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The O.j. Simpson Murder Trial

Arenella, Levenson & Co: The Legal Pad

March 03, 1995

UCLA law professor Peter Arenella and Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson offer their takes on the Simpson trial. Joining them is defense attorney Jill Lansing, who will rotate with other experts as the case moves forward. Today's topic: Rosa Lopez's return.

PETER ARENELLA

On the prosecution: Christopher Darden started strongly by eliciting that Lopez lied in her Friday testimony about seeking unemployment compensation. He then lulled her into a false sense of security by spending hours on mundane detail before catching her off guard with incriminating remarks she allegedly made to a former employer and a friend. The prosecution's only regret may be that this demolition job did not occur before the jury.

On the defense: This was a disastrous day for the defense. Their key alibi witness lied on an employment application, expressed antipathy toward Nicole Brown Simpson, couldn't remember whether she said, 'I will say anything, any time to help O.J.' and couldn't recall whether she told a friend that testimony corroborating her story might be worth $5,000. The only saving grace for the defense is that it does not have to show this videotape to the jury.

LAURIE LEVENSON

On the prosecution: Darden's cross-examination was like shooting fish in a barrel. Time after time, he caught Lopez in lies and inconsistencies. She claims she cannot remember what happened last week, let alone what happened eight months ago on the night of the murders. The prosecutors may now consider whether they want to use her tape before the jury. Prosecutors must now be hoping that the rest of the defense witnesses are this bad.

On the defense: This is their worst nightmare. A key witness has been subjected to crippling impeachment. If Lopez is the centerpiece of their alibi defense, Simpson's lawyers are in real trouble. She seems incapable of telling the truth. It will be amazing if Johnnie Cochran can rehabilitate her on redirect examination. The only saving grace for the defense is that the judge changed his mind and is not having Lopez testify before the jury.

JILL LANSING

On the prosecution: Darden appeared to have a lot of material with which to impeach Lopez but had difficulty doing it effectively, not only because she is such an elusive witness but because his examination lacked focus. Prosecutors still appear to be in the process of investigating her. Even so, the net result of their examination so far is that Lopez appears, at best, a person with an extremely faulty memory and, at worst, someone who is downright dishonest.

On the defense: The defense can take the position that most of the matters on which the prosecution attacked Lopez were either unimportant or otherwise explicable. Darden has made many accusations, but they must be proven to have impact. In their search for a motive for Lopez's alleged lies, the prosecution took a risk by eliciting testimony that Nicole Brown Simpson struck her maid. They may have damaged their victim in the eyes of the jury.

Compiled by TIM RUTTEN / Los Angeles Times

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