The Week The Circus Tent Fell Down
Apr. 08, 1995
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ It was supposed to be the week the prosecution got serious about putting O.J. Simpson away a long time for murder. It turned out to be the week the circus tent collapsed.
A cross-dresser was booted from the courtroom, a U.S. senator mocked Judge Lance Ito, Brian ``Kato'' Kaelin complained he was being exploited and a dentist helped arrange for an ousted juror to go public.
During a live TV interview, the juror made explosive comments that sparked an investigation by Ito and raised the spectre of a mistrial.
Testimony was canceled for two days because three of the remaining jurors got sick. A television network reported a protest sickout was in the works, although numerous sources emphatically denied it.
Even the English language took a beating: Attorneys bickered over whether videotape or snapshots offered the best ``recordation.'' There's no such word.
When the Simpson trial veers, the victims _ Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman _ and the accused _ Simpson _ at times seem forgotten.
The odd developments came as the trial was supposed to sober up, as prosecutors began unveiling in detail the abundant physical evidence that is said to directly link Simpson to the killings.
The week began as expected: with police Criminalist Dennis Fung facing off against prosecutor Hank Goldberg, a dry matchup that had reporters groaning in the pressroom.
One spectator fell asleep during Fung's testimony and was escorted from the courtroom, and stern warnings went out to others who were nodding off.
On Wednesday, 30-year-old Will B. King, a k a William Beckingham, caused a stir when he arrived at court in a wild dress, thick makeup and mismatched tennis shoes and won the lottery for a coveted courtroom seat.
During the morning session, King bickered with someone for sitting on his dress. Ito ejected King from the courtroom and told jurors to ignore an incident, saying dryly, it ``spoke for itself.''
Comedians had a field day. Jay Leno joked that the cross-dresser's appearance suspiciously occurred during the disappearance of F. Lee Bailey.
From the halls of Congress, there was New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, who mocked Ito by going on a syndicated radio show and using a fake Japanese accent.
After issuing a lukewarm typed apology that angered Asian-Americans further, D'Amato went on the Senate floor and issued a more heartfelt mea culpa.
``It was a sorry episode,'' he said Thursday. ``What I did was a poor attempt at humor.''
Ito didn't respond to the incident.
D'Amato, who ultimately sent a personal note to the judge, wasn't the only one apologizing to Ito. Prosecutor Goldberg also apologized after he was brought up before the jury for twice mentioning information that prosecutors had earlier promised wouldn't be mentioned.
Meanwhile, shaggy houseguest-turned-witness Kaelin kept ticking on seconds to his original 15 minutes of fame, signing autographs in an Indiana shopping mall and appearing on Larry King's talk show.
Kaelin got exposed to the ugly side of celebrity when a store released a 2-year-old karaoke music video featuring Kaelin as a knife-wielding killer. Suddenly, Kaelin, who has been accused of cashing in on his role in the Simpson case, was accusing somebody else of cashing in on him.
From sideshow to center stage, the Simpson case problems continued.
Prosecutors started the physical evidence phase in impressive fashion _ showing the jury pictures of Simpson's blood-stained Bronco and other blood at the killing scene and his house. Then a defense attorney exposed cracks.
Simpson lawyer Barry Scheck conducted a searing cross-examination of Fung, who by midweek was wilting under suggestions police mishandled evidence.
Then, the juror was let go, allegedly because she lied during jury selection by withholding information about a 1988 domestic violence episode involving her husband, to whom she is still married.
In her TV interview _ made possible because she and the anchor were brought together by their mutual dentist _ Jeanette Harris described racial animosity among jurors that was being promoted by sheriff's deputies. The judge began an investigation.
Her dismissal as a juror Wednesday left only six alternates with several months left to go in the trial. A day later, three jurors said they were sick, causing cancellation of Thursday's and Friday's sessions. The court released a statement saying the jurors' conditions have improved ``and their prognosis is good.''