Simpson Defense Hits Prosecution Over Late Evidence; Ito Says He’ll Rule
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ O.J. Simpson defense lawyers complained again today that prosecutors were dumping documents and other pieces of evidence on them at the last minute in violation of the law. The judge said he’d do something about it but wouldn’t say what.
``The prosecution simply is not playing by the rules,″ said defense attorney Gerald Uelmen, in a discovery hearing in which he sought sanctions against the prosecution.
But Deputy District Attorney Cheri Lewis said prosecutors were working as fast as they could. She said they have been busy investigating new allegations of domestic violence in Simpson’s relationship with his ex-wife Nicole, who was slain June 12 along with a friend, Ronald Goldman.
``The prosecution deserves praise in this regard, not sanctions,″ Lewis said.
Ito said he would ``grant some of the relief requested by the defense,″ but didn’t give any details. He said he would issue a written ruling later.
Defense lawyers have repeatedly accused the prosecution of giving them information late. Ito has never sanctioned prosecutors but once agreed to postpone a hearing on violence in Simpson’s marriage after the prosecution gave the defense hundreds of pages of evidence shortly before the hearing was to be held.
The courtroom sparring came a day after defense lawyers announced that they won’t try to keep the jury from seeing the heart and soul of the prosecution’s case: results of DNA tests on blood found at the crime scene and in Simpson’s Ford Bronco.
The risky tactic saves Simpson a half-million dollars or more and pushes his trial onto the fast track. Opening statements, which could have started as late as March, may now begin by the end of this month.
But the move also denies Simpson a potential issue for appeal if he is convicted: He would not be able to argue that genetic evidence was improperly admitted.
``It was a very gutsy decision that only a really experienced criminal defense lawyer would make,″ said Loyola University law professor Stanley Goldman. ``Instead of going from `A’ to `B’ to `C,′ they’re going straight to `H.‴
At Wednesday’s court session Ito asked Simpson, who appeared to have lost considerable weight over the break, if he understood he was losing an avenue for appeal.
``I have full confidence in my lawyers,″ Simpson replied.
With no murder weapon or known eyewitnesses, the prosecution’s case rests largely on scientific evidence.
Simpson’s legal team, featuring the nation’s most prominent challengers of genetic evidence, had planned to argue before the judge that the DNA tests shouldn’t be used as evidence because they aren’t generally accepted by the scientific community.
Now the defense will now take its DNA battle straight to the jury. It will argue that the findings can’t be trusted because of sloppy police work in gathering and testing blood samples.
Other developments during a whirlwind hearing Wednesday, the first court action since a holiday break began Dec. 16:
_ Ito said the 12 jurors and 12 alternates would be sequestered, probably starting next Wednesday. The defense, which had previously opposed the move, said the potential harm from publicity _ including what it called inaccurate and unfair reports _ required sequestration.
_ Simpson’s first wife, Marquerite Simpson Thomas, fought a subpoena from the prosecution. Her lawyer said the subpoena was improperly served and she had nothing to add to the case. The prosecution said she was trying to avoid the subpoena. Ito set a hearing for Jan. 13.
Two important hearings are to begin next week. One will explore evidence of domestic violence in Simpson’s second marriage; the other concerns the history of Detective Mark Fuhrman, who found a bloody glove behind Simpson’s mansion. The defense has suggested Fuhrman is a racist who planted the evidence to frame Simpson.
Prosecutors hope to genetically match Simpson’s blood to blood drops found near the slashed and stabbed bodies. Blood also was found in Simpson’s Bronco, on the driveway of his estate, and in the bathroom and master bedroom of his mansion, according to police reports and court testimony.
In court papers, the prosecution says DNA tests have already matched Simpson’s blood to blood at the crime scene. Numerous blood samples have been analyzed at labs in two states.
Simpson’s attorneys had filed a lengthy motion that attacked every aspect of the DNA tests. But before the Christmas break, they began showing signs of backpedaling. It asked the judge to hold the admissibility hearing piecemeal during the trial _ with the jury present some of the time _ to save time and money. The judge rejected the request.
Defense lawyers refused to comment outside court Wednesday on the shift in strategy, but prosecutors were elated.
``It’s a great assistance to our case,″ said Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark. ``We now know all the evidence is going to come in.″