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The O.j. Simpson Murder Trial

Arenella, Levenson & Co.: The Legal Pad

September 28, 1995

UCLA law professor Peter Arenella and Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson offer their take on the Simpson trial. Joining them is defense lawyer John Burris, who will rotate with other experts as the case moves forward. Today's topic: The Chris and Johnnie show.


On the prosecution: "Chris Darden kept his 'eyes on the prize' and rose to the challenge with understated passion, quasi-religious metaphors and powerful word images. He replayed the October, 1993, 911 call to remind jurors of an earlier enraged O.J. driving to Nicole's home where he terrified her while their children were there. He highlighted Cochran's failure to present promised evidence, thereby producing an alibi defense without alibi witnesses."

On the defense: "Johnnie Cochran's mantra: 'If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.' The killer's gloves didn't fit. The police video showing no bloody socks in O.J.'s bedroom at 4:13 p.m. doesn't fit with a police log recording their seizure at 4:40 p.m. Why would the police frame an innocent black man? Cochran's answer: Fuhrman's racist vendetta and some code phrases: 'Don't be naive . . . You know how it feels to be falsely accused.' In short, you can't trust 'them.' "


On the prosecution: "He wasn't smooth, but he was sincere. Darden asked two questions that may be tough for Cochran to answer: If O.J. wasn't at the crime scene, where was he? If O.J. didn't commit these murders, who did? Darden wasn't going to let the defense get away with broken promises. He asked where are all the missing defense witnesses. He also warned jurors not to be fooled by a defense of smoke and mirrors. His battle cry was, 'Save Baby Justice.' "

On the defense: "Cochran was quite a showman. He started out being Mr. Nice Guy, but it didn't take long for him to launch personal attacks on Darden and his case. Cochran was best when he questioned the evidence, like how did the bloody glove get to the side of O.J.'s house? But he stretched the concept of reasonable doubt when he suggested the murders were a professional hit by killers out to get Ron Goldman and his envelope. Who needs eyeglasses that badly?"


On the prosecution: "Darden had a clear theme for the jury--I'm just 'the messenger' and in the face of this evidence what can a messenger do but deliver the bad news. He was telling the jurors, 'You have to look at this man and say regardless of how charming he was, the evidence is he killed this woman and her friend and we have to convict him.' Darden recognized that you can't depersonalize O.J. Simpson and he met the persona of Simpson head-on."

On the defense: "Cochran gave a Picasso-like performance. He painted a strong picture of tainted evidence and lying police officers. Johnnie is particularly emotional when he talks about police misconduct; he clearly showed the jurors it is at the core of his being, and he was very effective when he told them that they were the last bulwark standing between police misconduct and the Constitution."

Compiled by HENRY WEINSTEIN / Los Angeles Times

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