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THE SIMPSON VERDICTS : Shapiro Trades Criticism With Cochran and Bailey

October 04, 1995|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite their mutual success in securing not guilty verdicts for O.J. Simpson, "Dream Team" defense attorney Robert L. Shapiro traded barbs with co-counsels Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. and F. Lee Bailey on Tuesday night in separate televised interviews.

Saying that he disagreed strongly with Cochran's decision to "play a race card" in the Simpson murder trial, Shapiro said he will never work with Cochran again.

"Not only did we play the race card, we dealt it from the bottom of the deck," Shapiro told interviewer Barbara Walters during an ABC News special.

Shapiro also said he was "deeply offended" by Cochran's comparison of former Detective Mark Fuhrman of the Los Angeles Police Department to Adolf Hitler, and by Cochran's contention that Fuhrman's racism was comparable to the Holocaust.

"To me, the Holocaust stands alone as the most horrible human event in modern civilization," Shapiro said. "And with the Holocaust came Adolf Hitler, and to compare this man in any way to a rogue cop, in my opinion was wrong."

Shapiro said that while Cochran "believes that everything in America is related to race, I do not. I believe there are certainly racial problems in this country, and I believe that peaceful solutions can help bring the races together."

Walters asked Shapiro if he would work again with Cochran.

"No," Shapiro replied.

Responding to Shapiro's statements, Cochran said Shapiro is possessed by "demons that need to be exorcised."

"He's somewhere at home, sulking and feeling bad," Cochran said during an interview aired on KNBC-TV. "We did not realize the damage it would do to his ego not to be lead attorney." The issue of race in the trial first surfaced in a July 25, 1994, New Yorker magazine article about Fuhrman based, in large part, on leaks from the Simpson defense team, which at that time was headed by Shapiro.

As the trial preparations progressed, Cochran was brought in and he eventually supplanted Shapiro as the head of the team. An increasingly disgruntled Shapiro was relegated to a secondary role.

Cochran soon found himself attempting to mediate a deepening feud between Shapiro and Bailey, former friends whose once-close relationship was torn asunder by allegations about the leaks within the Simpson team.

On Tuesday, Walters asked Shapiro how--before the rift developed--Bailey had been chosen to join the team.

"F. Lee Bailey had been an inspiration to me," Shapiro said. "It was my desire to have him behind the scenes, to rely on his great wisdom and his brainpower, but I did not feel he should be in the courtroom."

"So you did not want him there, and he was, and he did cross-examination?" Walters asked.

"That's correct," Shapiro replied.

"How do you feel about F. Lee Bailey today?" she asked.

"It's a very, very sad point in my life," Shapiro said. "This is a man who I had a very close relationship with, and I will never have a relationship with him."

"Would you work on a case again with F. Lee Bailey?" Walters asked.

"I will not talk to F. Lee Bailey again," Shapiro said.

Bailey responded on KNBC-TV, referring sarcastically to Shapiro's relative inexperience in major murder cases.

"For the past year, he's been looking for someone to interview him who wouldn't ask him if he'd ever tried a murder case before," Bailey said. "Finally, he found Barbara Walters." On another subject, Walters asked Shapiro why Simpson never took the stand in his own defense.

"O.J. always wanted to take the stand," Shapiro said. "At the end, there were several reasons why he didn't testify. . . .

"First, the trial would have been lengthened another three to four weeks. This was a jury that was exhausted. . . . This jury looked like they were ready to strangle the next lawyer. . . .

"The main reason, in my mind as a lawyer, is that in this case you have seen some of the greatest scientists, professional witnesses," Shapiro continued. "People who testify as part of their job. That's what forensics is about, get on the witness stand and be made to look foolish.

"If O.J. Simpson had testified and made one mistake, he would [have been] convicted."

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