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Associates of Simpson Reportedly Subpoenaed : Prosecution: The grand jury will hear witnesses who were with him before his June 17 disappearance, sources say.

August 17, 1994|JIM NEWTON and TED JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has issued subpoenas for witnesses who may have information about the events leading up to O.J. Simpson's failure to surrender June 17 and his subsequent disappearance with close friend Al Cowlings, sources close to the case said Tuesday.

Subpoenas have been issued to almost everyone at the house with Simpson on the morning before he and Cowlings left, sources said. Among those expected to testify at the grand jury are Simpson's friend and lawyer Robert Kardashian and his girlfriend, as well as four doctors who either examined Simpson or were at the house that morning. They include Henry Lee and Michael Baden, the lead pathologists assisting the football Hall of Famer's defense team.

Other people who were at the house and who probably will testify include Simpson assistant Kathy Randa and employees of Kardashian and Simpson's attorney Robert L. Shapiro. Neither Shapiro nor Simpson have yet been subpoenaed, but at least Shapiro could be, sources said.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said she could neither confirm nor deny that subpoenas had been issued. The district attorney as a matter of policy does not discuss any issues regarding the grand jury.

Prosecutors may not use evidence obtained in one grand jury investigation to assist in the prosecution of a defendant who already has been ordered to stand trial. Because of that, evidence gathered by the Cowlings grand jury technically could not be used against Simpson.

"Al Cowlings did nothing wrong, so in that respect, I'm not concerned," said Donald Re, Cowlings' lawyer, of the grand jury's activity. Although grand juries are responsible for approving indictments, they also can be an investigative tool, so the issuance of subpoenas does not necessarily mean that an indictment of Cowlings is being sought.

Shapiro would not comment on the subpoenas or disclose who was being questioned, but said the exercise would hamper Simpson's defense efforts as he prepares for a trial that could force him to confront the death penalty.

"It's more distraction from our job at hand," Shapiro said. "It's a great distraction to our defense, which is being prepared in a very short time."

Lawyers are expected in court in the Simpson case today. On Tuesday, they submitted questionnaires that they want prospective jurors to complete as part of what is expected to be a difficult selection process, given the extraordinary publicity involving the case.

Simpson's attorneys prepared a 40-page list of questions and, like prosecutors, submitted it under seal, as instructed by Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito. The prosecution's proposed list of questions was 108 pages long.

A final list of questions will be culled from those proposed lists and may include additional suggestions from the judge. The first batch of prospective jurors is expected to receive the questionnaires in mid-September.

Both sides have employed jury consultants to assist in the selection of panelists. Defense attorneys last week hired Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who helped pick juries in the cases of the Los Angeles Police Department officers charged with beating Rodney G. King and of rioters accused of trying to kill Reginald O. Denny.

Prosecutors in O.J. Simpson's murder case, meanwhile, have chosen a Torrance-based consultant to help them select jurors.

Donald E. Vinson, chairman of DecisionQuest Inc., pledged to help the prosecution team find fair and impartial jurors who would be able to "set aside (Simpson's) celebrity status in the courtroom.

"I have every faith that we will be able to select out those people who are capable of keeping an open and fair mind," he said at a brief afternoon news conference outside his office on 190th Street in Torrance.

Vinson, 50, said he had been talking with the district attorney's office about contributing his legal services in general when prosecutors asked his firm to take on the Simpson case.

In an interview after the news conference, Vinson said it was his understanding that the district attorney's office was "overwhelmed by a wide variety of people and organizations" participating in the Simpson case.

"We were flattered and pleased to accept," he said.

Vinson declined to be specific about what type of work his firm would do, but he said that much of his role would be "jury de-selection," identifying prospective jurors not likely to accept the prosecution's case.

"The rule (in the jury-selection process) is to help identify people who would not be able to make a fair and impartial judgment," he said.

Jury consulting experts have said that attorneys are likely to be interested in potential jurors' attitudes toward issues such as interracial marriage, spousal abuse and a wealthy defendant. During the selection, each side can remove an unlimited number of jurors if it can state reasons why jurors are biased, and a limited number of jurors for no reason at all.

DecisionQuest, along with subsidiary O'Connor & Cohen Inc., uses a variety of techniques to identify potential jurors, including focus groups and trial simulations. The firm has been in business for 20 years, and has worked on many high-profile trials, Vinson said.

"We'll be doing a number of different things (in the Simpson case), but it is premature to focus specifically on what it will be," he said.

Vinson, who has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Colorado, said he and his colleagues will be able to handle the media attention in the case.

"It's the kind of thing our staff is prepared to deal with," he said. "We have a very short window before trial and a lot of work for everyone to do."

Times staff writer Andrea Ford contributed to this story.

* PRETRIAL PUBLICITY BILLS

Measures would make it illegal for witnesses to sell stories. A3

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