Jury Hears The Slur But Little Else as Simpson Case Limps Along
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The jury that includes eight blacks finally heard the ``n-word″ in the O.J. Simpson trial, but not from the mouth of the detective accused of uttering it.
At least seven times Wednesday, defense attorney F. Lee Bailey grilled Mark Fuhrman about the word ``nigger.″ Each time, Fuhrman denied using the racial slur that Simpson’s lawyers are trying to pin on him.
Asked point-blank if he uses the word to describe people, Fuhrman _ who didn’t even use the word in his testimony _ responded with a firm yet simple, ``No.″
``You say under oath that you have not addressed any black person as a nigger or spoken about black people as niggers in the past 10 years, Detective Fuhrman?″ Bailey insisted, his voice rising to a roar.
``That’s what I’m saying, sir,″ Fuhrman answered.
Defense attorneys have accused Fuhrman of framing Simpson by planting evidence, possibly out of racial hatred. Outside court, Bailey said the defense would produce a number of people to contradict Fuhrman.
``Let thousands of witnesses come forward,″ Bailey said at a news conference.
Nearly lost in the day was any indication that it is Simpson who is on trial, accused of the June 12 murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
``What we have now is two trials going on here,″ Loyola University law Professor Laurie Levenson said. ``One is about who killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The second trial is about whether Mark Fuhrman is a racist, and did he plant evidence on O.J. Simpson? Somehow, we’re getting more on Fuhrman than anything else.″
Before Fuhrman took the stand, Bailey and prosecutor Marcia Clark clashed over whether the defense was fabricating its claims of racism against Fuhrman.
Clark called Bailey a liar and produced a videotape of a TV news interview in which potential defense witness Max Cordoba denied ever talking to Bailey. On Tuesday, Bailey had said he spoke to Cordoba, ``Marine to Marine.″
``Mr. Bailey has made a deliberate misrepresentation to the court,″ Clark said. ``He has lied to the court.″
That provoked a furious response by a red-faced Bailey, who explained the discrepancy was a misunderstanding. Bailey said Wednesday it was actually his investigator, Patrick McKenna, who interviewed Cordoba, a black ex-Marine sergeant. At one point, Bailey said, McKenna handed him the phone and let him say a few words.
Late Wednesday, Cordoba told NBC he had indeed spoken with Bailey and backed away from his statements of the day before.
Judge Lance Ito said he was skeptical of Bailey’s explanation, but would deal with the matter later in the trial.
``I am concerned, Mr. Bailey, that the statement, `I have spoken with him on the phone personally, Marine to Marine,′ that sort of connotates something more than just, `Hi, how are you? I’m glad to talk to you,‴ Ito said.
In the meantime, the defense can’t mention Cordoba and his allegations that he heard Fuhrman make racially derogatory remarks.
The judge also barred references to another proposed defense witness, Alwyn Martin, the victim of a carjacking that Fuhrman investigated.
With all the wrangling, jurors actually heard very little from Fuhrman and spent much of their time in the jury lounge or deliberation room.
The defense has contended that Fuhrman, who is white, so hated interracial couples such as Simpson and his ex-wife that the detective planted a bloody glove behind the former football star’s house that matched a glove at the murder scene.
Before Wednesday, only the written word ``nigger″ had been shown to the jury, when a prosecutor flashed onto a large courtroom screen a letter that alleged Fuhrman used the word in the mid-1980s.
The letter, written by a woman who claims she met Fuhrman at a Marine recruiting station, said Fuhrman told her he ``would like nothing more than to see all `niggers’ gathered together and killed. He said something about burning them or bombing them.″
Bailey used the third day of his cross-examination to confront Fuhrman with those allegations. He asked the detective if he had used the word in the past decade.
``Not that I recall,″ Fuhrman replied, leading Bailey to ask if he could forget such a thing. Fuhrman answered he would not.
Bailey pressed Fuhrman, asking, ``So that anyone who comes to this court and quotes you as using that word in dealing with African-Americans would be a liar, would they not, Detective Fuhrman?″
``Yes, they would,″ Fuhrman said, nodding his head for emphasis.
``All of them?″
``All of them.″