Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Defense Plans to Query Ito's Wife at Hearing : Trial: Simpson's attorneys want to determine if Police Capt. Margaret York took part in an inquiry involving a controversial detective in the case.

November 17, 1994|JIM NEWTON and ANDREA FORD | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Lawyers for O.J. Simpson hope to question the wife of Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito at a special hearing next week to determine whether she was involved in an internal LAPD investigation of a detective who discovered key evidence in the Simpson case.

Ito's wife, Capt. Margaret York, is the highest-ranking woman in the Police Department. In 1985, she was assigned to the LAPD's West Los Angeles station, where Detective Mark Fuhrman was then a police officer and where he now works on the homicide desk. Fuhrman, the detective who said he found a bloody glove outside Simpson's Brentwood mansion a few hours after the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman were discovered, has been the subject of an aggressive defense campaign to discredit him.

According to Simpson attorney Robert L. Shapiro, York has volunteered to testify at next week's hearing. Shapiro added that Superior Court Judge Curtis Rappe, will preside over the session to avoid creating a conflict for Ito.

Shapiro did not specify what internal investigation York would be asked about, but sources told The Times in July that Fuhrman came under scrutiny for his alleged affiliation with an informal group of officers at the West Los Angeles station known as MAW--short for Men Against Women. The existence of that group, whose proponents were said to deride the abilities of female police officers, became known in the early 1980s. A subsequent investigation led to its dissolution, though police sources say remnants of it persist today.

At the time, Fuhrman was at the station where York was assigned in 1985 when she was promoted to lieutenant and given her first post as a watch commander. Although a television tabloid show said last month that York was involved in running that internal investigation, people familiar with the inquiry said Wednesday that the televised report was incorrect.

The investigation, sources said, was not handled by station officials but by the department's Office of Operations and its Internal Affairs Division.

Sources said York was aware of the inquiry, but they added that it was largely concluded by the time she arrived at the station. They stressed that she was not involved in it except to be interviewed as a possible witness. She did not accuse Fuhrman of any wrongdoing but rather praised his work, the sources added.

Retired Police Chief Daryl F. Gates assigned York to the post in West Los Angeles and said Wednesday that she had favorable comments about Fuhrman. "She was satisfied with his work, thought he was a hard-working guy," Gates said. "She considered him highly sought after because he was an aggressive, competent officer, and she was very pleased with him."

According to sources, Fuhrman's name surfaced briefly in connection with an internal LAPD audit of the West Los Angeles station this year. That audit was launched in an effort to root out sexual harassment at the station; it has been completed and some officers have been transferred out of West Los Angeles to improve the working environment at the station.

But those same sources said Fuhrman is no longer considered a target of the West Los Angeles inquiry and is not expected to face internal charges growing out of it. Police Chief Willie L. Williams, who received the audit, has publicly stated his faith in Fuhrman and the other detectives involved in the Simpson case.

Nevertheless, Simpson's attorneys want to question York and may seek to discover whether she was involved in any investigation of Fuhrman. If so, it could raise the possibility that she would be called as a witness in Simpson's trial, raising the specter of a possible conflict for Ito.

"There may be some conflict of interest," Shapiro said, though he stressed that he was not aware of any conflict and that defense attorneys are not seeking Ito's removal from the case. Shapiro described Monday's session as a "fact-finding hearing."

"If there's a possibility she could be a witness," Shapiro added, "we want to know those things before trial, so no one will be embarrassed."

Citing a 1983 pension case filed by Fuhrman, Simpson's lawyers have accused the detective of harboring racist views, a contention that Fuhrman's lawyer vehemently denies. The defense sought access to police records relating to Fuhrman, but after reviewing them, Ito found that there was nothing relevant to the Simpson case and denied their request to view the records themselves.

Laurie Levenson, a Loyola University law professor who has closely followed the Simpson case, said that before defense attorneys could call York to the stand during the trial, they would need to show that she has something relevant to offer.

"The first threshold is does she know anything," Levenson said. "If she knows anything, could her information be allowed in the case?"

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|