Rebukes, criticism for Simpson defense
Richard Price; Jonathan T. Lovitt
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