Attorneys Exchange Apologies for Burst of Temper in Court
Mar. 16, 1995
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ At the judge's urging, O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark and F. Lee Bailey apologized today for a burst of temper over whether the defense attorney lied about talking to a potential witness.
Judge Lance Ito told Clark and Bailey they went ``beyond the bounds of professional conduct'' on Wednesday.
``It would thrill me to death if counsel would apologize to each other for the rather high level of vitriol,'' Ito said before the jury was brought in.
``And I do,'' Clark responded, drawing laughter. ``I'm sorry, your honor, I'm not going to be facetious. ...
``I don't like to engage in that sort of exchange. I think it's unseemly. I think it's bad for the entire profession. I do extend to Mr. Bailey my apology for the extreme nature of the exchange yesterday. ''
Bailey then apologized to Clark for saying her eyesight and memory were deficient. ``Very plainly, that was unfair, since her eyesight is excellent and her memory has proven to be the same,'' he said.
He saved his kindest words for Ito. He told Ito he was sorry for causing the judge any criticism for the outbursts, in which Clark called Bailey a liar and Bailey called Clark shrill.
``My most profound apology is directed at the court. I've been doing this for 40 years, and I was caught off guard with that accusation. The reaction was less restrained and certainly less professional than it should have been,'' Bailey said.
Clark and Bailey clashed over whether Bailey spoke on the telephone with potential defense witness Max Cordoba, a black former Marine sergeant who has accused Detective Mark Fuhrman of using a racial slur.
Bailey told Ito on Tuesday he had spoken to Cordoba ``Marine to Marine,'' but Cordoba denied in a television interview that he ever talked with Bailey. Bailey insisted in court Wednesday that they had spoken and Cordoba changed his story that night, saying he had forgotten the brief conversation.
``Mr. Bailey has made a deliberate misrepresentation to the court,'' Clark said Wednesday. ``He has lied to the court.''
That provoked a furious response by a red-faced Bailey, who explained the discrepancy was a misunderstanding. Bailey said Wednesday it was actually his investigator, Patrick McKenna, who interviewed Cordoba, a black ex-Marine sergeant. At one point, Bailey said, McKenna handed him the phone and let him say a few words.
Ito issued a written order to attorneys that they must be courteous to each other, show up on time and address their comments only to the judge.
``Counsel shall not engage in gratuitous, personal attacks upon each other,'' he wrote, citing nasty remarks from Clark and Bailey.
When the apologizing was finished today, Fuhrman returned to the stand and the defense attorney quickly concluded his cross-examination, asking Fuhrman if he was familiar with the phrases ``NVN'' or ``Nora Victor Nora.''
Fuhrman said he didn't know what Bailey was talking about. Bailey didn't explain, then Fuhrman was dismissed after brief questioning from Clark.
The defense can call Fuhrman again after prosecutors have the chance to investigate potential defense witnesses alleging Fuhrman made racist comments.
Jurors were not in court for Wednesday's outburst or for the apologies today.
What jurors did hear Wednesday in court was the ``N-word,'' but not from Fuhrman.
At least seven times, Bailey grilled Fuhrman about the word. And when asked point-blank if he used that word to describe people during the past decade, Fuhrman responded with a firm yet simple ``no.''
Ito also issued an order on attorney conduct, telling attorneys that they must be courteous to each other, show up on time, and address their comments only to the judge, not to each other.
``Counsel shall not engage in gratuitous, personal attacks upon each other,'' Ito wrote, citing as an example nasty remarks that Clark and Bailey made to each other on Wednesday.
After questioning of Fuhrman was completed today, a commanding officer at the police station where the detective was assigned, testified briefly.
Lt. Frank Spangler said he or another police officer was with Fuhrman at nearly all times at the scene of the June 12 slayings of Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
The defense claims Fuhrman is a racist who could have planted a bloody glove at Simpson's estate near Ms. Simpson's condominium, where the slayings occurred.
Spangler said no officer ever told him there was any more than ``one glove'' at the murder scene.
The prosecution, trying to counter defense claims that police mishandled the crime scene, called Detective Philip Vannatter for the first time in the trial. He's the detective who took over the investigation after Fuhrman and Fuhrman's partner were relieved.
The defense has branded police as sloppy for failing to seize or closely photograph a dish of melted ice cream found on a banister at Ms. Simpson's home.
``I've never considered it to be a critical piece of evidence,'' Vannatter said under questioning from prosecutor Christopher Darden.
Vannatter said that at no time during the early stages of the investigation did any police officer suggest to him, as Bailey has suggested in court, that there were two gloves near the bodies.
Bailey has implied that Fuhrman could have taken a glove from the crime scene and planted it at Simpson's mansion.