In an aggressive attack on a Los Angeles police detective's credibility, O.J. Simpson's defense team has injected new controversy into the case, suggesting that the officer may have planted a key piece of evidence against Simpson--the bloody glove.
Members of Simpson's defense team are using a 1983 disability pension case filed by Detective Mark Fuhrman along with other research into his work history in an effort to show that his credibility has previously been challenged, that he has made derogatory racial statements and that he may have lied about his conduct in the Simpson probe.
Fuhrman, who found a bloody glove outside Simpson's Brentwood mansion, testified during this month's preliminary hearing, after which the football Hall of Famer was ordered to stand trial for the double murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.
Members of Simpson's defense camp say they do not expect to challenge the 42-year-old detective by suggesting that he is racist, but rather hope to use questions about his work history--including the 1983 disability case and a more recent investigation of his treatment of female colleagues--to raise doubts about his credibility or even to suggest that he might have planted the glove in order to be hailed as a hero.
Fuhrman's 1983 case came to light on a national scale Sunday with news that Newsweek and the New Yorker magazine were publishing stories analyzing the defense strategy and its efforts to discredit the officer. As with other developments in the ever-evolving Simpson case, it spawned a rash of other requests for interviews, and LAPD officials were deluged by reporters again Monday. They declined to comment, saying the work history of Fuhrman, who joined the LAPD in 1975, was a personnel matter.
The attack on Fuhrman's credibility is a risky one, in part because it would focus a jury's attention on the significance of a bloody glove turning up at the home of the defendant. No witnesses have come forward to say that they saw Fuhrman plant the glove, but experts say the defense attack on his credibility is probably motivated by a desire to make jurors suspicious of the glove when they weigh Simpson's guilt or innocence.
The likely intent of the defense maneuver "is to undercut the credibility of the police investigation and the prosecution case--just raise doubts," said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola law school professor and former federal prosecutor. "Even if this theory doesn't work, it would be kind of an instructive lesson to the jurors about how they can go about looking for problems with the prosecution case--to start them thinking of all the ways the prosecution could have unfairly pinned this on O.J. Simpson."
During the contentious preliminary hearing, Simpson's attorneys, led by Robert L. Shapiro, repeatedly suggested that their client is being railroaded by overzealous or careless investigators. Among other things, Shapiro accused police of lying to obtain a search warrant, of failing to protect the scene of the crime and of mishandling important pieces of evidence.
Defense lawyers did not have Fuhrman's work history on hand for that hearing, but have since uncovered several pieces of information that they will probably use as the case proceeds.
In Fuhrman's 1983 lawsuit, he told therapists that he was suffering from intense stress, that he left the Marine Corps after developing antagonistic feelings toward Mexican and African Americans, that he had beaten suspects and that he was preoccupied with violence.
"During his last six months (in the Marine Corps), he 'got tired of having a bunch of Mexicans and niggers that should be in prison telling (him) they weren't going to do something,' " Fuhrman was quoted as saying in one psychiatric evaluation performed in connection with the 1983 case.
Those and other racially charged comments may come back to haunt Fuhrman, lawyers said.
"These are his own words and he may live to regret them," said Los Angeles defense lawyer Marcia A. Morrisey.
Ironically, Fuhrman's credibility was challenged in 1983 by the very people who now employ him, the city of Los Angeles. In arguing that Fuhrman should not receive the stress pension he was seeking, lawyers and doctors for the city accused him of exaggerating his psychological problems for financial gain.
"This man has become tired of police work just as he became bored with life as a Marine," said Dr. Ronald R. Koegler, a doctor who examined Fuhrman on behalf of the city in that case. "He does not want to quit and lose his benefits, so he is attempting to get pension and compensation rewards."
Police pension cases such as this one often produce wildly divergent accounts of an officer's health. Police officers claiming stress frequently try to find psychiatrists who will say they are suffering, while city-hired doctors typically counter that the officers are in fine health and are lying to get a pension.