O.J. Simpson's attorneys, energized after raising a new mystery about a bloody glove, boasted Thursday that their frame-up theory had become "a very live issue in this case"--then presented testimony from a respected scientist who told jurors that "something's wrong" with police handling of an incriminating blood drop.
Henry Lee, a renowned criminalist based in Connecticut, testified by videotape that he had discovered several potential weaknesses in the evidence against Simpson.
He talked about sloppy packaging that could have contaminated evidence. He pointed out a string of seven blood drops on the public sidewalk outside the Bundy Drive murder scene, which police photographed but did not collect. And he told jurors that when he inspected the scene a few weeks after the slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman, he discovered an overlooked print from a second brand of shoes--a brand clearly distinct from the Bruno Maglis that tracked a bloody trail from the bodies to a back gate.
Most dramatic, Lee repeated his criminal trial testimony that he found mysterious and inexplicable stains on a packet identified as containing a crime scene blood drop. "I can only tell you . . . that something's wrong. That's my conclusion," Lee said. That drop was found to contain genetic markers consistent with O.J. Simpson's DNA.
Lee's testimony, although couched in cautious terms, gave the defense a platform to argue that police botched the double homicide investigation and that the evidence against Simpson cannot be trusted. Defense attorneys, however, want to go a step further, to argue that corrupt police conspired to frame Simpson for murder.
As they prepare to put forth that theory in closing arguments, they were clearly buoyed by their success in raising questions about the left-hand glove found under some foliage near the bodies.
Police criminalist Dennis Fung touched off the mystery Wednesday when he acknowledged that he was not sure whether the glove booked into evidence was the same one photographed at the LAPD lab and identified as having been recovered near the bodies. In the photograph, the glove has a white spot--which the defense contends is a hole--over the ring finger; the actual glove has no such imperfection. Sources said the plaintiffs intend to argue during their rebuttal case next week that the white mark on the photograph is just a piece of stucco clinging to the glove.
Plaintiff attorney Edward Medvene previewed another likely argument Thursday when he told the judge "it makes absolutely no sense" for anyone to have tampered with the left-hand glove because it was never sent out for DNA testing. (The right-hand glove discovered at Simpson's estate was tested, and was found to contain genetic markers consistent with a mixture of DNA from both victims and Simpson.)
"Why in the world would anyone want to switch the Bundy glove?" Medvene asked. "There was no blood taken from the Bundy glove for analysis."
Nonetheless, defense attorney Daniel Leonard told the judge in a hearing outside the jury's presence that the glove conundrum had immeasurably boosted Simpson's claim of a setup.
"We have been building a very strong circumstantial case for framing," Leonard said.
He then requested permission to push that case further, by presenting evidence that police failed to call coroner's investigators to promptly examine the bodies. That delay, Leonard said, suggested that police were setting up a conspiracy and "didn't want to have interlopers from the coroner's office interfering with whatever they were planning to do."
Indignant and clearly furious, Medvene responded that the defense had produced no evidence of a frame-up, only wild speculation. Medvene even quoted Lee, the defense's own witness, who agreed with the statement that "there is no scientific fact to show that any LAPD officer planted" or otherwise tampered with evidence.
Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki announced that he, too, saw no proof of conspiracy. Still, he allowed the defense to tell jurors about the 10-hour delay in calling the coroner because it impaired pathologists' ability to determine a precise time of death. Fujisaki will probably rule next week on whether defense lawyers can draw a more sinister inference from the delay during closing arguments.
After the brief hearing on the coroner testimony, Fujisaki ordered the jurors to take their seats for a full day of videotaped testimony from Lee.
Lead defense attorney Robert C. Baker took pains to establish Lee's credentials; just walking the witness through his resume took a full 45 minutes.
Basing his analysis on crime scene photos, Lee pointed out evidence of a struggle, from scattered blood drops to crushed plants to the three buttons torn off Goldman's shirt. He concluded, he said, that Goldman put up "a pretty big fight" before succumbing to his multiple stab wounds.
The defense has long argued that Goldman fought for at least 10 or 15 minutes; the plaintiffs contend that he would have fallen unconscious in about a minute. If the assault began at 10:35 or 10:40 p.m., as both sides apparently agree, the length of the fight is crucial because Simpson--who lives a few minutes drive from the murder scene--was seen at his home at 10:55 p.m.
Although Lee's testimony appeared to bolster the defense theory of a lengthy struggle, he conceded on cross-examination that he had no idea how long the killings took. In fact, he said, Goldman could have been killed in a little more than a minute.
Lee also acknowledged that he has no reason to challenge any of the DNA test results, which put Simpson's blood at the murder scene and the victims' blood in Simpson's car and on evidence recovered from his estate. He did say, though, that he found a couple of inconsistencies or contradictions in the DNA analysis.
The plaintiffs will present the rest of their cross-examination today. After brief testimony from a coroner's official, Simpson is expected to take the stand.