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Expert Says No Fingerprints of Simpson Found

August 18, 1995|TIM RUTTEN and STEPHANIE SIMON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

None of the 17 fingerprints collected by investigators at the Bundy Drive condominium where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman were murdered belonged to O.J. Simpson, a Los Angeles police technician who analyzed the evidence testified Thursday.

In fact, fingerprint specialist Gilbert Aguilar, who was called as a witness by the former football star's attorneys, said the police knew on June 13, 1994, that Simpson's prints were not among those collected at the crime scene. Aguilar, a 17-year Police Department veteran, compared all the prints recovered in and around Nicole Simpson's Brentwood home to all samples available to the police.

Under questioning by lead defense counsel Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., Aguilar testified that nine prints found at Bundy Drive could not be matched with any known sample. Simpson's lawyers have argued that the murders were committed by unknown assailants and that Los Angeles Police Department detectives failed to pursue evidence of that possibility because they jumped to the conclusion that Simpson had murdered his ex-wife and her friend.

The jury followed Cochran's examination of Aguilar with obvious interest. When the veteran technician noted the absence of Simpson's fingerprints at the murder scene, all 12 jurors and both remaining alternates busily jotted in their spiral notebooks.

However, Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Darden launched his 25-minute cross-examination by asking Aguilar: "You wouldn't expect a person wearing leather gloves to leave any fingerprints, would you?"

Investigators recovered one bloodstained glove outside the Bundy Drive condominium and another from the grounds of Simpson's Rockingham Avenue estate.

Following up on another of Cochran's questions--why police failed to seek prints on the gloves themselves--Darden elicited Aguilar's testimony that it virtually is impossible to obtain prints from leather gloves or fabric in general. Moreover, the technician said, application of the chemicals used to reveal so-called latent prints would have made it impossible to test the blood with which the recovered gloves were soaked.

As interested as they appeared in Aguilar's brief but precise testimony, jurors seemed more attentive when Judge Lance A. Ito informed them that the defense plans to wrap up its case by the week of Aug. 28. The judge couched his announcement as part of what he termed "good news and bad news" for the panelists.

"The good news," Ito quipped, "is that there is light at the end of the tunnel." The bad news, he added, was that there would be no testimony today. He told the jurors that he would be working on a "legal issue" that would require him to put in "at least 30 hours of preparation."

*

The judge did not elaborate on the substance of that issue, but it is his review of those portions of former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman's tape-recorded interviews that the defense hopes to place in evidence.

Similarly, Ito did not inform the jurors of the issue that consumed most of Thursday's abbreviated proceedings, the question of whether the panel will be taken for a nighttime view of the Bundy and Rockingham scenes Sunday evening. Jurors have seen both sites in daylight.

In a debate that sometimes sounded like a meeting of the landscape committee at a condominium community, defense lawyer Carl Douglas and Deputy Dist. Atty. William Hodgman engaged in a spirited but generally good-natured debate over the desirability of a second jury tour of Brentwood.

Douglas argued that changes in lighting and foliage would make such a visit misleading and that the differences in moonlight and fog conditions between Sunday night and the night of the murders would further confuse things. He also insisted that if the visit is arranged, it ought to include an aural demonstration of the sound of clanging metal gates that one defense witness said he heard in the alley behind the Bundy scene about the time of the killings. Douglas also asked that small groups of jurors be conducted down the dark, narrow walkway where the glove was discovered on the grounds of Simpson's Rockingham estate.

Hodgman, who quipped that the defense's proposed demonstration would amount to "a gate lineup," told Ito that prosecutors were confident that they could restore the lighting and foliage at both locations to a state "substantially similar" to that which existed on the night of the crimes.

Ito accepted the prosecutor's representations and said, "I will conditionally order the nighttime viewing, so long" as changes in the lighting and foliage meet his approval on a "dry run," probably Saturday night.

Outside the courtroom Thursday, a defense of another sort also accelerated. Anthony Pellicano, an investigator employed by Fuhrman and his attorney, Robert Tourtelot, told reporters at a news conference outside his Sunset Boulevard office that the detective suffered "a mental block" when he denied under oath that he had used a racial epithet in the past decade.

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