Fuhrman Screenwriter: Still Aspiring, But No Longer Obscure
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) _ Until this summer, Laura Hart McKinny was an aspiring and nearly unknown screenwriter toiling as a professor at a small film school in North Carolina.
Then, someone spread word about one of her projects.
Now, she’s been thrust in the middle of the O.J. Simpson trial _ the woman who recorded the venomous words of former Los Angeles police Detective Mark Fuhrman. Despite his denial under oath at the trial, Fuhrman repeatedly used racial slurs on the tapes. He also boasted of framing and beating suspects.
Judge Lance Ito is grappling with a defense demand that the tapes be presented to the jury because they show Furhman lied. The defense says the racist comments support the claim that Fuhrman could have framed the black former football star in the murders of his ex-wife and her friend.
If Ito allows portions of the tapes, Simpson’s attorneys plan to call McKinny as their next trial witness.
McKinny taped the interviews of Fuhrman over a 10-year period, hoping to lend an authentic tone to a screenplay she was writing about the Los Angeles Police Department.
The former Los Angeles resident, who joined the faculty at the North Carolina School of the Arts two years ago, tells her students to go out in the real world and spend time to get to know everyday people to make their projects more realistic.
``She would say, `How can you write about the life of a fireman if you don’t live it for a day?′ ″ former student Harbor Peoples said.
Because she practiced what she preached, she possesses some of the most sought-after evidence by Simpson.
McKinny has said she doesn’t know how the defense got wind of the tapes, but she acknowledged she had told many people about the interviews.
After weeks of anxious waiting, court fights and much speculation, the tapes were finally played Tuesday with the jury out of the earshot. As Fuhrman’s recorded voice filled the courtroom, McKinny sat in the witness stand, often grimacing. She answered questions in a quiet but tense voice.
But for someone who has tried for 20 years to make it big in Hollywood, McKinny, 44, has taken great pains to stay out of the spotlight of the Simpson trial.
McKinny, who has been in Los Angeles for weeks waiting to testify, refused to be interviewed by The Associated Press.
A native of the San Fernando Valley community of West Hills, she came to Winston-Salem two years ago when the state-supported fine arts college opened a film school. She and her husband, photographer-director Daniel McKinny, were among the first faculty members.
Graduates of the four-year school include actor Tom Hulce, who played Mozart in the movie ``Amadeus,″ and actress Mary-Louise Parker, most recently in ``Boys On The Side.″
``I’m a great admirer of her,″ said Alex Ewing, chancellor of the school, which has about 950 students, including about 250 advanced-placement high school students.
``She has a lot of tenacity and ... she’s a very sensitive person and cares about people very much.″
One of the students she advises, 19-year-old Nate Meyer of Greensboro, agrees.
``She’s extremely friendly and generous with her time,″ he said. ``She let me know what to expect at the school and she took notes on my strengths and weaknesses.″
McKinny met Fuhrman in 1985 at a Los Angeles restaurant. She was using a laptop computer, relatively unusual at the time, and he came over to her table to ask about it.
During the next decade they collaborated on a screenplay called ``Men Against Women.″
McKinny testified that Fuhrman told her he was a member of the group Men Against Women, police officers opposed to women being on the force. McKinny said she was interested in the group for her screenplay, which was about the obstacles facing women officers.
The screenplay has never been produced.
Television producer John Flynn optioned ``Men Against Women″ in 1992 for what he described as an insignificant sum. He calls the screenplay ``promising″ but in need of work. He gave up on the project in 1994.
``This could be an extraordinary movie and I hope this notoriety brings an extraordinary filmmaker to the project,″ Flynn told the Los Angeles Daily News.
McKinny’s father told the newspaper his daughter still hopes to sell it.
``She’d like to sell the screenplay just so she can say _ `I made it,′ ″ James Hart Sr. said.
The parents of two young boys, the McKinnys live in a brick home in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood of Winston-Salem. The subdivision of manicured yards is next to the Forsyth Country Club and a few blocks away from Wake Forest University.
``They’re real nice neighbors.″ said Marion Zollicoffer, who lives next door. He said McKinny never talked about her connection to the Simpson case.
``She’s a very calm person,″ he said. ``And her demeanor hasn’t changed even after all she’s been through.″
McKinny earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science and English at University of California, Los Angeles and did postgraduate work in film while paying the bills by teaching remedial writing to athletes.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she began screenwriting in earnest. She worked on a television special at one studio and was a freelancer on other projects.
In 1984, she won a best screenplay award from the Writers Guild East Foundation Fellowship for ``Crescendo,″ which was never produced.
She used the award money to buy a portable computer.