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O.J. defense expert disagrees with another

By
TERRI VERMEULEN

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 28 -- A prominent forensic expert hired by O. J. Simpson disagreed Monday with another defense expert about the reliability of a type of DNA testing that links the football legend to the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. Dr. Henry Lee, who heads the Connecticut State Police forensic laboratory, said his lab uses PCR testing to include or exclude suspects in criminal cases. Another defense expert, Dr. John Gerdes, claimed earlier this month that the PCR testing process has not been refined enough for use in analyzing crime scene evidence and involves 'a tremendous risk of error,' though he has used PCR testing for medical cases. Most of the blood evidence collected from the murder scene and Simpson's mansion 2 miles away was subjected to PCR testing, though some pieces also underwent a more sophisticated type of DNA testing, called RFLP, which requires a certain minimum amount of DNA. The DNA tests link Simpson to blood drops leading away from the murder scene, and murder victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman to blood found in Simpson's Ford Bronco and on a glove at his estate. The PCR tests also link Nicole Simpson to a bloodstained sock found in her ex-husband's bedroom. Simpson, 48, is standing trial in Superior Court on two counts of first-degree murder for the June 12, 1994 stabbing and slashing deaths of his ex-wife and her friend outside her home. If convicted, the National Football League Hall-of-Fame running back could spend the rest of his life in prison.

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Simpson's lawyers contend police and criminalists bungled the investigation and contaminated evidence that wrongly points to Simpson. They also have suggested a more sinister conspiracy in which police may have planted evidence to frame the black football hero for the murders of his white ex-wife and her friend. Pitting one defense expert against another, prosecutor Hank Goldberg asked Lee, 'Are you using PCR technology in criminal cases both to include and exclude people as having committed a crime?' 'Yes,' Lee said. Gerdes, who questioned the PCR test results during his four days on the stand earlier this month, had said he even had concerns about a type of PCR testing being used to free inmates from jail years after they are sentenced. Prosecutors tried to portray the paternity laboratory director as a biased hired gun with no experience testing evidence in a criminal case. 'Is it your stated position that forensic scientists are in the best position to evaluate whether PCR technology is ready to make that technology transfer into the forensic field?' Goldberg asked Lee. 'I think forensic scientists should have a good say about what method we should do, what's the reliable procedure,' Lee answered. Lee said forensic scientists have 'no other choice' besides using PCR testing on pieces of evidence containing small amounts of DNA. 'If no high-molecular DNA was extracted from the sample, we have to do the best we can do,' Lee said. 'If we have a large sample, of course, RFLP is a choice.' Defense lawyer Barry Scheck countered by eliciting Lee's testimony that there are correct and incorrect ways to do DNA testing. 'If DNA testing is done properly in your opinion with RFLP and PCR, can it be reliable evidence?' Scheck asked. 'That's my position all the time. DNA, if done properly, correctly, should be used as evidence,' Lee said. 'If done improperly, then (it) should not be used. Scheck and the defense claim the tests were done in at least one contaminated lab or done on evidence that had been contaminated by bungling criminalists. In other developments Monday: --Prosecutors contended that a bloody shoeprint, which Lee said does not match the Bruno Magli shoes that were allegedly worn by the killer, could have been left at the scene after the crime scene tape was taken down. Lee acknowledged that such prints would be no help in identifying a suspect or suspects, and said he could not rule out the possibility that police officers, Nicole Simpson's relatives or friends or others left shoeprints on the walkway after police left the bloody scene. The defense countered that possible shoeprints that do not match the Bruno Magli shoe sole were found on evidence collected before the crime scene tape was removed, including Goldman's jeans and an envelope. Lee also suggested that a shoeprint leading away from the murder scene may have been there on June 13, but may not have been noticed or collected by police criminalists. --Prosecutors tried to provide an explanation for Lee's dramatic pronouncement last Friday that 'something's wrong' with one of the blood samples linking Simpson to a trail of blood leading away from the murder scene. Lee had bolstered the defense's theory that blood evidence could have been planted to frame Simpson, saying that four blood swatches left telltale marks on paper in which they were wrapped -- even though the samples had been left to dry overnight and should not have been wet enough to leave a stain. Goldberg suggested that the blood swatches may have appeared dry, though they may not actually have been, and that the drying time might have been affected by the presence of distilled water on the swatches and the humidity in the Police Department's crime lab. Lee acknowledged that he does not have personal knowledge about the temperature and conditions at the lab. Simpson's lawyers contend that a small amount of blood is missing from a vial Simpson voluntarily gave the day after the murders, and that police may have sprinkled the blood on evidence and switched swatches to implicate Simpson in the killings. --The defense filed a motion asking the judge to limit the amount of time for closing arguments to one court day (about six hours) for each side. 'Counsel for Mr. Simpson is ever mindful of the jurors who have been sequestered for more than seven months and who are understandably anxious to return to their homes and families,' defense lawyers said in their motion. 'It would be unfair to the jurors and to the court to spend an undue amount of time in closing argument...Consequently, closing arguments could continue for several days, if not weeks, if the court were to permit argument without time limits.'

