Cochran Expresses Regret About Dismissed Juror
Apr. 06, 1995
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ O.J. Simpson's attorneys returned today to a shortened court day, dismayed at the loss of a seemingly pro-defense juror but buoyed by indications the defense strategy was working.
Johnnie Cochran Jr. said he had been fighting ``single-handedly'' for the past 10 days to keep Jeanette Harris on the jury. Harris was excused Wednesday, reportedly for failure to report a domestic violence incident.
``There was no reason to dismiss her,'' Cochran said at the courthouse. ``There was no evidence. She was a great juror.''
Another defense lawyer, Carl Douglas, said he was encouraged when Harris noted in a television interview Wednesday night she accepted many of the Simpson camp's theories and questioned the sincerity and truthfulness of key prosecution witnesses.
``What this says is that you can't always believe what the so-called experts are saying,'' Douglas said. ``We've always said that we're speaking to 12 jurors and that the evidence is being viewed through their prism and not through the prism of those that have different backgrounds.''
Testimony, meantime, was canceled today because two jurors were sick. A court spokeswoman said the judge would use the court day to consider motions from attorneys; it was unclear if any discussions would be held in open court.
Harris became the sixth juror kicked off the trouble-plagued Simpson panel.
The 38-year-old black woman from Inglewood was reportedly ousted because the court believed she had failed to disclose her own experience with domestic abuse. She denied she had suffered such abuse.
Taking her seat was a 44-year-old black woman from South Central Los Angeles who works as a computer technician.
Harris said in an interview with KCAL-TV that she was not convinced of Simpson's guilt by what the prosecution has presented so far.
``The prosecution to me, from what I've seen so far, is just spinning wheels,'' she said. ``They're not necessarily saying anything, but they're saying a whole lot of nothing.''
Harris predicted a hung jury. She said all jurors serving are under too much pressure, and that jurors of both races might fear community pressure based on whatever their decision might be.
The dismissal intensified fears that a complete panel won't survive the stresses of the trial long enough to deliver a verdict. Just six of 12 alternates remain with several months to go.
``It's a concern that we have, that we'll be able to keep a pool all the way through,'' said Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, a jury consultant for the defense.
If the alternate pool is exhausted and the number of jurors falls below 12, a mistrial would be declared unless both sides agreed to continue with an undersized jury.
Simpson has pleaded innocent to charges he murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman outside her Brentwood condominium on June 12.
The dismissal came as the defense, through an aggressive cross-examination of police criminalist Dennis Fung, poked holes in the strongest part of the prosecution case: the physical evidence.
Defense attorney Barry Scheck elicited testimony that the two leather gloves that are key to the case _ one at the murder scene and one at Simpson's estate _ might have been contaminated before they were tested.
The defense wrapped up Wednesday's court session by trying to show jurors a videotape of what it said appeared to be the murder-scene glove resting on a corner of a bloody blanket, having somehow been moved from a spot under a bush. Prosecutors objected and asked for time to analyze the tape. Superior Court Judge Lance Ito said he would rule today.
Legal analysts praised the work of Scheck, whose reputation as a DNA expert has overshadowed his courtroom skills. Scheck discarded the brash, vocal style that grated on the judge in hearings out of the jury's presence, instead maintaining an intense yet restrained demeanor as he asked carefully plotted questions.
Analysts also said prosecutors failed miserably in anticipating the attack, even though it was telegraphed for months in pretrial hearings, the questioning of other witnesses and interviews by defense attorneys.
``I was actually surprised that some of the errors and inconsistencies and less-than-perfect procedures were not gone into in the direct examination of Fung,'' said Southwestern University law professor Myrna Raeder. ``The cross-examination seems much more telling because the prosecution hadn't taken the sting out with direct.''
The Fung cross-examination was part of the defense's assault on prosecution evidence, suggesting that sloppy police work contaminated crucial evidence that was later subjected to sophisticated genetic analysis.
The defense suggested that a detective's decision to take a blanket from Ms. Simpson's home and throw it over her body could have flung hairs and fibers onto other evidence _ including the glove.
This may explain, the defense suggested, why authorities found what they say are fibers from Simpson's Bronco on a ski cap near the bodies of Ms. Simpson and Goldman. The defense said the blanket also could have been the source of a hair similar to Simpson's that authorities say was found on Goldman's shirt.
When asked if it was a ``terrible mistake'' for a detective to use the blanket, Fung said it would depend on how clean the blanket was.
``Well, if you had no idea how clean the blanket was, wouldn't it still be a terrible mistake to bring a blanket from inside the house right into the middle of a crime scene?'' Scheck pressed.
``I would prefer that it was not done,'' Fung said.
Detectives have said the blanket was to shield Ms. Simpson's body from the prying eyes of spectators and camera crews.
Fung also said he ``questioned the judgment'' of Detective Tom Lange, who asked him to bring the glove found outside Simpson's mansion into the middle of the crime scene so it could be compared to the glove found near the bodies.
``I knew there was a danger of cross-contamination,'' Fung said. ``I did have some concern and I drew a line where I would not take the glove out of the bag.''