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Mazzola's Testimony Drags to End

April 28, 1995|ANDREA FORD and JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In a meandering conclusion to her time on the witness stand in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, criminalist Andrea Mazzola fended off suggestions Thursday that she lied, and she told the jury she made no mistakes that could have contaminated evidence in the case.

Defense attorney Peter Neufeld, whose questioning of Mazzola took far longer than even he anticipated, drifted through an array of subjects in his final chance to grill her. By day's end, Neufeld had exasperated both the prosecution team and Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito, whose expressed desire to move the trial along was thwarted by the attorney's looping, repetitive style.

Ito repeatedly interrupted him, chastising him for raising one issue "over and over and over," and cutting off one line of questioning by saying: "You've made your point."

During one particularly pointed moment, Ito halted Neufeld in mid-sentence.

"Are you about to finish with your cross-examination?" Ito asked angrily. "Do you have anything new because cross-examination is about to end."

Despite that testy upbraiding in front of the jury, Neufeld plowed ahead, accusing Mazzola of exposing blood samples to cross-contamination in the Los Angeles Police Department laboratory and suggesting that she intentionally had tailored her testimony to cover up for her negligence and that of her colleagues. Neufeld also highlighted Mazzola's failure to initial certain items of evidence, despite earlier testimony in an August hearing in which she said she had.

Mazzola admitted that her earlier testimony was wrong, but denied Neufeld's suggestion that her failure was part of a larger LAPD cover-up of wrongdoing in the Simpson case.

Five days after the June 12 murders of Ronald Lyle Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, police arrested Simpson and he was charged with the crimes. He has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys have aggressively attacked the integrity of the investigation against their client.

Trying to repair any damage to Mazzola's credibility during her prolonged cross-examination, Deputy Dist. Atty. Hank Goldberg used his opportunity Thursday to suggest that even if the criminalist had made mistakes, they would not have affected the integrity of the evidence.

"Are there any mistakes that you can think of that you could have made that could have caused the blood at that location to somehow change into the defendant's blood?" Goldberg asked, prompting Neufeld to object.

Rephrasing his question slightly, Goldberg then asked: "Are they any mistakes that you can think of that you could have made that could have caused those stains to become contaminated in such a way that they . . . had the same genetic markers as the defendant's blood?"

Neufeld also objected to that question, so Goldberg continued: "Are you aware of any mistakes that you made, or could have made, to contaminate those stains?"

"No," she replied simply.

In Mazzola's waning hours on the stand, she disclosed one potentially important new tidbit of information: The criminalist said she had seen one of her colleagues take a vial of Simpson's blood out of a black plastic garbage bag on the morning of June 14, the day after the two criminalists collected much of the evidence in the case.

That observation is important because it bolsters the testimony of Mazzola's supervisor, Dennis Fung, who said he received that blood vial on the afternoon of June 13, placed it in the garbage bag and then removed it the following morning. Defense attorneys have tried to suggest that Fung actually received the blood on the morning of June 14, potentially important timing because it would have allowed a police detective a full night with Simpson's blood sample--time the defense alleges could have been spent tainting items with that blood.

The defense has not offered any evidence to support that allegation, and prosecutors have attempted to rebut it in two ways: by offering testimony that the transfer actually took place on June 13 and by conducting tests on the blood samples to determine whether they contain a special preservative. That preservative, known as EDTA, is added to samples drawn by the LAPD, so if it is present in the samples collected from the crime scene and Simpson's home, it would strengthen the defense's contention that those samples were stained with Simpson's blood sample.

Sources have said that tests performed so far have found no traces of the preservative, suggesting that the sample was not used to stain evidence.

More Juror Concerns

Despite a few new nuggets of information from Mazzola, the defense and prosecution themes presented Thursday were familiar, and Ito sustained objections by both sides objecting to the repetitive testimony.

The redundancies have worn Ito's patience, and apparently have risked losing the interest of some jurors as well.

A transcript of a sidebar conference released Thursday revealed that defense lawyers and Ito were concerned that one of the alternate panelists seemed uninterested in the testimony.

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