O.J.'s alibi: Time means everything

  Richard Price; Jonathan T. Lovitt


  USA Today


  Page 09A

  (Copyright 1995)


  LOS ANGELES - At 9:35 p.m. on June 12, 1994, Brian "Kato" Kaelin left O.J.

  Simpson standing alone in the driveway of his estate. At 10:03 p.m., phone

  records show, Simpson made two calls to the home of his girlfriend, Paula



  And that was the last anyone saw or heard of Simpson until just after 11 p.m.,

  when he finally answered limo driver Allan Park's persistent buzzing at his front



  That missing time on the night Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman

  were slashed to death will be the battleground for the alibi defense that Simpson's

  lawyers are planning to throw against double-murder charges.


  Defense lawyers start with three burdens, experts say:


  -- First, multiple witnesses said Nicole Simpson's dog, Kato, began wailing at

  about 10:15 p.m. and continued barking until a neighbor discovered him with

  bloody paws at 10:55.


  If the murders occurred at 10:15 as the prosecution contends, that would have

  given Simpson plenty of time to change clothes, dispose of evidence and make it

  home by 11:00.


  -- Second, the defense must overcome the testimony of Park, who arrived at

  Simpson's estate at 10:22 and began buzzing at 10:40. Simpson, who had made

  the limo appointment for 10:45, didn't answer until just after Park says he spotted

  someone Simpson's size walking in the estate's front door at 11:00.


  The prosecution's implication: Simpson was not home because he had committed

  the murders.


  -- Finally, the defense has inconsistencies to erase.


  Park testified that when Simpson answered the intercom, he said he had

  "overslept and he just got out of the shower." When Simpson talked to police the

  next day, he said he had been "running around" his room packing for the flight to



  Then defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr. said Simpson actually was in the front

  yard practicing golf shots in a sand box in the dark.


  Cochran's statement is "incompatible" and "could be a lot of trouble for them,"

  says former Los Angeles district attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted the

  Charles Manson murders.


  But Cochran's version at least would explain Simpson's absence from the house.

  "If (defense lawyers) can show he was chipping golf balls when the murders

  happened, that's a great alibi," says lawyer Richard Hirsch, a friend of Simpson

  lawyer Robert Shapiro. "But they'll need somebody to establish that it actually



  Defense lawyers have another opening. They can try distracting the jury from

  10:15 as the time of death - raising doubts about the credibility of the tight



  Cochran says he'll call a couple who he says strolled past Nicole's condo at 10:25

  and saw no signs of trouble. Another witness apparently will testify he heard

  someone fighting near her condo at 10:40.


  The defense wants to show that prosecutors are guessing about time of death. If

  Simpson committed murder after 10:40, some jurors will find it hard to believe

  he could have disposed of a weapon and bloody clothes and gotten back in time

  to meet his limo driver.


  Tinkering with the time also matters because of Rosa Lopez, the former

  housekeeper for Simpson's next-door neighbor. In testimony taped during the

  prosecution's case, Lopez said she saw Simpson's Bronco parked outside his

  home after 10 p.m. She suggested it was long past 10:15, which makes her

  critical if jurors believe death occurred later rather than earlier.


  Although Lopez comes with credibility problems - she was caught fudging the

  truth on several points - the defense may need her.


  While Park couldn't swear the Bronco wasn't there, he recalled seeing the address

  on the curb where the Bronco would have been parked.


  Also, Simpson neighbor Charles Cale testified the Bronco was not parked there

  between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m.


  Bottom line: Most analysts believe the defense desperately needs at least a

  fragment of evidence that puts Simpson at home during the key hour. That

  became even more critical after Cochran said in opening statements he could

  prove an alibi.


  Says Hirsch: "He promised an awful lot, and he'll have to deliver."