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THE SPIN / BILL BOYARSKY

THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL : Truth May Be Eternal, but Mystery Often Fascinates More

February 22, 1995|BILL BOYARSKY

In the history of great crimes, mysteries linger, some silly, others so intriguing they survive through the decades.

You might say these questions endure because of the spin the public puts on the case, as opposed to the interpretations the lawyers advance for their own purposes. They are rooted in the public's curiosity about the murders.

The second gunman theories in the assassinations of both John and Robert Kennedy are good examples of such public speculation.

In the minds of many, President Kennedy's murder will never be solved. The assassination scene was too confused. The background of the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was too murky. And the Warren Commission, investigating the death, was too determined to close the books on the case.

There were several eyewitnesses to Bobby Kennedy's assassination in a kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel almost five years later. Sirhan Sirhan was found guilty of the crime. But despite this, skeptics still replay the murder, looking for a conspiracy.

So it will be, no doubt, with unanswered questions about the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman, no matter what the jury decides about the man accused of killing them, O.J. Simpson.

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Even though the trial is months away from completion, mysteries have begun to emerge that will tantalize future generations of conspiracy buffs.

One surely will be the cup of partially frozen Ben & Jerry's ice cream found in Nicole Simpson's condo the night of the murders. According to Simpson's lawyers, the fact that it had not melted when police discovered it shows that the murder occurred later than the prosecution says.

If Nicole had been killed at 10:15 p.m., when the prosecution says, the ice cream would have been completely melted when police saw it shortly after midnight. The semi-melted state of the ice cream, the defense says, supports the Simpson team's theory that the murders occurred around 11 p.m., when Simpson had been picked up by a limo driver for a trip to the airport.

The ice cream defense, however, was damaged in August when Associated Press reporter Michael Fleeman contacted Michael Spinelli, Ben & Jerry's flavor developer and an expert on melting times.

"You can't really look at ice cream as though it's an ice cube," Spinelli told Fleeman. It doesn't melt at the same rate. Ben & Jerry's ice cream, he said, contains natural stabilizers that slow down the melting process. A pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, at room temperature, would not be completely melted after an hour or more because the surrounding ice cream insulates the frozen core.

Flavor also affects melting time. So does the temperature of the freezer at the Ben & Jerry's branch that sold the ice cream. And what if Ms. Simpson bought yogurt? It melts more slowly than ice cream because it is frozen at a lower temperature.

Another potential mystery involves Nicole Simpson's dog, an Akita called Kato. Dogs have often been crucial figures in mystery stories.

The dog was howling at 10:15 p.m.; more evidence, the prosecutors say, that this was the time of the murders. Defense attorney F. Lee Bailey mocked the prosecution's dependence on the dog. Scornfully, he said in court Tuesday, "a dog has announced" the time of the murder.

The second question is why Kato didn't defend Nicole from her assailant. This question is asked by dog lovers who think an Akita would not have left an attack unanswered.

There are two possible answers. One is that the dog knew the killer. The second answer is that the instinct that makes a good watchdog doesn't come with every dog.

Something else that will linger is whether more than one person committed the murders. I get asked about this all the time, in phone calls, in letters and when I'm on TimesLink, our on-line service. It has, in fact, generated a debate among trial followers.

"What about the second Bronco theory?" asked a TimesLink subscriber who thought an accomplice drove a Bronco to the scene. Taking the other side are people such as Craig Lee of Santa Ana, who wrote last week, "one of the most inexplicable red herrings thrown around by the Simpson defense is the theoretical possibility of a second killer ploy."

Finally, there is Simpson's golf game alibi.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. said Simpson was in his yard hitting golf balls at 10:10 p.m. the night of the murders. After golf practice, Cochran said, Simpson called his girlfriend, Paula Barbieri, on his Bronco cellular phone. This not only accounts for Simpson's whereabouts at the time of the murder, but it explains why he placed a cellular phone call to Barbieri.

But the story conflicts with what a key witness, limousine driver Alan Parker, testified at the preliminary hearing. Parker said that Simpson had told him he overslept during a nap, and thus did not immediately respond when the limo driver came to pick him up for the ride to the airport. Defense attorney Robert L. Shapiro said after Simpson's arrest that his client was asleep at the time of the killing.

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Trials are supposed to clear these things up, but they often don't.

The mysteries linger in books, movies, poems and songs, working their way into the fabric of the nation's pop culture. We don't want simple answers. We love a mystery.

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