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

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

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

Meanwhile, as Simpson began the Herculean task of reassembling his shattered life, the mother of Nicole Brown Simpson said she has come to terms with the acquittal of the man accused of killing her daughter.

"Blood is thicker than anything," Juditha Brown said during an interview with The Times. "He is their father."

Kardashian said Shapiro had made the statement about a possible manslaughter plea during a defense strategy session early in the case. Kardashian said Shapiro discussed whether the man who became known as one of Simpson's best friends should implicate himself as an accessory to the slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

Kardashian said he vehemently objected. Explaining that the controversial strategy was proposed 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 said.

He 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 went no further, he said, and the prosecution was never involved.

Shapiro could not be reached late Thursday to confirm Kardashian's account of the strategy session. The account was not discussed during an interview with Shapiro on the "Larry King Live" show, broadcast Thursday night on the Cable News Network, but Shapiro did say reports that he had offered a plea bargain to the district attorney's office were "totally untrue."

Moreover, Shapiro has denied ever asking Simpson to consider a plea. "From Day One, O.J. told me he was innocent," Shapiro said earlier Thursday. "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 unequivocally 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 unequivocally demanding a trial and vindication."

Asked about Shapiro'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."

On another matter, Kardashian said Thursday that he never looked into the garment bag he was seen carrying at Simpson's home after Simpson returned from his trip to Chicago the morning after the murders.

And, 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, in taking another swipe at Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., said in an interview with People magazine that he believed the lead defense attorney 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, defense 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."

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.

Wachs estimated that upgrading the lab's equipment and facilities, retraining and expanding its staff and garnering accreditation would cost about $1 million upfront and $1 million annually, but said, "I'm willing to pay whatever the cost is." He suggested as one possible source the Narcotics Trust Fund.

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