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THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL : Key Prosecutor's Illness May Delay Trial : Attorneys: William Hodgman is hospitalized with chest pains. Garcetti says he may seek to postpone proceedings.

January 26, 1995|EDWARD J. BOYER and NIESON HIMMEL | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A delay probably will be sought in the O.J. Simpson murder trial in the wake of the hospitalization of a key member of the prosecution team, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti said late Wednesday night.

Deputy Dist. Atty. William Hodgman, 41, complained of chest pains during a trial strategy meeting at the Downtown Criminal Courts Building and was taken by paramedics to California Medical Center, Garcetti said at a news conference.

"It is very likely we are going to ask that the case be postponed for a period of time," Garcetti said at the hospital.

Prosecutors had considered asking for a delay before Hodgman fell ill because of the late addition of several people to the defense's witness list. That move left some members of the prosecution team, including Hodgman, visibly angry as they left court Wednesday.

Garcetti said Hodgman had been "very calm, quite subdued during the meeting" in the district attorney's office conference room.

Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., Simpson's lead defense attorney, said he would support a delay in the trial if Hodgman is seriously ill.

"As much as I want to go forward, I would consult with my client and suggest that we (delay) for a short period," Cochran said.

He said he would not want to see a long delay, but he recognizes that Hodgman is an "integral part" of the prosecution team.

Garcetti said Hodgman was seated next to him at the strategy meeting when he asked to be excused. "He told me that he was not feeling well," the district attorney said. "He said he was disoriented and felt chest pains."

Paramedics were called "out of an abundance of caution," Garcetti said, and Hodgman was taken to the hospital about 6:20 p.m.

After Hodgman was admitted he underwent additional tests. There was no definite evidence of a heart attack, said emergency room physician Dr. Jim Gregg.

"He had a very brief episode of chest pains," Gregg said. "We will observe him overnight. Clinically, he is feeling extremely well."

Speaking to reporters about 11:30 p.m., Garcetti said Hodgman "felt 200% better an hour ago than he did four hours ago."

Garcetti said it appeared that Hodgman would be able to return to the case. "How soon, we don't know," he said.

Cochran, a former high-ranking member of the district attorney's office, hired Hodgman as a prosecutor in 1979 and publicly has praised his former subordinate's formidable skills. The two men are the case's most experienced trial lawyers.

Hodgman has prosecuted more than 80 jury trials.

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