Simpson Prosecutor Disavows Fuhrman, Urges Jurors to Ignore ‘False Roads’
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A furious Judge Lance Ito abruptly barred TV coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial Tuesday, cutting off the public’s view of the prosecution’s climactic closing arguments after the camera focused on Simpson taking notes.
The judge, who has temporarily pulled the plug before, said the camera operator’s close-up shot was ``a very flagrant violation and intrusion into the attorney-client privilege.″
With almost every network and cable news station carrying at least some live coverage of the long-awaited wrapups, frustrated members of the news media summoned lawyers to the courthouse.
Ito, meantime, ordered up a videotape of the alleged offense, apparently to see if viewers could read Simpson’s notes. His ban apparently did not apply to the three still photographers in the courtroom or the single remote still camera in place.
A short time later, the court said the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California would be fined $1,500 and the television camera could be turned back on.
The camera had panned to Simpson’s hands at a point when prosecutor Marcia Clark was describing her theory of how the defendant sustained a cut on a left finger and trailed blood around his home the night his ex-wife and her friend were murdered.
Earlier, Clark tried to wipe the poisonous stain of racism from the trial by disavowing her own police witness and confiding to jurors that she wished ``there was no such person on the planet.″
In a pre-emptive strike aimed at a certain defense assault on a former detective, Clark quickly told jurors she understood if they feel ``angry and disgusted with Mark Fuhrman, as we all do.″
But she insisted such outrage was not a reason to acquit Simpson of the murders of his ex-wife and her friend.
``Did he lie when he testified here in this courtroom saying that he did not use racial epithets in the last 10 years? Yes,″ she said of Fuhrman, posing a list of rhetorical questions that the predominantly black jury might ask.
``Is he a racist? Yes.
``Is he the worst LAPD has to offer? Yes.
``Do we wish that this person was never hired by LAPD? Yes. Should LAPD have ever hired him? No. Should such a person be a police officer? No.
``In fact, do we wish there were no such person on the planet? Yes,″ she said.
Clark walked a fine line as she jettisoned Fuhrman’s racist views but clung to his testimony about finding a bloody glove and other evidence on Simpson’s estate.
``The fact that Mark Fuhrman is a racist and lied about it on the witness stand does not mean that we haven’t proven the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,″ she said.
While legal observers credited Clark for tackling the Fuhrman problem immediately, overall reaction to the start of her presentation was lukewarm.
``It was not a terribly effective beginning. ... There was a distinct lack of focus early on. It was hard to follow,″ said Robert Pugsley, a Southwestern University law professor. ``It seems she is in a defensive mode, trying to Teflon-coat jurors against anticipated defense arguments, rather than asserting her own position.″
Clark sought to divest herself of ties to another star witness, Brian ``Kato″ Kaelin, while insisting he was the key to establishing Simpson’s whereabouts on the night of the murders.
``He was not a happy camper to be a prosecution witness,″ Clark said. ``He did not want to give testimony that would be damaging to Mr. Simpson.″
Clark was the first lawyer to address jurors in the climactic summations, which came one year to the day since prospective jurors first reported to the courthouse.
At that time, they didn’t know if they would be among those chosen to pass judgment on the national sports legend who is charged with the bloody slashing murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
In an effort to get the case into the jury’s hands speedily, the judge scheduled arguments to continue late into the evening. Jurors appeared cheerful as they entered the courtroom. In the jury box, they were attentive and somber but took few notes.
Clark, often argumentative and strident during the trial, started her address with a soft-spoken apology to the sequestered jurors for the length of the trial. But she added that anyone who questioned the quality of justice could rest assured that ``no stone has been left unturned. ... This defendant has received the ultimate in a fair trial.″
With Simpson listening intently and often reacting to her statements, Clark accused Simpson’s defense team of raising distractions rather than facts and leading jurors down dead-end ``false roads″ to keep them from seeing the evidence.
``At the conclusion of all of our arguments,″ she said, ``when you open up the windows and let the cool air blow out the smokescreen that’s been created by the defense, with the cool wind of reason, you will see that the defendant has been proven guilty, easily, beyond a reasonable doubt.″
She then began a recitation of law and now-familiar events that form a crucial timeline allegedly linking Simpson to the slayings.
Clark methodically reminded jurors of the basic facts: Ms. Simpson’s last meal with her family at Mezzaluna restaurant the night of June 12, 1994, how the victim’s mother left her glasses behind and how Goldman, a waiter at the restaurant, volunteered to take them to her.
She said the ``window of opportunity″ for Simpson to commit murder stretched from 9:36 p.m., when Simpson and houseguest Kaelin returned from a fast food restaurant, to 10:54 p.m., when a limo driver saw activity around Simpson’s estate.
She asked jurors to remember witnesses who talked about sounds that night _ especially the persistent barking of one dog.
Prosecutors have pegged the time of the murders to the plaintive wail of Ms. Simpson’s Akita, named Kato.
Clark drew an objection and a strong visual response from Simpson when she said it was clear that three loud thumps Kaelin heard the night of the murders came from Simpson crashing into a room air conditioner as he hastily tried to hide the glove and the murder knife in the darkness behind his house.
Simpson shook his head negatively several times.
When Clark spoke of a limousine driver seeing a large black person coming up the walk to the Simpson estate, the defendant prodded his lawyers to object, and there was a conference at the bench. The driver’s testimony was more vague: He told jurors he saw a shadowy figure approach the front door.
Clark made it clear in a testy hearing before arguments began that she would draw ``inferences″ from evidence, and she did. For instance, she suggested that Simpson took his Bentley to a fast food restaurant rather than his Bronco because he wanted to be recognized in order to set up an alibi.
She also suggested that Simpson’s claim that he cut his finger on the cellular phone in his Bronco that night can be interpreted to show that he was driving the Bronco that night and took it to his ex-wife’s condominium to commit murder.