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THE SIMPSON LEGACY / LOS ANGELES TIMES SPECIAL REPORT : Trial & Error: FOCUS SHIFTS TO A JUSTICE SYSTEM AND ITS FLAWS : Weighing the Necessity of Change / How One Case May Reshape Criminal Justice in America : A Number of Tantalizing Mysteries May Never Be Solved : The little black bag, the tearful phone call, the burning candles, the outburst to Rosie Grier--these and other questions will invite speculation and theories for years to come.

October 08, 1995|HENRY WEINSTEIN | TIMES LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER

Who was at the other end of the phone line with a tearful Nicole Brown Simpson shortly before her brutal murder?

Just before the defense opened its case, Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. said he might call to the stand O.J. Simpson's then 8-year-old daughter, Sydney, who told police officers that she heard her mother crying on the phone shortly before she was murdered.

But Sydney was never asked to testify, and that conversation has now assumed its place among the remaining puzzles of the Simpson case.

"There sure are a lot of lingering mysteries," said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson.

Among the more intriguing:

* Why did Nicole Brown Simpson have candles lit at her condominium the night of the murders?

Los Angeles police officers testified that when they searched the condo after finding the brutally slashed bodies, they found lit candles in the master bathroom. Some friends of Nicole's said that she often lit candles in anticipation of romance, but nothing was ever revealed as to whether she was expecting a visitor that night.

* What did Nicole say to representatives of Sojourn, a battered women's shelter, five days before her death?

Prosecutors alleged that Nicole called the shelter to say her ex-husband was stalking her, but shelter representatives resisted turning over any records, saying it would breach confidential relationships with clients. Ultimately, Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito ruled that admitting any such records would be improper hearsay evidence.

* What is Dr. Lenore Walker's opinion of O.J. Simpson?

In Cochran's opening statement, he said that Walker, a nationally recognized expert on domestic violence, would testify that Simpson did not exhibit the signs of a wife batterer. But Walker never testified, and none of her reports were ever made public.

* What happened to Simpson's little black bag?

Kato Kaelin testified that he offered to put a little black knapsack of Simpson's into the limousine just before Simpson departed for the airport on June 12, 1994. But Kaelin said Simpson insisted on putting the bag into the car himself. The bag was unaccounted for when Simpson returned from Chicago.

* What did former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman say to prosecutors during a pre-testimony prep session?

Simpson's lawyers sought to get details of a meeting that Fuhrman had with the district attorney's office where he reportedly was asked if he had ever used racial epithets. Prosecutors turned over material about the session to Ito, but the judge ruled that there was nothing relevant that had to be turned over to the defense.

* What did Simpson say to Rosie Grier during an emotional jailhouse outburst on Nov. 13, 1994?

A few weeks later, the National Enquirer reported that Grier, a former star defensive lineman for the Rams who was ordained as a minister in 1986, told Simpson that to get mercy and salvation, he had to level with God and admit his shortcomings, whereupon Simpson allegedly blurted out, "I did it!" But Simpson's lawyers maintained that a deputy sheriff who said he heard the statement caught only a snippet of the conversation and took it out of context. Eventually, Ito ruled that the remark should remain confidential because Simpson had been led to believe that the area where he and Grier met was private.

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