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Lee said forensic scientists have 'no other choice' besides using PCR testing on pieces of evidence containing small amounts of DNA. 'If no high-molecular DNA was extracted from the sample, we have to do the best we can do,' Lee said. 'If we have a large sample, of course, RFLP is a choice.' Defense lawyer Barry Scheck countered by eliciting Lee's testimony that there are correct and incorrect ways to do DNA testing. 'If DNA testing is done properly in your opinion with RFLP and PCR, can it be reliable evidence?' Scheck asked. 'That's my position all the time. DNA, if done properly, correctly, should be used as evidence,' Lee said. 'If done improperly, then (it) should not be used. Scheck and the defense claim the tests were done in at least one contaminated lab or done on evidence that had been contaminated by bungling criminalists. In other developments Monday: --Prosecutors contended that a bloody shoeprint, which Lee said does not match the Bruno Magli shoes that were allegedly worn by the killer, could have been left at the scene after the crime scene tape was taken down. Lee acknowledged that such prints would be no help in identifying a suspect or suspects, and said he could not rule out the possibility that police officers, Nicole Simpson's relatives or friends or others left shoeprints on the walkway after police left the bloody scene. The defense countered that possible shoeprints that do not match the Bruno Magli shoe sole were found on evidence collected before the crime scene tape was removed, including Goldman's jeans and an envelope. Lee also suggested that a shoeprint leading away from the murder scene may have been there on June 13, but may not have been noticed or collected by police criminalists. --Prosecutors tried to provide an explanation for Lee's dramatic pronouncement last Friday that 'something's wrong' with one of the blood samples linking Simpson to a trail of blood leading away from the murder scene. Lee had bolstered the defense's theory that blood evidence could have been planted to frame Simpson, saying that four blood swatches left telltale marks on paper in which they were wrapped -- even though the samples had been left to dry overnight and should not have been wet enough to leave a stain. Goldberg suggested that the blood swatches may have appeared dry, though they may not actually have been, and that the drying time might have been affected by the presence of distilled water on the swatches and the humidity in the Police Department's crime lab. Lee acknowledged that he does not have personal knowledge about the temperature and conditions at the lab. Simpson's lawyers contend that a small amount of blood is missing from a vial Simpson voluntarily gave the day after the murders, and that police may have sprinkled the blood on evidence and switched swatches to implicate Simpson in the killings. --The defense filed a motion asking the judge to limit the amount of time for closing arguments to one court day (about six hours) for each side. 'Counsel for Mr. Simpson is ever mindful of the jurors who have been sequestered for more than seven months and who are understandably anxious to return to their homes and families,' defense lawyers said in their motion. 'It would be unfair to the jurors and to the court to spend an undue amount of time in closing argument...Consequently, closing arguments could continue for several days, if not weeks, if the court were to permit argument without time limits.'

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Renowned forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee has concluded his testimony (Monday) in the O.J. Simpson double- murder trial. Lee was on the stand four days.

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