Emotions Run Wild in Simpson Trial
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ After a year of mounting tensions, the O.J. Simpson trial at last reached emotional meltdown.
It showed Wednesday in the pained expression of murder victim Ronald Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman, who spoke of Simpson’s lawyers in a voice mixed with hurt and anger: ``Do they take us all for morons?″
It showed in the tearful face of Ronald Goldman’s sister Kim Goldman, who declared: ``I’m fed up and my emotions are up to here. Over and above the loss of my brother, I have all this other crap to deal with.″
It showed as defense attorney Robert Shapiro alleged in clear, slow, unemotional tones that Christopher Darden is a prosecutor so reprehensible he should be reported to the State Bar.
It showed in the incredulous look on the face of Darden, who responded that the defense attorneys are so vile that he is sickened to even have to share a podium with them.
And it showed in the haggard faces of jurors, sequestered since Jan. 11, locked in a room for hours on end with only their paperbacks and knitting while attorneys argued over issues the jury knows nothing about.
When testimony resumed Wednesday afternoon with the head of the police crime lab, Michele Kestler, being grilled on paperwork procedures, it was so boring and repetitious that none of the jurors took notes. Some appeared on the brink of dozing off.
The trial, intended to determine whether Simpson murdered Goldman and his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson on June 12, 1994, seems to have drifted into a galaxy far, far away. It was only fitting that among the courtroom spectators was Mark Hamill _ Luke Skywalker in the ``Star Wars″ movies and a devoted Simpson trial watcher.
The only thing that can bring this case back in its final days, legal analysts said, is the firm hand of the judge, who himself has struggled to rein in his emotions. Superior Court Judge Lance Ito choked back tears Tuesday when he spoke of the verbal lashing his police captain wife apparently received from Detective Mark Fuhrman on tape recordings, but he appeared in control as court resumed Wednesday.
``That’s what judges are paid to do: Stand above the fray, put their emotions aside,″ said Loyola Law School professor Stan Goldman. ``And that’s what Ito should have done ... and that’s what he’s going to have to do _ dispassionately examine the record, match it to the law and decide whether these tapes are admissible, regardless of what the speaker said about his wife.″
Ito has already tried to take steps in that direction. Earlier this week, he dressed down attorneys in his chambers for focusing so much attention on ``unadulterated crap.″ On Wednesday, he warned attorneys again to pay attention to the panel and keep things moving.
``I am very concerned about the durability of this jury,″ Ito said. ``We need to proceed to a judgment by this jury.″
The tumultuous day began with Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark announcing that prosecutors had changed their minds and no longer wanted Ito off the case for the appearance of conflict-of-interest.
Then, Shapiro suggested that the prosecution’s aborted attempt to remove Ito was ``payback″ for the judge’s brusque treatment of prosecutors in recent days.
Shapiro called it ``prosecutorial extortion of the judiciary″ and said he would pursue ``all remedies that the law allows.″
He said Darden should be reported to the State Bar for voicing displeasure with Ito’s rulings, complaining in an off-the-record chambers conference Wednesday morning that Ito was too harsh with prosecutors Clark and Brian Kelberg.
Darden, who has been feuding with defense from the start of the trial, then assailed both Shapiro and defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr. for attacking his integrity.
``This case is a circus! And they’ve made it a circus,″ he said, pointing toward the defense table. ``Now, if Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Cochran want to refer me to the State Bar, fine, because when this case is over I’m going to be referring defense attorneys to the United States attorney’s office!″
Darden then glanced over at a smiling Shapiro.
``He chuckles now, but will he be chuckling later on? It won’t be so funny later on. They don’t know everything that I know,″ Darden said.
Despite the fiery rhetoric, the hearing ended with the trial essentially back on track. Ito had decided, with agreement from both sides, that he would rule whether jurors should hear any of the tape recordings made of Fuhrman spewing insults and ill will toward minorities.
One of those barbs was aimed at Simpson, ABC’s Primetime Live reported Wednesday night. According to the show, Fuhrman told screenwriting professor Laura Hart McKinny: ``Rich niggers always want white women, like O.J. Simpson did.″
Ito said another judge must decide whether Ito’s wife, Capt. Margaret York, is a material witness. If she is ordered to testify, Ito said he would step out of the trial. Defense attorneys predicted York would not be forced into court.
Fuhrman reportedly denigrates York, who was his superior officer, on the tapes. The defense wants to introduce the tapes to show that Fuhrman lied on the witness stand about using the word ``nigger″ and was capable of planting evidence.
But even as the judge tried to restore relative calm, the tape issue stirred emotions outside the courtroom.
Goldman’s father, sister and stepmother called a news conference to denounce the defense and declare Simpson a killer. They were particularly angry that Simpson’s murder trial was turning into the ``Fuhrman trial.″
``Ron and Nicole were butchered by their client,″ said Fred Goldman, his eyes moist and his voice wavering. ``Do any of you believe otherwise? You have seen the evidence in this trial. It is overwhelming. This is not now the Fuhrman trial. This is a trial about the man who murdered my son.″