Hard Knocks

2 minute read

Defense lawyers offered a feisty performance in the courtroom, but the most significant action in the O.J. Simpson case last week was conducted behind closed doors — and there the defense team took a hammering. In one instance, Simpson’s lawyers were rebuffed when they tried to punish prosecutors for seeking evidence against Simpson from testimony in a grand jury investigating his friend Al (“A.C.”) Cowlings, the driver of the fleeing white Bronco. The defense was responding to District Attorney Gil Garcetti’s earlier statement that his team would not ignore “other evidence that comes out that assists us in another case.”

In a further setback, the defense was denied immediate access to blood samples for DNA testing after arguing that the prosecution had acted in bad faith when a police crime lab withheld some for future testing. In a ruling released last Friday, Judge Lance Ito acknowledged that the prosecution’s handling of the blood evidence was a “picture of confusion, miscommunication and noncommunication between the prosecuting attorneys and LAPD.” But, he said, the performance “does not rise to the level of bad faith or misconduct.”

The fight made clear how ferociously the defense will attempt to discredit the DNA evidence once the trial gets under way. Last Monday the prosecution disclosed that two different DNA tests had turned up a genetic match between Simpson’s blood and the trail of blood droplets leading from the site where Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman were slain. This sent defense lawyers scrambling to demonstrate that various samples had been mishandled and might be contaminated. Under questioning, Andrea Mazzola, a novice police lab technician, said that her work in Simpson’s driveway had been unsupervised by a senior technician and that she had made minor clerical errors in labeling the samples.

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