Simpson lawyers hammer at `cover-up'
Gale Holland; Jonathan T. Lovitt
LOS ANGELES - O.J. Simpson's defense Thursday hit hard on its claim of a
police cover-up, focusing on the possibility that police mishandled an important
piece of evidence - a vial of the defendant's blood.
But later in questioning by prosecutor Hank Greenberg, police scientist Dennis
Fung denied that he was involved in any kind of cover-up.
Prosecutors will resume questioning Fung today.
"Right now there's a great deal of intrigue," says Loyola University law professor
Laurie Levenson, "but whether it will end up a conspiracy will have to wait until
the end of re-direct (questioning)."
Today "should be a very exciting day," she says.
Earlier Thursday, defense lawyer Barry Scheck, questioning Fung, zeroed in on
Fung's documents and notes to make a case for police conspiracy.
Without a witness or murder weapon, the prosecution is relying on genetic
testing of blood from the crime scene and Simpson's estate to prove Simpson
killed his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman June 12.
Simpson has pleaded innocent.
Police drew a vial of blood from Simpson the day after the killings. Detective
Philip Vannatter said he took the vial from police headquarters and drove it to
Simpson's estate to give to Fung - an action Fung has agreed is highly unusual.
Scheck focused on how the vial was handled, charging that Fung didn't get it
from Vannatter at the time that both testified he did. The defense has said
Vannatter kept the blood and sprinkled it on evidence.
"It's really heavy-duty stuff," says Southwestern University law professor Robert
Pugsley. "He's raised serious questions in the jury's mind about where that blood
vial really is. It raises serious doubts about the presence of vital evidence."
Defense lawyers "took their biggest step today in showing a conspiracy,"
"What this does is show that officers are lying about critical blood evidence,"
says UCLA law professor Peter Arenella.
Scheck pressed Fung on when he received the blood from Vannatter, after
getting Judge Lance Ito's approval to use news videos of the scientist's departure
from Simpson's estate June 13. Scheck said the tapes prove Fung didn't put the
vial in his truck June 13, as he said he did.
"You realized you had been caught in a lie?" Scheck asked.
"No," Fung replied.
But Fung did backtrack from previous testimony. He said that he didn't carry an
envelope holding the vial, that it was taken in a plastic bag by criminalist Andrea
Later, Scheck bored in on conflicting times recorded for the handoff of the blood
vial. He said Fung logged in receiving the blood at 5:20 p.m., but Mazzola wrote
that they left Simpson's estate at 5:15 p.m.
Scheck also asked Fung if he changed records about when he received the blood.
Scheck noted one page of Fung's six-page crime scene checklist report did not
bear staple marks as the other pages did, suggesting it was not the original.
"That's because it had the wrong time on it" about the blood, Scheck said.
Fung stuttered but quickly said, "No, that's not true."
Later, under prosecution questioning, Fung said he innocently switched the
"What Scheck is driving at is to create an opportunity for Vannatter, (Detective
Tom) Lange and (Detective Mark) Fuhrman to use portions of the blood vial to
fabricate evidence," Pugsley says.
He says Scheck's questioning of Fung raises new doubts about blood-stained
socks on Simpson's bedroom floor and blood in Simpson's Bronco.
"If (Scheck) can establish a break in the chain of custody, he can use that to
invalidate DNA samples," Pugsley says.
PHOTO,b/w,Sam Mircovich; PHOTO,b/w,Lee Celano