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Acquit Simpson and Send Police a Message, Cochran Urges Jury : Trial: The verdict will talk about justice in America and whether officers are above the law, defense attorney says. 'It doesn't fit,' is his theme against prosecutors' assertions.

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

"Mark Fuhrman," Cochran said in a loud voice, nearly shouting with indignation, "is a lying, perjuring, genocidal racist."

Jurors, including a few whose focus had seemed to wander during the early part of the evening session, snapped back to attention. One panelist gazed at him saucer-eyed as he stormed through the final hour of his presentation.

Reminding jurors that Fuhrman had met O.J. and Nicole Simpson in 1985 when he responded to a domestic violence call at the Simpson home, Cochran said the now retired detective had determined he would get Simpson. Fuhrman, the lawyer charged, harbored that determination for nine years, and then exercised it on June 12, 1994, when he was called to respond to the double murder on Bundy Drive.

"He knew," Cochran said, "what he was going to do on this particular night."

Moreover, while Cochran cast Fuhrman as the most heinous of the officers in the case, the lawyer did not limit his criticism to him. Cochran also called Detective Philip L. Vannatter a liar--a contention reinforced with a chart labeled "Vannatter's Big Lies"--and suggested that other Police Department employees were part of a cover-up.

In addition, Cochran said prosecutors knew that Fuhrman was a liar and a racist and put him on the witness stand anyway. Imitating Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia Clark's voice, the defense attorney suggested that Fuhrman had received gentle, protective treatment by the prosecution. That, Cochran said, was evidence that the government lawyers shared responsibilities for their witness' lies.

Collectively, the police officers and other LAPD employees proved that the jury should not trust its "messengers," Cochran said. And, he added, "If you cannot trust the messenger, you cannot trust the message."

Darden Baits Simpson

Cochran rose to begin his argument after lunch Wednesday, taking the lectern from Darden, who wrapped up the prosecution's summation in the same fashion that he began his portion of it Tuesday: with a powerful and combative challenge to the defense team and Simpson.

"We have shown you that he would have killed, could have killed and did kill these two people," said Darden, his words echoing Simpson's famous statement last week, made outside the jury's presence, in which the defendant said he was confident that the jury would agree that he was not guilty.

As Darden neared the end of his argument, he pointed repeatedly to Simpson and seemed to bait him. Simpson shook his head angrily several times and consulted with his lawyers, murmuring comments to them under his breath as Darden stood a few feet away.

"He is a murderer," said Darden, whose colloquial and relentless closing argument won him plaudits from legal analysts and lay people alike. "He was also one hell of a great football player, but he is still a murderer."

Having started his description of the relationship between O.J. and Nicole Simpson the night before, Darden pounded out the final months of it Wednesday. "The fuse was burning," Darden repeated over and over, dramatically emphasizing the phrase as he built toward the climax of his presentation.

Early in the day, Darden played the 911 tape of Nicole Simpson calling the police for help on Oct. 25, 1993, as her screaming husband raged outside. Several jurors frowned, one bowed her head, closing her eyes in evident concentration, and another shifted her gaze back and forth between Darden and the grieving families of the two victims.

For the Brown family, the tape was particularly wrenching, as it depicts their sobbing daughter pleading for help as their son-in-law screamed epithets at her. Her mother, Juditha Brown, sat still, her hands joined in a steeple of prayer and her eyes filling with tears as her daughter's voice filled the courtroom. Lou Brown, Nicole's father, bent his head stoically and handed his wife a tissue, which she held in one hand.

Tanya Brown, the victim's sister, cried despite the consoling hugs of her boyfriend, who cradled her in both arms.

Although jurors had heard the tape before, Darden asked them to focus on certain aspects of it--points that he could raise in argument but not during the introduction of the tape into evidence.

For one thing, Darden said, it indicated Simpson's lack of concern for expressing his fury in front of his children: They were asleep in the house at the time of the 1993 incident, as they were in 1989 when Simpson battered his wife and in 1994 when she was killed.

"The fact that the kids are in the house," said Darden, his voice hard and contemptuous, "means nothing to this man." And after that incident, the prosecutor added, Nicole Simpson surely knew she was going to die: "She knows he's going to kill her at some point. She doesn't know at the time that she's got eight months to live."

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