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The O.j. Simpson Murder Trial

Arenella, Levenson & Co.: The Legal Pad

August 22, 1995

Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson offers her take on the Simpson trial; UCLA law professor Peter Arenella has the day off. Levenson is joined USC Law Professor Erwin Chemerinsky and former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner. Today's Topic: LAPD's evidence-collection is attacked anew, while everyone waits for the Fuhrman tapes.


On the defense: "In case jurors didn't get it earlier, the defense called an expert to criticize the LAPD's evidence-collection. Although Larry Ragle's testimony didn't add much, Bob Blasier peppered his questions with repeated references to Mark Fuhrman. With these reminders, jurors might think Fuhrman is more important than originally thought. As for their bid for the tapes, defense lawyers got an F on their first draft, but Ito is giving them another chance.

On the prosecution: "Hank Goldberg did what he had to do with Ragle: he showed him to be an expert who has not touched a crime scene for years and is unfamiliar with leading textbooks on crime-scene investigation. More important, Goldberg used Ragle to confirm that it is meshugah to think that the Rockingham glove contaminated the evidence at Bundy. Ragle testified about bad practices but he didn't show that any of the evidence actually was compromised."


On the defense: "A question is not evidence, even when the questions are as powerful as Barry Scheck's to Dennis Fung about crime scene errors. The defense used Larry Ragle not to cover new ground, but to provide an expert's opinion that many mistakes were made in gathering and preserving evidence. As to the Fuhrman tapes, a mistake in page numbering is embarrassing, but unlikely to affect their admissibility."

On the prosecution: "Goldberg's cross-examination of Ragle emphasized what are sure to be key themes of the prosecution's closing argument: criminalists often disagree; and, more importantly, errors in collecting evidence only matter if it can be shown that they undermine the reliability of the evidence. On the Fuhrman tapes, Marcia Clark's revelation that some tapes have been erased indicates one argument that the prosecution will make against their admissibility."


On the defense: "Talk about the LAPD crime lab being careless: the defense's first five citations of racial epithets in the Fuhrman transcripts were wrong. Ito tried hard to find the right page but eventually threw up his hands, branding the motion 'incoherent.' Still, if the defense gets it right next time, no problem. With the tapes' specter hanging over the trial, Ragle's testimony seemed anti-climactic. Both sides appeared to be treading water."

On the prosecution: "If there are 30 racial epithets and 18 references to misconduct, one erased tape won't benefit the prosecution much because Laura McKinny could testify about what was on that tape. The prosecutors have to completely dissociate themselves from Fuhrman. Clark has to go after Fuhrman with ferocity as someone who lied to the the prosecutors, lied to the jury, lied to God and country. There are no half-way measures that will work here."

Compiled by HENRY WEINSTEIN / Los Angeles Times

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