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In TV Interview, Darden Slams Ito, Says He Wanted to Slug Cochran

March 16, 1996

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Prosecutor Christopher Darden says justice suffered at the O.J. Simpson trial because of a judge who lost control of the courtroom and a defense that cynically played to the black jurors’ desire for a racial ``payback.″

``Collectively, we’re all a bunch of failures,″ Darden said in an interview for broadcast Friday on ABC’s ``20/20.″

Launching his publicity campaign for his book, Darden called the trial ``a monumental waste of time and taxpayers’ money″ and said Simpson’s speedy acquittal in October was unfair to Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.

Darden said there was plenty of blame, starting at the top. Judge Lance Ito let Simpson’s lawyers take control, Darden said.

``Johnnie Cochran ran that courtroom, not Judge Ito,″ he said. ``He surrendered his gavel, essentially. ... The law was being ignored. There was no judge.″

Calls on Friday to Ito and the defense attorneys weren’t immediately returned.

Darden said he believes the mostly black jury acquitted Simpson to get even for years of racial injustice.

``From the very moment I saw that jury, I didn’t believe we had a snowball’s chance in hell,″ Darden said. ``I saw anger in that jury. ... I sensed it’s payback.″

Darden also said he wanted to slug Cochran ``with a right cross″ after the two black lawyers debated the impact of the jury hearing ``the n-word.″

``What he was saying to African-Americans was that I was a sellout, I was a race traitor,″ Darden said. ``I was an Uncle Tom. I wasn’t to be trusted. ... That’s what he was saying.″

Darden dismissed defense attorney Robert Shapiro’s post-verdict apology for injecting race into the trial.

``I think that it is way too late, much too late to distance himself from what eventually occurred in the courtroom. He played the race card along with the rest of them,″ the prosecutor said.

Darden also suggested with annoyance that Cochran flirted with prosecutor Marcia Clark. ``I don’t know if they came on to each other. ... But the manner in which they behaved toward each other ... I thought was inappropriate,″ he said.

Darden was vague with interviewer Barbara Walters about his reported romantic involvement with Clark.

``Was I a little bit in love with Marcia Clark?″ he said. ``I don’t know _ love is a scary thing for me. But I care about Marcia Clark. ... We still spend time together.″

As for Simpson, now facing a lawsuit filed by the victims’ families, Darden portrayed him as a pathetic figure. Simpson recently called Darden a ``punk.″

``I wasn’t the guy riding around in the back of a van crying, with a gun to my head, afraid to pull the trigger,″ Darden said. ``I don’t care what O.J. Simpson thinks of me, and if O.J. Simpson thinks poorly of me, then I have to feel like somehow I’m enhanced by that.″

In the book, ``In Contempt,″ to be released on Wednesday, Darden discusses everything from his childhood shoplifting to his festering hatred for former police Detective Mark Fuhrman, according to excerpts published in Monday’s issue of Newsweek.

``I felt completely uncomfortable with him. There was something eerie about the guy. I watched all the other deputy DA’s smile and agree that he would make a very good witness. But I was sick,″ wrote Darden, according to excerpts in Monday’s issue of the magazine.

Darden also expressed dismay that no black leaders came to his defense when Simpson’s lead attorney, Johnnie Cochran Jr., contended the only reason Darden was assigned to the case was to endear the prosecution to the black-majority jury.

``I waited. But they were silent,″ he wrote.

Darden’s publisher said the excerpt rights were purchased by Newsweek for an undisclosed sum. Neither Newsweek nor the publisher would discuss the deal.

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