Judge: Witness Can’t Testify About Drug Use by Nicole Simpson’s Friend
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ O.J. Simpson’s efforts to show that hit men murdered his ex-wife and her friend suffered a major setback today when the judge barred testimony about the drug use of one of Nicole Brown Simpson’s friends.
Superior Court Judge Lance Ito prohibited Christian Reichardt from testifying about the drug problem of his former girlfriend, Faye Resnick, who stayed with Ms. Simpson for several days prior to the murders at Ms. Simpson’s condominium.
The defense has suggested that Ms. Simpson and friend Ronald Goldman were murdered by drug dealers seeking to send a message to Ms. Resnick because she failed to pay for her drugs.
But Ito said the defense failed to provide enough direct or circumstantial evidence that the scenario was possible.
``I find that the offer of proof regarding motive to be highly speculative,″ Ito said.
Ito said Reichardt, a chiropractor, may testify about Simpson’s demeanor in the hours before murders. Reichardt spoke to Simpson on the telephone.
In her book, Resnick admits to having a cocaine problem that required her to be admitted to a drug treatment center. But she has scoffed at the defense suggestion she could not pay for her drugs, saying she had plenty of money to cover that.
In a hearing outside the jury’s presence, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. argued that Reichardt’s testimony was ``extremely relevant,″ saying it was clear that Resnick had a serious drug problem that created a financial motive for murder.
``When you buy drugs, you generally have to pay for them,″ Cochran said. ``She had no gainful means of paying for these drugs.″
Cochran said that Resnick’s sole means of support at that time was her boyfriend, who refused to give her money for drugs.
Prosecutors said the drug-hit theory rested on a ``tortured argument″ and that California law requires extensive proof that a third party, not involved in the trial, could have committed the crimes rather than the accused.
``It’s really ridiculous, your honor,″ Deputy District Attorney Cheri Lewis told Ito. ``We don’t want to have a mini-trial on Faye Resnick.″ Lewis noted that the defense did not identify any drug dealer or show Resnick was behind in payments to him.
In his ruling, Ito said the law was clear, and that the defense did fall short of providing a motive and proof that someone else committed the murders.
In another setback, Ito ruled that the defense may not interview district attorney employees about a mock cross-examination of Detective Mark Fuhrman to prepare him for his testimony.
Ito, who interviewed four deputy district attorneys and a law clerk in private, said Fuhrman didn’t make any statements at the practice session different from what he said in open court.
If he had made inconsistent statements, the defense would be entitled to know about them to impeach Fuhrman’s credibility. The defense has suggested Fuhrman may have used or discussed a racial epithet during the practice session. During his testimony, he denied using the epithet.
Fuhrman testified he found a bloody glove behind Simpson’s house. The defense has alleged he is a racist, rogue officer who tried to frame Simpson.
Testimony resumed at late morning today with three witnesses saying they saw Simpson at the airport or on the plane to Chicago after the murders and didn’t notice any unusual behavior by him or any cuts on his hands.
``He seemed like the old O.J. that I always see here and there,″ said passenger Howard Bingham, boxer Muhammad Ali’s personal photographer who spoke briefly with Simpson before the plane took off. Passenger Stephen Valerie said Simpson smiled politely at him and read a document during the flight.
Ito’s rulings marked the second consecutive day of problematic developments for the defense.
On Wednesday, defense witness Robert Heidstra reluctantly acknowledged under cross-examination that a car similar to Simpson’s Ford Bronco, right down to the white color and tinted windows, sped away from Ms. Simpson’s condominium the night of the murders.
If Heidstra’s timing is only a few minutes off _ and he said he didn’t look at his watch _ Simpson still could have gotten home in time for a limousine ride to the airport, legal analysts said.
``He was one of the case’s best prosecution witnesses,″ said Loyola University law professor Stan Goldman. ``I think the defense was nuts to call him.″
Goldman said as a mistake it was second only to the decision prosecutors made in having Simpson try on the bloody gloves from the condominium and Simpson’s estate. Simpson apparently had trouble putting the gloves on before the jury.
Heidstra, who was one of several witnesses called by the defense to challenge the prosecution’s chronology of the night of the murders, said he heard two voices, one a young man’s yelling, ``Hey, hey, hey,″ the other possibly an older man, at about 10:40 p.m. He was out walking his dog at the time.
Shortly after that, Heidstra said Wednesday, he saw a car ``that could have been a Bronco″ racing down a street that connects to an alley behind Ms. Simpson’s condo. Prosecutors say Simpson parked the Bronco in the alley.
On redirect examination by Cochran, Heidstra said the vehicle turned a corner and headed south, away from Simpson’s home.
Prosecutors suggested that if Heidstra heard the voices at 10:35 p.m., rather than 10:40 p.m., Simpson would have had time to kill Ms. Simpson and Ronald Goldman and get back home by about 10:45 p.m., when Brian ``Kato″ Kaelin heard thumps on the wall of his guest house.
``There is plenty of time within the timeline that the defense is even giving us for the crime to be committed and for Mr. Simpson to have gotten back to his house,″ District Attorney Gil Garcetti told reporters.