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Simpson Won't Get Police Help in Search for Killer : Probe: Officials say case is closed. Others note acquittal doesn't mean authorities must alter position.

October 05, 1995|PAUL LIEBERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In his first statement as a free man, O.J. Simpson called it nothing less than "my primary goal in life." And that was to do "whatever it takes" to find "the killer or killers who slaughtered Nicole and Mr. Goldman."

Well, he won't get much help from local law enforcement.

Despite the jury's verdict that Simpson was not guilty--and one panelist's flat declaration Wednesday that he "didn't do it"--police and prosecutors say they have no plans or obligation to reclassify the Brentwood murders as an open case.

"It's closed," said Los Angeles police spokesman Lt. John Dunkin. "It's not an unsolved case."

That position drew support from veteran Los Angeles prosecutors--and even defense attorneys--who said a not guilty verdict hardly means that law enforcement professionals set aside their own conviction that they got the right man.

"I think that everybody in the business knows who did it," said prosecutor Mike Carroll, who supervises major fraud cases. "If a man on the street has some lingering doubts, that doesn't make us change the official records or opinion about something."

He and others in law enforcement scoffed at Simpson's statement--read by Simpson's son on Tuesday--that the real killers of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Lyle Goldman "are out there somewhere," and that he would make it his mission "to identify them and bring them in."

"That's absurd," said Carroll, "that's public relations. . . . I'll tell you, I'll put up a million-dollar reward for the killer, too. . . . [Simpson will] never have to pay it."

Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti responded similarly when asked, soon after the verdict, whether the murder investigation would be "reopened from Square 1."

"We all stand in front of you," Garcetti replied, flanked by the prosecution team, "with the belief that the evidence was there. This was not in our opinion a close case."

Simpson's attorneys obviously disagree--but have no illusions that police will suddenly reopen the case.

"I think Mr. Simpson sincerely wants to do everything in his power to identify the real killers," defense attorney Carl Douglas said. "Because he is not that person."

As Douglas sees it, Simpson is likely to be foiled because of police stubbornness and prosecutorial defensiveness.

"He has no sophistication with the criminal justice system. He doesn't appreciate how difficult it will be to effectuate his sincere hope and desire," Douglas said. "Meaning, if the cops don't want to look, nothing O.J. is going to do is going to change their attitude. . . .

"He's naive. . . . He doesn't appreciate that they are not going to do anything else . . . because they think he is the real killer."

Prosecution and defense veterans agreed that the Simpson outcome was highly unusual. For although scores of criminal trials end in not guilty verdicts, few murder suspects are set free after maintaining that they had absolutely nothing to do with the crime. The successful defenses, they said, more frequently involve some explanation for the killing, such as that it was provoked--as the Menendez brothers argue--or just an accident. Or the defense, without overtly claiming their client was utterly uninvolved, may win simply by poking holes in the prosecution's level of proof.

"I've lost cases in my career," said Michael J. Montagna, a 25-year veteran of the prosecutor's office, "[but] I've never ever had a case where I felt the man was not guilty. . . . I've had cases where I felt the evidence was very thin [and] you can understand where reasonable jurors might acquit."

In none of the cases, Montagna said, did he ask police to look for other suspects.

Nor did Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives reopen their investigation in 1990 after Hacienda Heights gynecologist Khalid Parwez, represented by Leslie Abramson, was found not guilty of strangling and dismembering his 11-year-old son, whose body parts were found in a dumpster.

The doctor was cheered by jurors after the verdict in Pomona Superior Court and some members of the panel made it clear that they were not freeing him merely because prosecutors had fallen short in their proof. "We feel an innocent man has been put through hell," one juror said.

Nevertheless, "we were absolutely convinced," said Capt. Dan Burt, who heads the sheriff's Homicide Bureau. "[There was] a tremendous amount of evidence . . . fingerprints on a plastic bag . . . [and] whoever did the dissection had to have a medical background."

Burt said that only the strongest murder cases ever make it to a jury, because prosecutors "almost hold a mini-hearing or trial" before agreeing to go to court.

"We certainly have our share of acquittals," he said. ". . . The message to us is 'you probably caught the right guy, but you didn't catch him good enough.' "

Yet that was not the message Simpson case juror Brenda Moran sent out to authorities Wednesday. She would not speculate on who the killer was, but emphasized: "I know O.J. Simpson didn't do it."

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