unconscious within two to three minutes. He still insisted, though, that the killer left Goldman on the ground, went off and did something else for five to eight minutes, then returned to finish the slaying with a few final stabs.
After Baden stepped down, the defense jumped from topic to topic in a rush to complete an ambitious schedule that anticipates Simpson testifying Friday afternoon as the last witness before a two-week Christmas break. Among Tuesday’s witnesses:
* LAPD fingerprint expert Gilbert Aguilar testified that he found nine fingerprints in and around Nicole Simpson’s condo that could not be traced to the murder victims, the officers at the scene, Nicole Simpson’s close friends or O.J. Simpson.
* Auto parts salesman William Blasini testified that he spotted Simpson’s Ford Bronco at a police vehicle auction a few weeks after the murders, unguarded and unlocked in a downtown garage. He said he sat in both front seats and inspected the Bronco for blood, but found none. More than a month later, police recovered additional blood from the Bronco that turned out to be consistent with Ronald Goldman’s DNA; the defense contends that blood was planted.
* Brentwood resident Thomas Tallarino testified that he spotted a man crouching in the grass outside Nicole Simpson’s condo shortly before 9 p.m. the evening of the murders. The defense contends that the mystery man could have had something to do with the crime, or, at the very least, offered a lead that the police should have pursued.
But Tallarino’s testimony frustrated the defense when he disavowed a statement he gave police just after the murders saying that the crouching man was white or Latino. On the stand, he insisted that he could not identify the man at all beyond saying he had dark, straight hair. Asked point-blank if the man was O.J. Simpson, he answered: “I don’t know.” Furthermore, Tallarino indicated that the police did pursue the lead, returning to interview him a second time.
Also Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki dismissed an alternate juror. A source close to the case said the man had violated one of Fujisaki’s admonitions by mentioning his role in the trial in a Christmas card to a friend. The friend, who happens to be a sheriff’s deputy, reported the incident to the court. Four alternates remain on the panel.