Judge Dubious of Ousted Juror's Claims
Judge Dubious of Ousted Juror's Claims
Apr. 12, 1995
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The judge in the O.J. Simpson trial wasn't impressed with an ousted juror's claim that a white panel member kicked her and stomped on another black juror's foot, according to court documents released today.
The judge also told attorneys he would not only interview dismissed juror Jeanette Harris and the two other jurors, but might talk to each juror individually in private.
``That people being outraged and offended by somebody perhaps crossing over them and inadvertently hitting them _ I mean _ this initially struck me as something so trivial to be unbelievable,'' Superior Court Judge Lance Ito told attorneys Tuesday, according to transcripts of a sidebar discussion.
Harris was subpoenaed to meet privately with the judge late this afternoon after further testimony by police criminalist Dennis Fung.
In the sidebar, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr., who opposed Harris' ouster, cautioned the judge to be sensitive to her claims.
``I want to make this as clear as I can,'' Cochran told the judge. ``I think you should not underestimate this from the standpoint of this case and people's perceptions.''
But Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark also played down Harris's allegation and put in a dig at her.
``Let's not forget,'' Clark said, ``this is also the woman who claimed that another juror pushed her.''
Harris had said there was a pushing match involving an unidentified juror no longer on the panel, but had not indicated whether she was involved.
Harris was dismissed April 5 because she failed to disclose during jury selection that she had said in 1988 court papers that her husband had pushed her and forced her to have sex. Harris, who later reconciled with her husband, said it slipped her mind and that she did not consider it domestic violence at any rate.
In a related development, KCAL-TV reporter David Goldstein confirmed today that he was subpoenaed in connection with the Harris matter. Goldstein said he would appear in court, but would not comment further.
Goldstein said Harris told him in an off-camera interview that jurors discussed opinions on the case among themselves. If true, that would violate court rules. Harris has disputed Goldstein's report.
In another development, the prosecution in court papers released today issued a blistering response to the defense accusation last week that prosecutors were spying on their witnesses.
In a motion signed by prosecutor Rockne Harmon, the prosecution denied improperly obtaining defense camp information, and contended the defense raised the issue only as a smokescreen to cover up its own fledgling case.
``In order to rewrite history in this case, the defense has embarked on a new mission in this case _ it has launched yet another vicious personal attack on a prosecutor in an obvious and desperate attempt to thwart the search for the truth,'' the motion said.
The prosecution said that any information it got about the defense's testing of evidence was properly obtained; it said, for instance, that some such information was openly discussed at a recent convention for forensic scientists.
The prosecution also suggested the defense tests by two scientists have not come out well for Simpson by saying the two scientists had not been added to the defense witnssz list. The scientists, the prosecution claims, were recruited to see if there was evidence of a laboratory preservative in blood found at the crime scene. The absence of this preservative would undermine defense claims that authorities took blood from Simpson and planted it at the murder scene.
In court today, defense attorney Barry Scheck resumed a vigorous cross-examination of Fung, the criminalist who directed the technical collection of evidence at the scene of the killings, and at Simpson's Brentwood estate.
Fung acknowledged today that he left delicate blood samples in a hot van for about seven hours, and didn't store them in the van's refrigerator because it didn't work properly.
``After several hours, the refrigerator doesn't kick on any more,'' said Fung.
``Isn't it your responsibility as a criminal ... to make sure the equipment is functioning in the crime scene processing truck?''
``As best I can,'' Fung said.
Scheck has attempted to pull Fung into the various defense's theories of a rush to judgment, a frame-up and an investigation handled by incompetent authorities.
Scheck suggested Tuesday that Fung was fed answers by prosecutors, shading his testimony to gloss over police mistakes or trying to cover up a police conspiracy to pin murder charges on Simpson.
Scheck, using several photos and video clips, also tried to portray Fung as a poorly trained criminalist who could have improperly collected and processed blood samples later subjected to delicate genetic analysis. The mishandling would render test results useless, the defense contends.
The court day ended with Scheck showing Fung and the jury two photographs of a back gate outside Nicole Brown Simpson's condominium, where the slashed bodies of her and her friend Ronald Goldman were found.
The first picture, taken the day after the June 12 slayings, doesn't appear to show a blood stain _ which prosecutors say matches Simpson's blood _ that is present in a picture taken July 3.
``Where is it, Mr. Fung?'' Scheck shouted. ``Where is it?''
``I can't see it in the photograph,'' Fung said, squinting to view a courtroom monitor.
Earlier, Scheck drew gasps from spectators with a newly revealed news tape that appears to show Fung and his rookie colleague Andrea Mazzola _ neither wearing gloves _ touching a key piece of evidence at the murder scene: an envelope containing the prescription glasses that Goldman was returning to Ms. Simpson the night of the murders.
Fung denied that the object on the videotape was the envelope. ``I know my fingerprints are not on that envelope,'' he said.
Also Tuesday, the defense filed a motion seeking an investigation into whether prosecutors are trying to ``engineer a mistrial'' through the ouster of jurors. The prosecution denied the allegation. The motion said Simpson should be released if the number of jurors falls below 12 and prosecutors should be barred from trying him again.