Prosecutors today suggested to jurors that some of the most powerful evidence against O.J. Simpson may be tiny, short brown hairs they say he shed as he struggled with and stabbed to death his ex-wife and her friend.
An FBI expert explained that a single brown hair, microscopically identical to Simpson's, was discovered on Ronald L. Goldman's bloody shirt, found twisted about his body, just a few feet from Nicole Brown Simpson's body.
Simpson's hair also is "consistent" with 12 hairs found inside a blue knit ski cap found beside the victims, testified Douglas W. Deedrick, a 23-year FBI veteran who supervises the agency's hair and fiber analysis unit.
Together the hairs are among the last pieces of the puzzle of circumstantial evidence that prosecutors have presented over more than five months of testimony. The prosecution contends that when the jurors put the pieces together in deliberations, they will conclude Simpson killed his victims while wearing the ski cap and leather gloves.
Deedrick also testified that hair from Simpson and both victims is consistent with hair found on a bloody glove discovered by police on the celebrity defendant's estate the morning after the murders.
Deedrick is the next to last witness in the prosecution's case. The last, scheduled to testify next week, will be Nicole Simpson's mother, Juditha Brown, the last person known to have spoken to her daughter by telephone before she was killed.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark tried to ask whether the short brown hairs on Goldman's shirt would fit the prosecution theory that Simpson held his victim from behind while stabbing him to death. But Judge Lance A. Ito, sustaining a defense objection, blocked Deedrick from answering.
Defense attorneys have long suggested Simpson's hairs were transferred to the crime scene by sloppy police investigators, who could have contaminated the area by taking a blanket from inside Nicole Simpson's condominium and placing it over her body. O.J. Simpson had visited her home on many occasions and could have left hair on the blanket that might have then floated onto the evidence, the defense suggested.
One defense attorney recently suggested that detectives who visited Simpson's home in the early hours after the murders may have picked up hairs from his furniture and unknowingly carried them back to the crime scene. The defense has also suggested that the bloody glove was purloined from the crime scene and planted at Simpson's house by a racist detective seeking to frame the former football superstar.
Ito, at the defense's request, prohibited Deedrick from telling jurors that that any hairs he compared "matched" those of the defendant and the victims, although that was the term the analyst used out of the jury's presence. The most he could say on the witness stand was that certain hairs were consistent with or could have come from the same source.
Nonetheless, prosecutors hope that the hair evidence will be more easily understood by jurors than the extremely technical DNA blood evidence purportedly linking Simpson to the murders.
"Every one on that jury . . . has hair. They can see it. They can feel it. They can touch it. This is infinitely more real and tangible for them than DNA, which is at best an abstraction for them," said Richard Greene, an attorney and jury consultant independently observing the trial.
However, he and others noted that Clark seemed oddly off-stride in her questioning, apparently confused by the number of hairs discussed at one point and not as forceful as usual in leading her witness toward dramatic conclusions. "There seemed to be some very sloppy preparation," Greene said.
Jurors focused intently on the testimony and the information depicted through microscopic photographs of the hairs, magnified 250 times. Simpson's hairs looked like large brown logs, shaded slightly darker on one side, which Deedrick said was a noticeable characteristic of the celebrity defendant's hair type.
Clark suggested through questions that the hair evidence supports the theory that Simpson first attacked and dazed Nicole Simpson, turned on and killed Goldman, and then returned to quickly finish off his his ex-wife. Deedrick said that Nicole Simpson's hair was consistent with 35 "forcibly removed hairs" found on Goldman's shirt.
Deedrick also testified that Nicole Simpson's dog, named Kato, could have been the source of dog hairs found on the bloody glove. That fits the prosecution theory that Kato did not attack the assailant because they knew each other, and that Simpson may have petted the dog as he entered his ex-wife's property.
In earlier testimony, Deedrick had explained to jurors how he compares hairs under a microscope both visually and with tools measuring the hairs' absorbance and reflection of different types of light.
When all the microscopic characteristics are the same, Deedrick explained, he can conclude that a hair could have come from a certain individual, but cannot say definitively that a specific hair came from a particular individual.
Separately, Ito said he would consider a prosecution request to arrange a nighttime jury tour of the murder scene. The jurors earlier visited both the crime scene and Simpson's home during daylight, but Clark said a nighttime tour would give jurors a better sense of the lighting conditions during the slayings.
Defense attorney Robert L. Shapiro objected, arguing that foliage and other physical conditions have changed drastically since the slayings.
Transcripts released after testimony concluded today showed that one juror was dismissed after having been beaten by her estranged boyfriend and that another was kicked off the panel because his co-workers at Hertz, where Simpson had been an advertising fixture, said the juror had met the defendant and shook hands with him. The black juror denied having met Simpson.
Ten jurors have been dismissed from the panel, but documents released today dealt with only two of them -- both removed from the panel on Jan. 18. Juror No. 320, a female Hispanic postal worker, was dismissed after her ex-boyfriend told Ito she had prejudged Simpson, hated blacks and was emotionally unfit to be a juror. The juror denied the accusation, but after she told Ito the bruise on her face was the result of her ex-boyfriend beating her, the judge told her she was in "a horrible situation" too close to the Simpson case and urged her to contact battered women's assistance groups. Simpson had been accused of beating Nicole Simpson.
CAPTION: EVIDENCE "CONSISTENT WITH . . ."
According to an FBI analysis, hair from each of the following people and from Nicole Brown Simpson's dog "is consistent with" hair found on the objects listed below:
Blue knit cap found at crime scene
O.J. Simpson: 12 hairs
Ronald Goldman's shirt
O.J. Simpson: 1 hair
Nicole Brown Simpson: 35 "forcibly removed hairs"
Ronald L. Goldman: "A lot" of hairs
Ronald Goldman's jeans
Nicole Brown Simpson: Several hairs
Glove found at O.J. Simpson's estate
O.J. Simpson: 1 hair
Nicole Brown Simpson: 1 12-inch hair; 3 hair fragments
Ronald L. Goldman: Three or four hairs
Kato, the dog: Several hairs
Glove found at crime scene
Nicole Brown Simpson: 1 six-inch hair fragment
Plaid hat found in Simpson's Ford Bronco
O.J. Simpson: Several hairs