Mark Fuhrman Pleads No Contest To Perjury, Gets Three Years' Probation
Oct. 03, 1996
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Already considered a liar by many who heard him say the word ``nigger'' on tape, Mark Fuhrman chose not to fight charges that he committed perjury at O.J. Simpson's trial.
The 44-year-old former police detective pleaded no contest Wednesday to felony perjury for denying at the trial that he had used the slur in the past decade. He was given three years' probation and fined $200.
If Fuhrman breaks no laws, he can avoid jail time and live out his police retirement in rural Idaho, where he now works as an apprentice electrician.
But the man who found one of the most critical pieces of evidence in the Simpson case _ the bloody glove on Simpson's estate _ can never work as a police officer again in California, nor can he carry a weapon.
Fuhrman, a former Marine, stood tall in court but with his head low, his eyes with dark circles under them. He spoke softly, answering, ``Yes, your honor'' and ``Yes, sir'' to questions.
He expressed his feelings in a personal-history report filed with the court.
``He is entering a ... plea because he believes it is his best interest to do so,'' the papers say. ``Defendant deeply regrets the effect his testimony has had on the general public, the Los Angeles Police Department and its employees, and his family.''
State Attorney General Dan Lungren, whose office negotiated the plea, called the sentence ``very tough and at the same time fair and appropriate.''
Others saw it differently. Urban League President John Mack called it ``a slap on the wrist.''
Either way, Fuhrman's plea will affect those still involved in the Simpson case.
There are his former colleagues at the LAPD, which was hit with the Fuhrman controversy in the wake of the riot-causing Rodney King case.
``We've all been given a black eye, rightly or wrongly, and it's going to take years to recover from this,'' said Fuhrman's former boss, police Chief Willie Williams.
And there are the lawyers in Simpson's wrongful death trial in Santa Monica, where many prospective jurors have called Fuhrman a racist liar.
``Now another worry is whether they will have jurors who believe Fuhrman wasn't punished enough,'' said Laurie Levenson, a dean at Loyola University's law school. ``Under the payback theory, another way to punish him would be to vote for the defense.''
As with so many other things in the Simpson case, Fuhrman's plea came on a day that bordered on the surreal.
Not only was Wednesday the one-year anniversary of the day the jury voted to acquit Simpson in the slayings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, Fuhrman's case was resolved with a speed uncharacteristic of the Simpson case.
After three morning hearings, Superior Court Judge John Ouderkirk was presented with a plea agreement, read it over lunch, and approved it before the afternoon newscasts.
State prosecutors claimed in a complaint that Fuhrman perjured himself on March 15, 1995, by telling F. Lee Bailey in the Simpson criminal trial ``that he had not addressed any black person as a `nigger' or spoken about black people as `niggers' in the past 10 years.''
Four defense witnesses contradicted that testimony, including an aspiring screenwriter who testified that Fuhrman said the word at least 41 times on tapes they made while working on a screenplay over the previous decade. Jurors were played one example from the tapes.
Before he entered the plea, Fuhrman was served with a subpoena from Simpson's lawyers ordering him to testify in Simpson's civil trial, now in the jury selection stage in Santa Monica.
``Mark Fuhrman, you are served, buddy, you are served!'' the process server, Gary Randa _ son of Simpson's personal assistant, Cathy Randa _ shouted in the courtroom hallway.
The families of Ms. Simpson and Goldman are suing Simpson for unspecified damages, seeking to hold him responsible for the June 12, 1994, slayings.