District Attorney Goes Public on Grand Jury Probe of Simpson Pal
Aug. 25, 1994
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The district attorney said Wednesday he is using a grand jury to investigate O.J. Simpson's friend Al ''A.C.'' Cowlings, but is not seeking an indictment, suggesting he may be searching for more evidence against Simpson.
''Any information we obtain there can be used in any other criminal proceeding as long as it's relevant,'' Gil Garcetti told reporters at his monthly news conference.
He said that means any information the jury turns up about the June 12 killings of Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman could be used in prosecuting Simpson, who is charged with the murders.
Garcetti also said that although he isn't seeking a grand jury indictment of Cowlings, his office could use any information the panel turns up to charge him.
''If the evidence establishes that Mr. Cowlings or anyone else was involved in assisting criminal conduct we're going to prosecute that,'' Garcetti said.
Cowlings drove the white Ford Bronco seen on national television as he and Simpson led police on a freeway pursuit before Simpson surrendered on June 17.
His lawyer said Cowlings stopped Simpson from committing suicide that night and was not trying to help him flee.
Asked why he was using the grand jury rather than his own investigators to probe the case, Garcetti said the panel has subpoena power, which his office does not. He also said the formal setting of the grand jury often elicits more truthful answers from witnesses.
Wednesday was the first time Garcetti has confirmed what was going on behind the grand jury's closed doors.
Normally, prosecutors do not comment on secret grand jury proceedings and the investigative powers of the panel are rarely invoked in criminal cases where an indictment will not be sought.
Defense attorney Harland Braun, a former prosecutor, said he has never heard of a district attorney publicly discussing grand jury proceedings, although he said it is not illegal.
The state Penal Code bars grand jurors from discussing the proceedings but doesn't mention a district attorney.
''It is sort of indiscreet,'' Braun said. ''The whole point of the grand jury is if you don't indict someone, then you haven't besmirched their name.''
He said Garcetti was clearly using the grand jury probe to assist in the Simpson case.
Those going into the grand jury room included Denice Shakarian Halicki, the fiancee of Simpson's friend and attorney Robert Kardashian. Attorneys for Kardashian have tried to quash his grand jury subpoena on grounds of attorney- client privilege.
As he entered the courthouse Wednesday, Kardashian was asked if he helped Simpson flee. ''Absolutely not. That's absurd,'' he said.
Simpson and Cowlings were at Kardashian's home before they left in the Bronco.
In other developments:
- Garcetti said his office's ''death penalty committee'' would meet Thursday to consider whether to seek death or life imprisonment against Simpson if he is convicted.
Deputy District Attorney Frank Sundstedt will make the decision but Garcetti can veto it if he disagrees. He declined to say whether defense lawyers will address the committee. Simpson's life history will be considered, he said.
- Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro told The Associated Press the defense would continue to hammer away at the fact police sent a trainee to sop up blood evidence.
The handling of blood, he said, is the foundation for subsequent laboratory analysis and is critical in determining whether DNA tests conducted later are reliable.
Criminalist Andrea Mazzola testified at a hearing Tuesday that she had been at only two crime scenes before being summoned in the Simpson case.
- ABC News said it was told by reliable sources that a so-called mystery envelope, sealed and given to the judge during Simpson's preliminary hearing, contains a German-made Stiletto knife that Simpson bought on May 3. ABC also said the only receipt for the knife, given to Simpson, was in the envelope. Newsweek, citing ''well-placed sources'' in early July, also said the envvelope contained a knife.
Later Wednesday, CNN cited sources close to the defense saying the knife was found by members of the defense team at Simpson's Brentwood estate. The CNN report said the undamaged knife was found in plain view after several police searches of the estate.