Simpson defense portrays evidence as tainted

  Jonathan T. Lovitt ; Gale Holland


  USA Today


  Page 03A

  (Copyright 1996)


  LOS ANGELES -- Lawyers for O.J. Simpson used the first full day of their

  defense Tuesday to try to portray police and crime lab witnesses as conspirators

  and bunglers.


  Their goal is to revive suggestions of evidence-planting and contamination that

  were central to Simpson's defense against charges of murder in the deaths of his

  ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.


  Simpson was acquitted. He now is the defendant in a civil trial. The plaintiffs,

  parents of the victims, sued for damages.


  Simpson's lawyers relied on faces that became familiar to much of the nation

  during the televised criminal trial. Some altered their testimony slightly:


  Andrea Mazzola, the rookie technician who collected much of the crime-scene

  evidence, said she now is convinced that she didn't initial all the blood evidence.

  Earlier, she said she did. Criminal defense lawyers had used the lack of initials to

  argue that blood swatches were switched at the police crime lab.


  Police nurse Thano Peratis, who drew Simpson's blood sample the day after the

  killings, said his memory had weakened since the first trial.


  ``One of the side effects of the heart problem you had is memory loss?'' defense

  lawyer Robert Blasier asked.


  ``Yes,'' Peratis said.


  In the first trial, Peratis changed his story about whether he drew a full vial of

  blood from Simpson. The defense says blood taken from that vial was planted as

  evidence to implicate Simpson.


  Also on Tuesday, former Los Angeles police detective Philip Vannatter said he

  used an unsealed envelope to carry the Simpson blood vial to Simpson's estate.

  The defense says Vannatter planted blood there; the detective says he turned the

  vial over to a criminalist for testing.


  And former police detective Tom Lange denied that he ``rushed to judgment''

  against Simpson in order to enhance his record.


  ``You knew the LAPD had been under great pressure for not getting high-profile

  arrests; you wanted to arrest Mr. Simpson?'' defense lawyer Bob Baker asked.


  ``That's nonsense,'' Lange responded sharply.


  Lange will continue testifying today. He also argued with Baker about Mark

  Fuhrman, the detective who says he found the now-famous bloody glove on

  Simpson's property.


  Baker suggested that Fuhrman was alone long enough to have planted blood in

  Simpson's Ford Bronco.


  ``I don't know if he was ever out of my sight,'' Lange said.