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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

This Big Trial a Stark Contrast to You Know Whose

July 03, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

I thought the "O.J. trial" would never end. It dragged on for months and months, before O.J. Simpson was found innocent of murder and set free so he could go track down the real killer.

I feel as if the "Cosby trial" just began. But in the blink of an eye, it is already virtually over. Jurors will decide in a few days whether they have just seen the trial of Ennis Cosby's real killer.

Sometimes, justice is slow and blind.

Other times, it goes by so quickly, it's all a blur.

It was just June 22 that opening statements were made by lawyers in the Cosby trial. The prosecution rested its case a week ago. The defense rested Thursday.

Eleven days.

And that counts a weekend in between--plus a two-day break Monday and Tuesday, after the prosecution wrapped its case sooner than expected.

Eleven days.

It took Marcia Clark and Johnnie Cochran 11 days just to clear their throats, I think.

I will be curious how long it takes in the Cosby case for a verdict to be reached. O.J.'s jurors got in and out as if they were double-parked.

*

A "high-profile" homicide can attract a lot of attention, but this one hasn't generated anything close to the frenzy that Simpson's murder mystery did.

In celebrity shorthand, one trial became known by the defendant's name, the other by the victim's.

The Cosby case didn't titillate the tabloids, as O.J.'s did.

It didn't draw celebrities into court. Bill Cosby himself--wisely, I'd say--skipped the trial, even though no man alive is more anxious about the result.

Legal celebrities were absent too. F. Lee Bailey wasn't consulted on this one. Henry J. Hall, who represents the accused, is a deputy alternate public defender.

So what was it?

What made the Cosby case so much less of a hot topic around the world, or at least around America's water coolers? A chance to follow the Simpson proceedings on television? The notion of a celebrity suspect?

Each case had a young, attractive victim, linked to a prominent individual. Each case had a defense lawyer who insinuated that police mishandled evidence, a witness tainted by discussing money with a tabloid, a rumor that the defendant had implicated himself while behind bars and even a race card, the N-word appearing in evidence introduced by the prosecution.

So why isn't this case daily Page 1 news worldwide?

I thought about some of the similarities while in court, watching Mikail "Michael" Markhasev--alias "Pee Wee" Markhasev--enter the room in his well-pressed suit, wrists cuffed behind his back.

Pee Wee is allegedly his street name, and if you took a look at Markhasev, you could see why. He's a dead ringer for that TV character of yesteryear, Pee-wee Herman. All he needs is a red bow tie.

The nickname is no joke.

A prosecutor has proposed that Markhasev wrote self-incriminating letters in jail, bearing the signature "Pee Wee." A detective took the stand Thursday to identify graffiti from Markhasev's courthouse holding cell, where "PWee" was said to be scrawled on the walls repeatedly.

The jury must decide one thing:

Did Pee Wee pull the trigger?

Because, as opposed to in O.J. Simpson's case, a second man has been suggested as the possible culprit. His name is Eli Zakaria, and he allegedly was with Markhasev on the night Cosby was killed while fixing a tire.

In the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, jealousy was offered as a motive. Markhasev's motive was presumably robbery, but the killer left behind $741.45 in Cosby's pockets and a Rolex on his wrist.

A robbery--being premeditated--could eliminate a convicted criminal's shot of ever getting out of prison.

It will soon be up to a jury whether Pee Wee will have plenty of time on his hands to write on walls.

*

This has been a fascinating case.

Pee Wee's mother even took the stand. In giving her 19-year-old son an alibi, Victoria Markhasev, also identified as Vicktoria Markhaseva, said under oath Thursday that he was helping her move to a new apartment on the night of the murder.

Funny, since she previously told police that Mikail had been out all night with his friends.

There were parents at the Simpson trial who had to endure months upon months of this kind of talk in court, waiting to see how it would all end.

At least Ennis Cosby's parents have been spared that.

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or phone (213) 237-7366.

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