Defense Turns to Much-Talked-About Witness to Attack Fuhrman
LOS ANGELES, (AP) _ She came forward more than a year ago as a possible witness for O.J. Simpson, and jurors heard her name last March when Detective Mark Fuhrman repeatedly testified that he had never met her.
Relatively invisible since then, Kathleen Bell can avoid the spotlight no more.
Simpson’s defense, having lost a bid to play nearly all of Fuhrman’s racially explosive tapes for the jury, sees Bell as the witness needed to expose the now-retired detective’s extremist views to the panel.
She is nervous about testifying Tuesday, her lawyer said, but the playing of Fuhrman’s tapes last week in public _ outside the jury’s hearing _ gave her new confidence.
``Her reaction was a sense of vindication,′ said attorney Taylor Daigneault, noting that Bell’s story was attacked by Fuhrman’s lawyer and others when it was first disclosed in the summer of 1994.
``It’s real intimidating to stand up and say anything before 300 million people,″ Daigneault said. ``But people know she is telling the truth, and there’s a comfort in that.″
Simpson’s attorneys planned to call Bell to bolster their contention that Fuhrman was a racist capable of framing their black client by planting a bloody glove at his estate.
Simpson has pleaded innocent to the June 12, 1994, slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Whether Bell would be allowed to give jurors her entire account remained open to prosecution challenge.
Here’s what Bell says she remembers:
While working in Redondo Beach during 1985 and 1986, she sometimes stopped at a Marine Corps recruiting office downstairs to chat. A few times, she encountered another visitor, Los Angeles police officer Mark Fuhrman.
``I remember him distinctly because of his height and build,″ she has said.
She recalled Fuhrman saying he would stop any vehicle occupied by a black man and a white woman _ even if he had no reason.
Simpson is black; his slain ex-wife was white.
``I then asked Fuhrman, `What if the two people are in love?‴ Bell said in an affidavit. ``Fuhrman then appeared to get disgusted with me and stated: `If I had my way, they would take all the niggers, put them together in a big group and burn them.‴
``I do remember that what he said was probably the most horrible thing I had ever heard someone say,″ Bell has said. ``What frightened me even more was that he was a police officer.″
Bell and another woman, Andrea Terry, have said they also encountered Fuhrman at a tavern and that he again made racist slurs. Terry also is on the defense witness list.
At the time her affidavit was filed in August 1994, Fuhrman’s lawyer denounced the defense as ``despicable″ and ``desperate″ for raising such claims against him. Now, the same lawyer, Robert Tourtelot, has dropped Fuhrman as a client in disgust over Fuhrman’s taped diatribes against blacks and descriptions of police brutality.
Fuhrman testified last March that he never met Bell. He also testified that he had not said ``nigger″ in the past 10 years. In his taped conversations with aspiring screenwriter Laura Hart McKinny, which began in April 1985 and ran until 1994, he said the word at least 41 times.
Fuhrman has said through a spokesman he was acting as a consultant for a McKinny screenplay and made up things to impress her.
With the defense planning to wrap up this week, Simpson’s team also is expected to launch last-minute attacks on other fronts: a bid for reconsideration of Judge Lance Ito’s ruling on the tapes and a renewal of one of the first motions ever filed in the case _ a plea to throw out all evidence taken from Simpson’s estate on grounds that it was obtained by an illegal search.