LOS ANGELES, May 4 -- A police crime lab official acknowledged Thursday that nearly 20 percent of a blood sample taken from double- murder suspect O.J. Simpson could be missing. Also Thursday, prosecutor Hank Goldberg slipped in a surprise question indicating that DNA test results confirm that blood found underneath Nicole Brown Simpson's fingernails was her own. Superior Court Judge Lance Ito quickly sustained an objection from Simpson's defense team, which has contended that the blood type does not match that of Nicole Simpson, her ex-husband or Ronald Goldman and that the blood might indicate a killer other than Simpson. In his fourth day of testimony, assistant lab director Gregory Matheson agreed with the defense's contention that 1.5 to 1.9 milliliters of Simpson's blood could be unaccounted for if a police nurse had taken an 8-milliliter sample. The football legend's defense team is trying to use the preliminary hearing testimony of a police nurse to bolster their contention that blood is missing and that police could have sprinkled the blood on crucial evidence to frame Simpson for the killings of his ex-wife and her friend. Police nurse Thano Peratis testified last year that he drew about 8 milliliters. But prosecutors said Peratis now believes it was about 6.5 or 7 milliliters, court papers showed. Simpson's attorneys claim that a portion of his blood disappeared from the vial and suddenly appeared on crucial evidence linking Simpson to the murders. They also have accused authorities of contaminating evidence and bungling the investigation.
Simpson, 47, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the June 12, 1994, stabbing and slashing deaths of his former wife, Nicole Simpson, 35, and her friend, Goldman, 25, outside her Brentwood condominium. If convicted, the National Football League Hall-of-Famer could spend the rest of his life in prison. Simpson lawyer Robert Blasier tried to use the crime lab's own business records to show how much blood was used in each test, and suggested that 1.5 to 1.9 milliliters of blood was missing from the vial if it had contained 8 milliliters. 'If you are referring to only those that are specifically recorded and not taking into account what is left in the pipettes (tubes that are used for testing), but actually what was delivered in certain areas, then that's an approximation, yes,' Matheson said. Matheson, who is also the lab's chief forensic chemist, said the missing amount would likely be smaller because of portions lost in handling the vial, opening the tube and working with the smaller pipettes. Prosecutors are likely to capitalize on Matheson's own admission that he wrongly estimated the amount of blood left in the vial at one point, and suggest that the police nurse could have made the same mistake. In another line of attack, Simpson's defense team suggested that tests might indicate the presence of a preservative in blood taken from a pair of socks in Simpson's master bedroom at his Brentwood estate and in blood found on a rear gate at the murder scene. The former matched blood of Simpson and his ex-wife and the latter of Simpson. If the blood was found to contain the preservative, it would be an indication that it came from a lab, which uses the chemical to preserve its samples. The defense claims blood drawn by police criminalists was later sprinkled on evidence to frame Simpson as part of a police conspiracy. 'Hypothetically, Mr. Matheson, if blood from this case from an evidence item such as the back gate showed the presence of the chemical EDTA, would you agree that it is consistent with it possibly coming from a reference vial?' Blasier asked the chemist. 'As you stated it, if it was present in it, if it was able to be identified in it, it is possible that it could have come from some type of reference sample that previously contained EDTA,' Matheson said. He gave a similar response to a question about the socks. Another Simpson lawyer, Barry Scheck, said outside the jury's presence Wednesday that questioning about EDTA tests will be 'one of the most interesting pieces of testimony that we're going to see in this entire case.' During his second round of questioning Matheson, Goldberg snuck in his own surprise query about DNA results on the blood found underneath Nicole Simpson's nails. 'Mr. Matheson, are you aware that the items 84A and 84B (the fingernail blood samples) were in fact sent out for DNA testing and came back with a result consistent with Nicole Brown?' the prosecutor asked Matheson. 'Yes, that's my understanding,' Matheson said. Ito then stopped further questioning and told prosecutors he expects them to present that information with expert witnesses other than Matheson. Legal experts have given Matheson high marks for his calm and collected testimony in the face of a defense attack on the training and credibility of two of his subordinates and allegations of a sinister scheme to implicate Simpson. During Goldberg's second round of questioning, the lab official expressed confidence in the competence and trustworthiness of criminalists Dennis Fung and Andrea Mazzola, who collected important evidence the prosecution says links Simpson to the murders. 'Sir, have you ever seen any evidence or indication in your entire work in this case of any of the evidence being tampered with?' Goldberg asked Matheson. 'No, I have not,' Matheson said. The lab official also said he had never known of any police officer getting unauthorized or unsupervised access to the room where the important evidence was analyzed -- something the defense contends may have happened.