A report Friday on the O.J. Simpson murder trial erroneously stated that a buyer for Bloomingdale's department store testified that a customer who signed the name "Nicole Brown" had bought two pairs of men's brown leather gloves, size extra large, in December 1990. In fact, the witness could not identify the color or size of the gloves from the sales receipt. (Published 6/20/95)
O.J. Simpson grimaced, shrugged and grumbled "too tight" to jurors as he struggled to shove his hands into the bloodstained leather gloves allegedly worn by the killer of his ex-wife and her friend.
In one of the most dramatic moments in this marathon double-murder trial, Simpson stood before the jury and pointedly squeezed, tugged and pulled the seemingly too-tight leather gloves over a pair of latex gloves he had to wear to protect the evidence. He then held up his gloved hands for jurors to see. Then at the prosecution's insistence, he took a marking pen in his right hand and raised it to simulate holding a knife.
Jurors appeared transfixed, prosecutors downcast and defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. delighted as Simpson, looking angry and disgusted, pulled off the leather gloves and handed them to prosecutor Christopher Darden. He resumed his seat at the defense table, ripped off and wadded the latex gloves and threw them on the table with a look of irritation.
The moment amounted to an enormous gamble by Darden, who had insisted that Simpson try on the extra-large gloves in hopes of showing that they clearly fit the hands of the celebrity defendant.
"This was a very, very important day for us," proclaimed Cochran, in a news conference after court, because the glove demonstration proved that the prosecution's case is "preposterous."
"Mr. Simpson couldn't put those gloves on because they're too small . . . they just don't fit. The prosecution was hoisted by their own petard," he said. Prosecutors, following their usual practice, refused to comment after the session.
Darden had apparently counted on an easy fit to show that Simpson could have worn these gloves during the June 12, 1994, murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman.
"His hands should be able to fit into those gloves," said prosecution witness Richard Rubin, a former executive for Aris-Isotoner, manufacturer of the leather gloves, adding that the Latex gloves "appeared to be a factor" in Simpson's difficulty. He also suggested the leather gloves might have shrunk with age.
Judge Lance A. Ito sustained an objection when a dejected Darden asked Rubin if it appeared Simpson had used his thumb to make it difficult to pull on the gloves.
The leather gloves are key pieces of evidence for the prosecution. The left-handed glove was found beside the stabbing victims, presumably lost during the attack. A police detective said he found the right-handed glove in a rear walkway on Simpson's estate the next day. DNA tests showed that the glove found at Simpson's house had blood matching his and both victims.
A buyer for Bloomingdale's department store in New York had testified earlier that a customer who signed the name "Nicole Brown" had bought an identical pair of brown men's leather gloves, size extra large, in December 1990. Brenda Vemich said the gloves were easily identifiable by the type of leather, cashmere lining, stitching and a notch in the wrist. About 200 brown, extra-large pairs were sold, she said.
Cochran challenged her testimony, arguing there was no clear connection between the gloves purchased in 1990 and those in evidence.
The testimony followed the conclusion of testimony by the Los Angeles County coroner, who was on the stand for nine days. During a surprisingly brief cross-examination, Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran stuck firmly to his theory that the slayings were likely the quick, bloody work of one murderer.
Sathyavagiswaran conceded to defense attorney Robert L. Shapiro he could not be certain how many assailants were involved in the murders. And after Shapiro picked up a large knife and made a series of dramatic slashing motions, the coroner conceded he could not be certain that the attacker was right-handed.
Shapiro implied to jurors that they could dismiss much of the coroner's theories of the murders because Sathyavagiswaran was not present during the June 12, 1994, slayings.
"You are speculating," Shapiro suggested, as he politely but skeptically questioned Sathyavagiswaran about the coroner's interpretation of the manner and sequence of multiple stab wounds and bruises to both victims.
Nonetheless, Sathyavagiswaran insisted the most likely scenario was the single-killer theory he had outlined in eight painstakingly detailed days of direct examination. And he added he was certain that "the last wound on Nicole Brown Simpson had to be a right-handed person." The defendant is right-handed.
"Would you stake your reputation that all of the evidence is consistent with one killer, 6-2, 210 pounds, athletically built, with an element of surprise, and a single-edged, six-inch knife?" prosecutor Brian Kelberg asked loudly and dramatically on re-direct questioning, as the former football superstar watched from the defendant's seat.
"One person could have done all these injuries," replied the coroner, who concluded his testimony in the double murder trial after five hours of cross-examination.
Analysts said Shapiro's quick handling of the coroner reflected two intentions. One was to imply to jurors that the coroner's eight days of direct testimony was a lot of meaningless hot air. The other was the defense team's desire to speed the pace of the trial because it believes the present jury may be inclined to acquit the defendant.
Outside of court, the defense revealed plans to challenge any trial result other than an acquittal -- whether a conviction, hung jury or mistrial. Defense attorneys plan to argue in a hearing Friday that Ito abused his authority by dismissing 10 jurors without sufficient cause, playing into a prosecution scheme to target and remove jurors perceived as sympathetic to Simpson. "The specter of a mistrial haunts these proceedings," stated a defense motion released today.
The trial, now in its fifth month, has 12 jurors and only two alternates left and is expected to continue for at least two more months. The trial started with 12 alternates, but Ito has dismissed 10, most of them for allegations of juror misconduct.
Prosecutors signaled they intend to return to testimony about Simpson's allegedly abusive relationship with his ex-wife. In a written motion, they indicated they plan to call one witness who will describe how the celebrity defendant angrily slammed Nicole Simpson against his Bentley automobile in January 1994. Another witness, a part-time babysitter, will testify that O.J. Simpson obsessively stalked his ex-wife and called her repeatedly on the phone -- as many as 50 times in two hours one weekend, according to the motion.
CAPTION: O.J. Simpson holds up his hands to show the jury the gloves that the prosecution says he wore while killing his ex-wife and her friend.
CAPTION: Robert L. Shapiro wields a knife during cross-examination as he demonstrates how the weapon could have been held. (Photo ran in an earlier edition)