Advertisement

Judge denies O.J. lawyers' request

By
TERRI VERMEULEN

LOS ANGELES, July 28 -- In a crucial defeat for O.J. Simpson's defense team, a North Carolina judge refused Friday to force a screenwriter to turn over interview tapes and testify in the football legend's trial about use of a racial epithet by a controversial police detective. Forsyth County Superior Court William Z. Wood ruled that screenwriter Laura Hart McKinney's tapes of conversations with Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman involved 'collateral' material that does not directly relate to the Simpson murder case. The Simpson defense team vowed to take immediate action to appeal the ruling. Simpson lawyer Carl Douglas said chief defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. -- who traveled to Winston-Salem for the hearing and heard portions of the tapes -- said the tapes were 'disgusting in some of the language that was used' and contained 'discussions of ways in which Mr. Fuhrman and others would implicate innocent people.' Fuhrman, who testified that he found a bloodstained glove at Simpson's estate that matched one found at the scene where Simpson's ex- wife and her friend were slain, has been under attack by the defense team for months. The defense claims the detective is a racist who may have planted a bloodstained glove at Simpson's estate to frame him for the murders. During his testimony as a prosecution witness in March, Fuhrman had admantly denied using the racial epithet 'nigger' to describe blacks within the past 10 years. Earlier in the week, the defense said it was not as interested in showing that Fuhrman is a racist as it is in showing him to be a liar.

Advertisement

The screenwriter acknowledged during the North Carolina hearing that Fuhrman had used the racial slur 'in the context of our work' on a book and film script she was writing, contradicting Fuhrman's testimony. She said the detective had served as a consultant, but that some of his responses were relevant to 'character development issues' and may not have reflected his own feelings. 'As a person who finds all this key evidence,' Cochran argued in North Carolina, 'he finds the glove, he looks in the Bronco, he makes himself an integral part of the case. So when he makes an all inclusive statement (that he has not used the word 'nigger' in 10 years), his credibility becomes an integral part of the case. That's material. That's the essence of material.' But the judge disagreed.'This matter is collateral, and I will deny the subpoena,' said Wood. Meanwhile, in Southern California on Friday, prosecutor Cheri Lewis said Fuhrman is officially retiring from the Los Angeles Police Department next Friday and will be on 72-hour call in northern Idaho, where he plans to move, in case the defense wants to call him back to the stand. The defense had hoped to call Fuhrman to the stand on Monday, but the North Carolina judge's decision may force the defense to postpone that, Douglas said. 'Because of this unusual ruling, it will be necessary for us to take some appellate remedies immediately,' Douglas said. 'So I do not think that he will be called on Monday, but I do think it will be sooner rather than later. The defense also intends to call two witnesses, Kathleen Bell and Andrea Terry, to testify that they heard Fuhrman utter the racial slur within the past decade. Prosecutors are trying to bar the testimony of three other defense witnesses who will offer similar accounts, but Superior Court Judge Lance Ito said he wants to hear the testimony of two other witnesses first. Simpson's lawyers contend that Fuhrman's credibility is 'the central issue' in the trial of the football star-turned actor. Simpson, 48, is standing trial on two counts of first-degree murder for the June 12, 1994 stabbing and slashing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, 25, outside her Brentwood condominium. There was no testimony Friday because a 43-year-old male juror who fell ill suddenly on Thursday afternoon was still sick. Judge Ito said he anticipates that the juror will be well enough on Monday to return to court. During a brief court session Friday in Los Angeles, Simpson's lawyers asked Ito to reconsider his decision to preclude them from questioning prospective defense witness Christian Reichardt about drug use by one of Nicole Simpson's friends, Faye Resnick. Simpson's lawyers contend Ito's July 13 ruling had stripped Simpson of key elements of his defense. The defense team has contended the pair may have been killed by drug dealers in retaliation for a drug debt Resnick may have run up while living briefly at Nicole Simpson's condominium. Ito indicated he will rule Monday on the defense's motion after he has a chance to review one or two cases. Also Friday, prosecutors indicated they plan to show the jury photographs and videotapes of Simpson wearing a pair of gloves resembling those linked to the murders during their rebuttal case. Lewis said the prosecution has as many as '15 such photographs and videotapes,' while Simpson lawyer Peter Neufeld said the defense team will take the position that the pictures are 'completely irrelevant.'

Advertisement
Advertisement

integral part of the case. That's material. That's the essence of material.' But the judge disagreed. 'This matter is collateral, and I will deny the subpoena,' said Wood. Meanwhile, in Southern California on Friday, prosecutor Cheri Lewis said Fuhrman is officially retiring from the Los Angeles Police Department next Friday and will be on 72-hour call in northern Idaho, where he plans to move, in case the defense wants to call him back to the stand. The defense had hoped to call Fuhrman to the stand on Monday, but the North Carolina judge's decision may force the defense to postpone that, Douglas said. 'Because of this unusual ruling, it will be necessary for us to take some appellate remedies immediately,' Douglas said. 'So I do not think that he will be called on Monday, but I do think it will be sooner rather than later.The defense also intends to call two witnesses, Kathleen Bell and Andrea Terry, to testify that they heard Fuhrman utter the racial slur within the past decade. Prosecutors are trying to bar the testimony of three other defense witnesses who will offer similar accounts, but Superior Court Judge Lance Ito said he wants to hear the testimony of two other witnesses first. Simpson's lawyers contend that Fuhrman's credibility is 'the central issue' in the trial of the football star-turned actor. Simpson, 48, is standing trial on two counts of first-degree murder for the June 12, 1994 stabbing and slashing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, 25, outside her Brentwood condominium. There was no testimony Friday because a 43-year-old male juror who fell ill suddenly on Thursday afternoon was still sick. Judge Ito said he anticipates that the juror will be well enough on Monday to return to court. During a brief court session Friday in Los Angeles, Simpson's lawyers asked Ito to reconsider his decision to preclude them from questioning prospective defense witness Christian Reichardt about drug use by one of Nicole Simpson's friends, Faye Resnick. Simpson's lawyers contend Ito's July 13 ruling had stripped Simpson of key elements of his defense. The defense team has contended the pair may have been killed by drug dealers in retaliation for a drug debt Resnick may have run up while living briefly at Nicole Simpson's condominium. Ito indicated he will rule Monday on the defense's motion after he has a chance to review one or two cases. Also Friday, prosecutors indicated they plan to show the jury photographs and videotapes of Simpson wearing a pair of gloves resembling those linked to the murders during their rebuttal case. Lewis said the prosecution has as many as '15 such photographs and videotapes,' while Simpson lawyer Peter Neufeld said the defense team will take the position that the pictures are 'completely irrelevant.'

Advertisement

Prosecutors in the O.J. Simpson double- murder trial have indicated (Friday) that they plan to show the jury photographs of the football legend wearing a pair of gloves resembling those linked to the murders during their rebuttal case. Deputy District Attorney Cheri Lewis says the prosecution has as many as '15 such photographs and videotapes,' while Simpson lawyer Peter Neufeld says the defense team will take the position that the pictures are 'completely irrelevant.'

Latest Headlines