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The O.j. Simpson Murder Trial

Arenella, Levenson & Co.: The Legal Pad

March 23, 1995

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 attorney Gerald L. Chaleff, who will rotate with other experts as the case moves forward. Today's topic: Kato's big adventure.

PETER ARENELLA

On the prosecution: "Marcia Clark did an excellent job with Kato Kaelin, a witness who was not eager to offer any negative characterization of O.J. Simpson's demeanor, motivations or comments the night of the murders. Despite Kaelin's selective moments of memory loss and vagueness, Clark used him to broaden the time frame in which Simpson was unaccounted for and showed jurors that Simpson had hoped Kaelin could do just the opposite by supporting his alibi."

On the defense: "Robert Shapiro faces the unusual situation of cross-examining a prosecution witness who clearly doesn't want to hurt Simpson. Shapiro probably will focus his cross on the one area where the prosecution failed Wednesday: Simpson's demeanor the night of the murders. Shapiro probably will portray Simpson as a loving father who was understandably frustrated by the short time he could spend with his daughter before catching his plane."

LAURIE LEVENSON

On the prosecution: "It is almost impossible to believe that Kaelin is being fully honest in his testimony. He backtracked on some of his prior statements and Clark had to pull teeth to get him to admit anything beyond what he stated at the preliminary hearing. Clark successfully showed that Kato is Simpson's friend and, therefore, may be covering for him. The jurors must determine whether this is true or whether Kato just has an odd manner."

On the defense: "The defense is in a strange situation with a strange witness. Shapiro needs to undermine some of Kato's testimony--like his recollection of thumps on the wall--but he'll want to preserve Kaelin as a credible witness when he stated that Simpson was not unduly upset in the hours immediately before the murders. Therefore, Shapiro is likely to lead Kaelin gently through the cross-examination rather than attack him."

GERALD L. CHALEFF

On the prosecution: "Clark used Kaelin's testimony to put the focus back where she wants it--on Simpson's movements and motives, and she did it with a witness who didn't want to cooperate. He gives the timing of critical events and brought before the jury black clothing, a mysterious knapsack, the waiting limo driver and Simpson's physical condition. He establishes the fact that immediately after the murders, Simpson was concerned with an alibi."

On the defense: "This is a friendly witness. Kaelin offers the opportunity to present to the jury a kinder, gentler picture of Simpson than they thus far have heard. He can attest to the fact that Simpson's words and behavior that night were not uncommon in his marriage. But his testimony also seems to corroborate the police, and he obviously has made statements to others more harmful to Simpson than he was willing to testify to Wednesday."

Compiled by TIM RUTTEN / Los Angeles Times

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