Rebukes, criticism for Simpson defense

  Richard Price; Jonathan T. Lovitt


  USA Today


  Page 03A

  (Copyright 1995)


  LOS ANGELES - O.J. Simpson's defense attack on the way police collected

  evidence appeared to falter Wednesday, drawing rebukes from the judge and

  criticism from analysts.


  As defense lawyer Robert Blasier cross-examined police chemist Gregory

  Matheson for the second day, Judge Lance Ito repeatedly characterized questions

  as redundant and irrelevant.


  "This is the third witness who has testified to this," Ito said at one point. Later,

  he quashed a question by saying "common sense" suggested the answer.


  Matheson is the latest police investigator to testify about collection of evidence

  related to the killings of Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her

  friend, Ronald Goldman, June 12. Simpson has pleaded innocent.


  Some experts call it the defense's weakest day since the evidence battle began

  five weeks ago with forensics scientist Dennis Fung.


  Former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson, who had lauded defense lawyer

  Barry Scheck's cross-examination of Fung, was unimpressed.


  "Old territory," she says. "There may be some substance to the questions, but the

  jury's got to be saying, `Tell me something more.' "


  Unlike Fung, Matheson showed no nervousness. Downplaying allegations about

  sloppy techniques, Matheson smiled at many questions and made frequent eye

  contact with jurors.


  Again and again, Blasier asked about procedural errors, and while Matheson

  conceded points, he usually characterized the issues as minor or irrelevant to the

  outcome of tests. Examples:


  -- Although blood swatches collected by Fung and criminalist Andrea Mazzola

  weren't counted -- a disclosure that drew much attention during Fung's testimony

  -- Matheson shrugged it off: "I don't think it's vital information."


  -- Criminalists used pencil to fill in some crime reports and erasures were

  evident. The defense suggested possible tampering. Matheson conceded ink was

  preferable but also pointed out that pencils allowed erasures of mistakes while

  drawing crime scenes in the field.


  -- Blood samples were not booked into evidence until three days after they were

  collected. Matheson agreed faster was better but also argued the delay would not

  alter test results.


  -- Matheson admitted Goldman's blood-soaked shirt was improperly packaged

  while still wet. When he opened it in July, he said, "there was definitely an

  offensive odor." But Blasier drew no concession that the improper storage would

  alter a result.


  Experts say many of Blasier's questions offered no substance. Example:

  Matheson admitted that DNA evidence can be contaminated by someone

  sneezing or even by shedding dead skin, but Blasier elicited no testimony that

  such contamination actually occurred.


  In other matters:


  -- Ito re-scheduled until today a hearing on sanctions against both sides for

  failing to share evidence.


  -- Ito postponed a hearing on a prosecution bid to question Simpson friend

  Robert Kardashian about his handling of Simpson's luggage the day after the

  murders. The two sides will meet privately in an effort to compromise.


  -- Ito delayed judgment on a defense accusation that prosecution lawyer Rockne

  Harmon improperly spied on and questioned defense witnesses.


  -- Tracy Hampton, the juror who was dropped from the panel Monday and

  hospitalized Tuesday, was listed in stable condition and undergoing tests. There

  was no word on her ailment.


  -- Villard Books Inc. released O.J.'s Legal Pad, a fabricated rendition of

  Simpson's notes during the trial.


  The first item imagines a Simpson note to lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr.:


  Johnnie: Emergency!!! What leg did I limp on in front of the jury?


  Simpson, given the publication by Cochran, leafed through it quickly and handed

  it back.

  PHOTO,b/w,Vince Bucci