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O.J. Simpson defense accused of tampering with bloody glove

Former prosecutor Christopher A. Darden says Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. manipulated the evidence, a charge that remaining 'dream team' members furiously deny.

September 11, 2012|By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times
  • O.J. Simpson displays the gloves to the jury. "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit," defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. told jurors
O.J. Simpson displays the gloves to the jury. "If it doesn't… (Sam Mircovich, Reuters )

Members of the O.J. Simpson defense "dream team" were back in action 17 years after the legendary murder trial, this time defending the name of their late colleague, Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.

It all started last week in New York, when former Simpson prosecutor Christopher A. Darden alleged to a law school audience that Cochran tampered with the infamous "bloody glove," a key piece of evidence in the murder case.

During the trial in the stabbing deaths of Simpson's former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Lyle Goldman, Simpson tried on bloody gloves. He held up his hands in front of the jury box to let everyone see the leather bunched up around his broad palms; they wouldn't fit. That demonstration became a powerful symbol for the defense, summed up by Cochran: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."

Simpson was found not guilty.

During a panel discussion about the trial Thursday at Pace Law School in New York City, and later in an interview with Reuters, Darden suggested that the glove was manipulated by the defense.

"I think Johnnie tore the lining. There were some additional tears in the lining so that O.J.'s fingers couldn't go all the way up into the glove," he said.

On Monday, Cochran's co-counsel on the Simpson case, Carl Douglas, expressed outrage at the claim and slammed Darden.

"He lost and he should get over it and go on with his life. It is an insult to the dignity and integrity of  one of the greatest lawyers in America to imply that he did anything unethical during that historic trial," Douglas said.

Douglas said he was intimately involved in the glove testimony and said there was no evidence the defense tampered with the evidence.

"We were under the watchful eye of a sheriff's deputy and court staff every moment the glove was being examined," he said. "The very first time Mr. Simpson placed his hand inside the murder glove was when all of America saw that it did not fit his massive hand. I am offended for Mr. Darden to suggest otherwise."

Another Simpson defense attorney, Shawn Holley, added: "Mr. Darden's self-serving assertion that Johnnie Cochran tampered with the glove — or any piece of evidence — is false, malicious and slanderous.… Almost 20 years later, it seems Mr. Darden is still trying to exculpate himself from one of the biggest blunders in the history of jurisprudence."

Darden declined to comment further to The Times on Monday.

The glove incident was seen as a pivotal moment in the 1995 trial.

At the time, Darden tried to explain how the glove would not fit Simpson by bringing in expert Richard Rubin, who "testified that moisture had caused the extra-large leather gloves to shrink nearly a full size and lose much of their elasticity," according to a Times report. Rubin said "the gloves in their original condition would easily go onto the hand of someone of Mr. Simpson's size."

Rubin testified that gloves can shrink up to 15% if they are drenched in moisture. Even if they are stretched, gloves could never return to more than 92% of their original size, he said.

"These gloves," Rubin said, "will never return to their original size and shape."

During the trial, prosecutors tried to prove that the gloves were purchased at Bloomingdale's by Nicole Simpson and that O.J. Simpson used them in the slayings. The left-handed glove was found outside the town house of Nicole Simpson, a short distance from her body and that of Goldman. The right-handed glove was found on Simpson's estate. Both were smeared with blood, but the only DNA results came from the right-hand glove, which contained genetic material consistent with both victims and with O.J. Simpson. In both the civil and criminal trials, defense attorneys argued that former LAPD Det. Mark Fuhrman planted the glove at Simpson's house.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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