Defense Expert Demonstrates Spatter Patterns for Startled Jurors
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Jurors jumped in their seats Wednesday as a star scientific witness slammed his hand into a puddle of red ink, showing how blood typically splatters and trying to throw doubt on the murder case against O.J. Simpson.
Henry Lee, perhaps the nation’s pre-eminent forensic expert, dominated the courtroom as he disclosed results of his scientific sleuthing in a vivid show-and-tell exhibition designed to challenge the prosecution’s one-killer theory.
Aided by his blood drop experiments and various photo displays, the witness explained to jurors that he discovered:
_ Bloodstains consistent with a prolonged struggle between victim Ronald Goldman and one or more killers,
_ Imprints on Goldman’s blue jeans entirely distinct from those made by the designer Italian shoes linked to Simpson; and
_ Two damaged buttons in Goldman’s shirt pocket that had been ignored by police.
Under questioning by defense attorney Barry Scheck, the witness indicated that prints on Goldman’s jeans could indicate he was kicked by his assailant. But he was careful to qualify his analysis.
``I cannot definitively say that is definitely a shoe print,″ Lee said at one point. ``It could be.″
If the pattern came from a shoe, Scheck asked, ``could it be the Bruno Magli shoe?″
``No,″ Lee said.
Prosecutors have tried to link Simpson to a pair of Bruno Magli shoes allegedly worn by the person who killed Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. An FBI expert identified shoe prints at the murder scene as made by the particular waffle pattern of a Bruno Magli sole.
``Have you ever seen a single assailant wear two pairs of shoes?″ Scheck asked.
``No,″ Lee replied.
Lee also described how he was hindered by Los Angeles crime lab officials when he arrived to examine a pair of socks found at the foot of Simpson’s bed. Lee said he was treated in ``a very mean, hostile fashion″ and was denied use of proper equipment.
He told jurors the lab improperly stored the socks in the same envelope and the evidence was already contaminated when he got to it. As for prosecution complaints that Lee didn’t wear a lab coat or hair net during his examinations, he said such items weren’t provided.
``It doesn’t matter what I wear _ space suit or body armor _ it’s still contaminated,″ he said.
In a subsequent examination with better equipment, he said he was able to see how blood seeped through the sock surface, supporting another defense expert’s opinion that the blood stained the sock when no leg was inside. The defense contends the blood on the sock was planted as part of a police frame-up.
The scientist’s demonstration of how blood spatters kept jurors riveted. Superior Court Judge Lance Ito at one point expressed concern that jurors might get splashed, although none did. Ito likened the display to ``a Gallagher show,″ referring to a comedian who often breaks watermelons on stage, splattering juice on the audience.
But the seriousness of Lee’s testimony was evident from prosecutors’ fierce effort to block it, and their complaints that the defense had left them at a disadvantage by withholding Lee’s reports until the last minute.
In a written ruling issued Wednesday, Ito agreed the defense violated state discovery laws by waiting as long as 23 days to give prosecutors Lee’s notes.
``The court contemplates granting a reasonable continuance to prepare for the cross-examination of Dr. Lee, as well as an instruction (to the jury) that any delay caused thereby is the result of the failure of the defense to produce the note packages in a timely manner,″ the judge wrote.
He also threatened to impose ``significant and substantial″ fines on the defense.
But Ito also criticized prosecutors for failing to tell him clearly how the late disclosure harmed their case and asked them to file new papers to clarify the matter.
Wednesday was Lee’s second day on the stand, and his testimony was considered likely to stretch into early next week, especially since Thursday’s court session was canceled by the judge for personal reasons.
The day ended with a hearing on access to Detective Mark Fuhrman’s controversial tape-recorded interviews, an issue that continues to swirl around the trial. Fuhrman’s new criminal lawyer, Darryl Mounger, said his client may invoke Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and refuse to answer questions about the tapes, which include inflammatory statements advocating police brutality and spewing racism.
The defense wants to use the tapes to discredit Fuhrman, who testified earlier this year that he found a bloody glove on Simpson’s property. The judge has yet to decide whether jurors will be allowed to hear any of the tapes.
Scheck’s examination was slow and methodical, partially because Lee’s Chinese accent made him difficult to understand at times. He also spent much of the day outside the jury box and away from the microphone, giving demonstrations and pointing to picture boards.
With his considerable credentials under scrutiny at the Simpson trial, Lee carefully couched his opinions in phrases such as ``could be consistent with″ rather than giving absolute conclusions.
Countering the prosecution theory that Goldman succumbed to his killer quickly, Lee said splatters of blood indicated that Goldman was slain while standing upright and during a struggle. Asked how long the life-and-death battle lasted, Lee said, ``I cannot tell you exactly how long. It’s not a short struggle.″
He pointed to soil in the area where Goldman’s body was found and said he could see impressions in the dirt that should have been cast and analyzed by police investigators _ but were not. Lee’s precise analysis was designed to promote the defense theory that sloppy police work compromised or damaged physical evidence in the case.
Lee’s attack on police forensic methods extended to handling of a key found in the dirt. A picture of the key showed it was soaked with blood, and Scheck suggested Goldman may have used it as a weapon. The blood on the key, however, was never analyzed.
The Connecticut scientist visited Ms. Simpson’s condominium June 25, 1994, almost two weeks after the June 12 slashing murders. He did a cursory inspection, but most of his analysis is based on blowups of crime scene photos.
In another development, a sidebar transcript released Wednesday shed light on why prosecutor Christopher Darden asked a defense witness Tuesday if he thought Ms. Simpson deserved to have her throat cut.
Candace Garvey, a friend of Ms. Simpson, told investigators that Christian Reichardt, a friend to both Simpsons, said to her after the murders, ``They got what they deserved,″ according to Darden.
At the sidebar, Darden said Reichardt was angry with Ms. Simpson and his ex-girlfriend, Faye Resnick, for staying out late at night and neglecting their children. According to the transcript, Ito refused to let Darden pursue the line of questioning with witness Reichardt on grounds it was a waste of time.
``I don’t think it is probative of anything,″ Ito said.