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Fuhrman Grants Interview, Apologizes for Slurs

October 08, 1996|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In his first in-depth interview, retired Los Angeles Police Det. Mark Fuhrman says he apologizes "from the bottom of my heart" for using a racial slur but insists that he is not a racist and asserts repeatedly that he did not plant evidence in the O.J. Simpson murder case.

In an interview with ABC-TV's Diane Sawyer, part of which will be aired tonight on "PrimeTime Live," Fuhrman also remarks on the turn of events that saw him plead no contest last week in Los Angeles Superior Court to a sole felony count of perjury: "Twenty years catching felons. Now I am one."

And he says the portrait of him that has emerged in the media is distorted: "I've had an autopsy done on me for two years--personally, professionally--and it's been grossly unfair. Nobody's reported my victories, my accomplishments, my true personality--the way I treat all people."

Fuhrman, the erstwhile star prosecution witness in the Simpson murder trial, had repeatedly turned down interview requests for the past two years. His interview with Sawyer is scheduled to run in two segments--the first tonight, the second next spring when his book is due to be released.

Even with a book in the works, Fuhrman nonetheless says he wishes he could escape the notoriety that led him to leave Los Angeles for a new home in Idaho.

In transcripts obtained Monday by The Times, Fuhrman says: "I don't like doing this interview. I don't like having people pick me out on the street. I don't like the status--good, bad or indifferent. I don't like it. I want my private life back, and I'm never going to have it."

In the lengthy interview with Sawyer, however, he recounts his childhood--growing up in a small town in Washington, he says, he wanted to be an artist--and his 20 years as a police officer.

He assesses his LAPD career this way: "I had all the tools to do the job, but too much passion and sensitivity inside to understand that I couldn't go the distance."

Sawyer says: "I can hear a lot of people at home snorting at the idea that Mark Fuhrman says he was too passionate and sensitive for anything."

"You asked," he responds. "I'm just being truthful with you."

And, book deals aside, he puts forth another motivation for talking with her: "It's nobody's fault about . . . anything [that's] happened to me except for me. I take full responsibility for my life and my career. I'm not here to point blame at anybody. I'm not even here to clear this slate. I'm just here to say it."

Fuhrman says repeatedly that he did not plant evidence, at one point remarking: "There was never a shred, never a hint, never a possibility--not a remote, not a million-, not a billion-to-one possibility--I could have planted anything. Nor would I have a reason to."

He adds: "They say it was because I was a racist. I'm not a racist."

Though he testified that he had not used the "N-word" for the prior 10 years, that testimony was later contradicted by four defense witnesses, including aspiring screenwriter Laura Hart McKinny, who provided tape recordings of Fuhrman using the slur at least 41 times and bragging about illegal and unethical conduct.

About his testimony early on that he had not used the slur, Fuhrman tells Sawyer, "I don't think I intended to lie."

He explains later, "I never remembered those tapes. I was trying to do a screenplay. It was a misplaced effort and I did it the wrong way. I'm sorry for that.

"And not because I got caught on tape. Not because somebody that I thought [of] as a friend and a co-worker at this project gave them up. I'm sorry I ever did them because it embarrasses me and I'm ashamed of that.

"But that doesn't mean I decided that I was gonna make this homicide an extension of some bizarre conspiracy. That's ridiculous."

Asked by Sawyer what he thinks the "N-word" means and when it should be used, Fuhrman says: "It shouldn't be used. And I'm sorry to be the one to bring it to the forefront in such a grossly insensitive way."

When he heard about the tapes, Fuhrman says, he was in Idaho. "My heart sunk down to my stomach. Because I truly did remember then."

Sawyer asks: "Did you call [prosecutors] Marcia Clark, Chris Darden and say . . . "

Fuhrman interrupts to answer: "They wouldn't take my call. They wouldn't even talk to me."

"When you had to go in and plead the 5th Amendment," Sawyer asks, "in front of everybody, how painful?"

"You'll never know."

Asked if he believes Simpson was acquitted because of him, Fuhrman replies: "No. I was a lamb. I was an excuse. I was a reason the jury latched on to so they could feel good about themselves. They sat down knowing they were never going to convict that man."

He also says he opted to enter a no-contest plea--over the objections of his attorney, who wanted to fight the charge--because he didn't have the money to wage a long court battle and didn't want to put his family through such a trial. "And lastly, and I bet probably the most important, I don't think the city of Los Angeles either deserves or could handle a trial like this. And I cut my losses and everybody else's."

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