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O.J. lawyers finish closing arguments

By
TERRI VERMEULEN

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 28 -- O.J. Simpson's defense came to a thundering close Thursday with a blistering attack on what the attorneys called racist, lying cops out to get the football legend, and on evidence that cannot be trusted because it went through a 'black hole' of contamination. Lead defense attorney Johnnie Cochran regaled the long-suffering jurors with Biblical quotations and thundering oratory, telling them Simpson's team had raised more than enough reasonable doubt that the football legend savagely stabbed and slashed his ex-wife and her friend to death. After the prosecution's final rebuttal argument Friday morning, the jury will receive its final instructions and begin deliberations -- more than a year after jury selection began. Cochran urged the jurors to question the integrity of crucial blood evidence and disregard the entire testimony of what he dubbed 'the twin devils of deception,' former detective Mark Fuhrman and co-lead investigator Philip Vannatter. 'There are many, many, many, many reasonable doubts -- it's not just one -- all of which lead you to one verdict in this case, and one verdict only, of not guilty,' Cochran said, ending two days of closing arguments with the words 'God bless you.' Several jurors seemed to express relief, smiling and stretching after the most emotional and intense day of the trial. Superior Court Judge Lance Ito ended what was expected to be a marathon 11-hour courtroom session three hours early, saying he would allow the prosecutors to begin their last round of final arguments Friday.

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The court said the jury will deliberate Monday through Saturday, though there will not be any deliberations this Saturday. The jury -- which has been sequestered since Jan. 11 to keep it from being tainted by outside influences -- will not be allowed conjugal visits during the deliberations. The former football hero is accused of the June 12, 1994 stabbing and slashing deaths of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, outside her condominium. Simpson could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder or face a 15-year-to-life sentence if found guilty of second-degree murder. Simpson's high-priced team of prominent attorneys claim that crucial blood evidence wrongly points to their client because it was either intentionally or accidentally contaminated, and that Simpson, 48, had no motive to commit murder. 'He had a good life, a wonderful life,' Cochran said, referring to Simpson's long career in the National Football League and as a television sports commentator and movie actor. 'He's not going to try to give that all up to try and kill somebody with a knife.' Cochran claimed Simpson was at home, rushing back and forth between his white Ford Bronco and his mansion to get packed for a red-eye flight to Chicago when the prosecution contends the murders occurred. Simpson did not testify in his own defense, and his lawyers did not present any testimony to bolster his claim that he did not have time to commit the killings. Cochran claimed police were 'setting him up' because they believed he was guilty and failed to consider any other suspects in what he repeatedly referred to as a 'rush to judgment.' The defense lawyer accused other police officers of turning their heads, particularly about Fuhrman, and urged the jury not to 'be part of this continuing coverup.' Cochran told jurors the prosecution should have to answer 15 lingering questions, including why just seven-tenths of a drop of Goldman's blood was found in Simpson's Ford Bronco, why the pair of gloves linked to the murders did not fit Simpson during a June demonstration in court and why Fuhrman and Vannatter 'lied.' In an impassioned plea resembling a sermon at times, Cochran told the jury that Fuhrman and Vannatter 'are both people who have shown that they lie, will lie, did lie on the stand under oath.' The defense attorney claimed that Vannatter lied about the reason police went to Simpson's estate the morning after the murders, and that Fuhrman lied about his use of a racial slur and had a motive to plant evidence to frame the black football hero. Fuhrman, who testified he found a bloody glove at Simpson's estate that matched one found at the murder scene, has been under attack by the defense for more than a year as a racist, rogue cop who may have planted the glove. Cochran called the ex-cop a 'lying, perjuring, genocidal racist.' Citing a jury instruction that allows jurors to reject the entire testimony of a witness who has 'testified falsely as to a material point,' Cochran urged the panelists to 'wipe out' the testimony of Fuhrman and Vannatter. He accused Vannatter of having a sinister motive for taking a sample of Simpson's blood to Simpson's house rather than booking it as evidence at police headquarters. 'These two twin devils of deception, you think about them and keep them in mind,' the defense lawyer said, nearing the end of his portion of the closing arguments. 'You can't believe these people, you can't trust the message, you can't trust the messengers. 'All the evidence in this case went through that LAPD and that black hole over there (the police crime lab), that cesspool of contamination,' Cochran added. Word for word, Cochran repeated a letter in which a woman recounts a conversation in which Fuhrman told her that he wanted to see all blacks 'gathered together and killed,' and compared Fuhrman to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. 'There was another man who not too long ago in the world who had those same views, who wanted to burn people, who had racist views and ultimately had power over people in his country,' Cochran said. That was too much for Ron Goldman's father, Fred, who held a brief news conference after Cochran finished. Goldman denounced Cochran as a 'sick man' who 'compares what Mark Fuhrman did to miseries from the beginning of history.' His voice shaking with rage and with his wife trying to calm him down, Goldman, who has grown increasingly angry with the defense in recent months, said sardonically, 'It's because of racism we should put aside all other thought, all other reason and set his murdering client free?' Goldman, who is Jewish, said he found Cochran's argument particularly upsetting because the defense lawyer has surrounded himself with bodyguards from the Nation of Islam. The leader of the black group, Louis Farrakhan, has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks and praising Hitler as a 'great man.' Cochran's comparison of Fuhrman to Hitler also angered the Antidefamation League, which called the remark an insult to victims of the Nazi Holocaust and said it 'trivializes a profound historical tragedy.' Simpson's two sisters -- flanked by his mother and his two adult children -- held a rare news conference during the lunch break several hours later to support Cochran and criticize Goldman for pronouncing their brother guilty. Simpson's oldest sister, Shirley Simpson Baker, defended Cochran's decision to use bodyguards from the Nation of Islam, saying the group has 'come here and they have offered to embrace us and to help us so that we can go in and out' of the courthouse. 'We do not come down here and attack them personally,' Baker said of the prosecutors and the murder victims' families. 'The prosecution, they're doing their job, and we have said that for nine months, and we've listened. Now, it's the defense's turn. The defense, they're doing their job.' Goldman and prosecutors contend that the defense is bringing up the so-called 'race card' to distract the jury from what they have called a 'mountain' and a virtual 'ocean' of physical evidence linking Simpson to the murders. Sophisticated DNA tests performed by prosecution scientists link Simpson to blood drops found at the murder scene, and blood found in Simpson's white Ford Bronco and on a glove and a pair of socks at Simpson's estate link Simpson and the two murder victims. If Cochran provided the 'why' of how the evidence was skewed, DNA specialist Barry Scheck, provided the 'how.' Scheck sandwiched the defense's scientific arguments between Cochran's fiery rhetoric, suggesting that police planted blood on a pair of socks found on Simpson's bedroom floor and on a gate leading away from the murder scene. 'It wouldn't take more than two bad police officers to do this and a lot of people look the other way,' Scheck said. 'If they manufacture evidence on the sock, how can you trust anything else? 'You cannot convict when the core of the prosecution's case is built on perjurious testimony of police officers, unreliable forensic evidence and manufactured evidence,' Scheck said. He suggested that 'there's plenty of access if you want to tamper with evidence if you are authorized personnel, if you are a lead detective, if you are somebody there.' Scheck told the jury nearly two dozen times that 'something's wrong' with the evidence in the Simpson case. On a day of raw emotion and frayed nerves, Cochran invoked the plight of the two small children Nicole Simpson left behind. 'Someone has taken these children's mother,' Cochran said referring to Justine and Sydney Simpson. 'I certainly hope that your decision doesn't take their father and that justice is finally achieved in this case.'

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