UCLA law professor Peter Arenella and Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson offer their take on the Simpson trial. Joining them is Los Angeles defense lawyer Paul J. Fitzgerald, who will rotate with other experts as the case moves forward. Today's topic: cross-examination of LAPD Detective Tom Lange and Judge Lance A. Ito's confrontation with prosecutor Christopher A. Darden.
On the prosecution: Unfortunately for the prosecution, Darden took Johnnie Cochran's bait and violated Ito's order not to interrupt. While one might sympathize with Darden's initial refusal to apologize because Ito exhibited a hair trigger in citing him for contempt so quickly, Darden's failure to mollify Ito escalated what should have been a minor fracas into an ugly encounter.
On the defense: Cochran accomplished two goals Thursday. First, he triggered an ugly confrontation that may have some lasting impact on Darden's performance in the courtroom. Second, he persuaded Ito to admit a crime scene videotape that might suggest to the jury that criminalists and detectives did not wear sufficient protective clothing.
On the prosecution: The prosecution's frustrations hit a boiling point. After being baited by Cochran both in his questioning and his sidebar comments, Darden made the mistake of ignoring Ito's order to stop talking. Even though it would have been better for the prosecution if this had not happened, the contempt issue is unlikely to have an impact on the jurors because they did not hear the exchange.
On the defense: The defense continues to point out alleged problems in the investigation, but many may turn out to be inconsequential. For example, the videotape of personnel at the crime scene shows people carefully moving around the area, not trampling on the evidence. Also, the lack of a cut on the bloody glove found there may explain why Simpson's left hand was unprotected and wound up being cut.
PAUL J. FITZGERALD
On the prosecution: Darden's behavior was immature to the point of being juvenile. It was hot-headed behavior that a lawyer ought to avoid when he is interested in protecting his client. Also, Marcia Clark's objection to the defense videotape was ineffective. She could have presented a better argument in terms of the law as well as the technology.
On the defense: Cochran has an intelligent, thoughtful strategy. The strategy is to focus on what the police did not do and how they blundered. He is torturing the LAPD with their own self-image of being the most scientific police department in the world. A good example is how he brought out that they did not test the dog's feet for blood until two weeks after the murders.
Compiled by HENRY WEINSTEIN / Los Angeles Times