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First Officer at Scene Ends Long Simpson Testimony

February 15, 1995|JIM NEWTON and ANDREA FORD and TIM RUTTEN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The first police officer to find the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman concluded a long stint on the witness stand Tuesday with prosecutors seeking to shore up his testimony in the face of meticulous cross-examination by one of the lawyers for murder suspect O.J. Simpson.

The testimony of that officer, Robert Riske, came amid new developments about jurors who are hearing evidence in the case. A newly released transcript from Sunday's jury tour of Brentwood revealed that prosecutors had raised questions about a juror who lingered over photographs in Simpson's house. Sources, meanwhile, said sheriff's deputies were investigating allegations of possible misconduct by two jurors but had disposed of concerns raised in recent weeks about yet another.

Riske spent a day and a half testifying despite the fact that he played little part in the investigation of the June 12 killings. Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., Simpson's lead trial lawyer, gently but persistently questioned Riske about photo graphs suggesting that some evidence had been moved and about other evidence that never was photographed.

Under Cochran's questioning, Riske acknowledged that no photographs ever had been taken of a cup of melting ice cream and that evidence such as a bloody glove, watch cap and envelope was disturbed when the bodies of the victims were moved.

When it was her turn, however, Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia Clark forcefully pointed out that patrolman Riske's job in responding to the crime was not to collect evidence, take photographs or direct the investigation in any way.

"Is it part of your duties to observe and make sure that all of these things we have just mentioned are done?" Clark asked.

"No," Riske answered, adding that he was charged with responding to the radio call for police and, once there, assessing what was wrong and calling for backup if needed.

Riske's testimony, in which he also detailed steps taken to secure the scene and prevent evidence from being contaminated, was backed up by his supervisor, Sgt. David Rossi. The 25-year LAPD veteran said he arrived at the scene at 1:30 a.m. June 13, before any of the detectives were there; by that time, Rossi said, yellow police tape was stretched across the area and streets had been blocked off.

The testimony of those two officers is an important element of the prosecution's effort to rebut the suggestion that detectives, particularly Mark Fuhrman, could have moved evidence from the murder scene to Simpson's Brentwood mansion. Clark returned to the theme often Tuesday and ended her questioning by focusing on the most hotly contested piece of evidence--a bloody glove the defense attorneys have suggested that Fuhrman might have picked up at the murder scene and planted at Simpson's house.

"Officer Riske, you were the first officer on the scene, right?" Clark asked.

"My partner and I . . . " Riske answered.

"How many gloves did you see?" Clark continued.

"One," Riske said.

Riske was followed to the stand by Rossi, a tanned, silver-haired sergeant called to bolster his officer's recollections and to further establish the security of the crime scene. Like Riske, Rossi testified in even tones, never raising his voice despite a vigorous cross-examination by Simpson attorney F. Lee Bailey, a nationally renowned criminal defense lawyer who has played almost no courtroom role thus far in the Simpson case.

Flowery and sarcastic where Rossi was flat and unemotional, Bailey tried to trap the sergeant in mistakes. At one point, Rossi said he had approached the bodies of the two victims by walking through some plants alongside a walkway. When Rossi said he chose that approach because there were no footprints in the dirt, Bailey reminded him that another officer already had walked that way, suggesting that Rossi had not looked carefully for footprints.

That is consistent with the entire defense approach in the Simpson case--that the investigation was sloppily handled or worse. The defense attack on the police handling of the case has drawn sharp responses from prosecutors and others: At Tuesday's meeting of the Los Angeles City Council, many members followed the lead of Councilwoman Laura Chick and wore blue ribbons signaling their support of the Police Department.

In court, however, Bailey and other defense lawyers continued their attack. Bailey and Cochran both accused the officers of failing to record evidence that might have helped establish the time of death--another important element in the case because it bears directly on whether Simpson had an alibi for the time of the murders.

While Bailey raised some questions about the police handling of the case, his elaborate questioning occasionally appeared to leave even the judge mystified.

"Would you tell the court and jury how many possibilities you saw for an exodus by the killer or killers after the homicides were done and before the police arrived?" Bailey asked Rossi at one point.

"Objection," Clark interjected. "Exodus?"

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