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Shapiro Once Talked of Plea, Kardashian Says : Simpson case: He says the idea was speculation and was not taken to their client or prosecution.

October 06, 1995|BETH SHUSTER and JEFF BRAZIL | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Robert Kardashian, one of O.J. Simpson's closest friends, acknowledged Thursday that fellow defense team member Robert Shapiro at one point speculated whether Simpson should plead guilty to manslaughter if the prosecution ever offered a plea bargain.

On a day when Simpson began to stitch the fabric of his life--and finances--back together, Kardashian said Shapiro made the statement during a defense strategy session early on in the trial. As part of that scenario, Shapiro discussed whether Kardashian should implicate himself as an accessory to the slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

Kardashian said he vehemently objected to playing out such a plea scenario. Explaining that it was in a "what-if-the-prosecution-came-to-us" context, Kardashian said he told Shapiro: "Absolutely not. What would I plead to? I have done nothing."

The session was attended by a small group, including attorney Leroy (Skip) Taft and F. Lee Bailey.

Kardashian related that Shapiro said he was only throwing out ideas. "I told him that O.J. would never go for it, and it's not a subject to be brought up," Kardashian said.

The idea never went further, he said, and the prosecution was never involved.

Echoing earlier statements, Kardashian said he never looked into the garment bag he was seen carrying at Simpson's home after Simpson returned from his trip to Chicago.

Moreover, Kardashian said, "If [Simpson] came back from Chicago, knowing his house was ringed by reporters and the police were at his home . . . why would he bring bloody clothing--or whatever people think was in there--back to his home? If you think about it, it makes no sense.

"All I've done is be a friend," he said.

Shapiro could not be reached late Thursday to confirm Kardashian's account, but he has denied ever asking Simpson to consider a plea. "From Day One, O.J. told me he was innocent," Shapiro said earlier in the day. "I never asked him to plead anything other than not guilty."

Harvard Law School professor and defense team member Alan Dershowitz backed up Shapiro's account.

"I can say unequivocably that I never heard of any suggestion for a plea bargain, and I know for certain that if anybody ever even dared to suggest one to O.J., they would have been fired immediately," Dershowitz said.

Noting that he joined the defense team in mid-June, 1994, and participated in "most" of the defense meetings either by phone or in person, Dershowitz said: "O.J. was not thinking plea bargain, was not authorizing plea bargain. He was unequivocably demanding a trial and vindication."

Asked about Kardashian's comments, Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti said: "No one ever talked to any one of us in the D.A.'s office about a deal. We believed then and we still believe the evidence clearly proves murder. If they approached us about a manslaughter plea, we would have said no."

In another remarkable admission, Shapiro said in an interview with People magazine that he believed lead attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. had lost the case during his closing arguments, saying he thought the panel of 10 women and two men was "gonna give it to the defense up the wazoo."

While Cochran on Thursday appealed to the families of the victims to drop wrongful death lawsuits against the football great, Shapiro said Cochran's much-praised closing argument--a dramatic, zealous plea in which Cochran said it was the panel's civic duty to acquit Simpson--"patronized" the jury.

Stunned at Shapiro's comments to People, "Dream Team" member Carl Douglas refused to join the post-acquittal war of words.

"He said that?" Douglas said, pausing before adding, "I will choose not to dignify Bob's comments by offering a response, except to say that I'm flabbergasted, and I can't imagine why he is saying these things. I feel sorry for him. He apparently is far more troubled than even I imagined."

Against the backdrop of bickering and post-trial review:

* A Los Angeles city councilman called for reforms at the Los Angeles Police Department's much-maligned crime laboratory.

* The California State Bar launched an investigation into possible lawyer misconduct during the nine-month trial.

* Simpson struggled to find a taker for a series of pay-per-view interviews.

* Hundreds of lookie-loos continued to stake out Simpson's Brentwood mansion not knowing whether he is even there.

* Despite some early discussion of their verdict among some Simpson jurors, most clammed up and hired lawyers, refusing to talk unless they were paid.

* And U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno weighed in on possible ramifications of the Simpson verdicts, urging preservation of the current jury system.

Plan for Crime Lab

With Simpson's acquittal reviving longstanding criticism of the Los Angeles Police Department's crime lab, City Councilman Joel Wachs released a six-point plan to "immediately bolster" the troubled facility.

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