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Simpson Case Focuses on Gloves and Shoes

Trial: Spokeswoman denies reports that intern filed harassment claim.

November 07, 1996|STEPHANIE SIMON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Attorneys sought to tie O.J. Simpson to a killer's distinctive shoes and gloves Wednesday by showing photos of him apparently wearing the same expensive brands that experts have linked to the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

One of the plaintiffs' photos--trumpeted in their opening statement--showed Simpson walking through the end zone of a football field. The significance of the shot was not explained to jurors Wednesday, but the plaintiffs have promised to prove that Simpson's shoes are the same size and style as the Size 12 Bruno Maglis that tracked bloody footprints through the murder scene. Simpson has said under oath that he does not recall wearing Bruno Maglis.

Although the plaintiffs have cited the shoe photo as among their most important new evidence, the testimony lacked sizzle. Instead of a live witness, the plaintiffs presented a video of the photographer, Harry Scull Jr., testifying under oath at a pretrial deposition in New York.

The defense has vowed to unmask the photo as a phony through expert testimony about forgery marks. That battle, however, will come later. On Wednesday, the testimony was weighed down by so much technical jargon about photography that at one point the judge demanded: "Do we have to listen to three hours of this? Who cares how many rolls of film he's got or what order the contact sheet goes in?" To speed things up, the lawyers reenacted the defense's lengthy cross-examination of Scull instead of playing the jerky, hard-to-hear video.

Wednesday's session opened with yet another reenactment as lawyers read aloud transcripts of the criminal trial testimony of several witnesses who had taken photographs of Simpson wearing tight-fitting leather gloves. An expert later identified the gloves in the snapshots as the same style as the bloodied Aris Isotoner Leather Lights found at the crime scene and at Simpson's estate.

The defense fought back by playing a videotape of Simpson trying on bloody gloves during last year's criminal trial--and by freezing the film on the unforgettable image of Simpson holding up his hands in front of the jury box to let everyone see the leather bunched up around his broad palms.

That demonstration became a powerful symbol for Simpson's defense in the criminal case, summed up by defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." Several jurors cited the too-tight gloves as a key reason for acquitting the former football star.

To counter the video, expert witness Richard Rubin, the former general manager for Aris Isotoner, testified that the bloodied gloves did fit Simpson. The fit, he said, was of "poor quality," because the gloves had shrunk 10% from the standard extra-large size, "but they fit."

While he testified, Rubin smoothed out, tugged on and tried on the bloody gloves, at one point drawing an objection from defense attorney Robert C. Baker, who demanded that he stop pulling on the taut leather.

In the criminal trial, when the evidence was treated with reverential precaution, Simpson was ordered to use latex liners under the gloves. Rubin, who did not put on liners before trying on the gloves Wednesday, said the liners could have affected the fit on Simpson.

But neither side seemed eager to conduct a live experiment without the liners. So Simpson remained in his seat, watching stone-faced as others discussed the size of the bloody gloves, which looked much less stiff and wrinkled than they had at the criminal trial.

Outside of court, public information officer Jerrianne Hayslett denied a published account that an intern under her supervision had accused Simpson of sexual harassment.

A USA Today story published Tuesday reported that the intern felt frightened because Simpson had harassed her, asking her on a date and making crude comments about her in public. Hayslett refused to discuss the USA Today story in detail, but insisted that "the court intern has never made any allegations of harassment to anyone."

USA Today said it stood by its story when questions were raised Tuesday. Officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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