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O.J. Defense Suffers Setbacks; Response to Statement Delayed

By Henry Weinstein
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES

A camera operator's error and an angry judge added up to a significant setback for O.J. Simpson's defense team Tuesday, legal experts said.

As defense lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. was poised to deliver his opening statements, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito abruptly halted the proceedings because two alternate jurors inadvertently were shown on television.

"The defense has to be really frustrated and upset that the judge did not allow them to respond today to the prosecution's opening statement," said Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson. "These jurors are going back to their hotel rooms and all that is ringing in their ears is that it was O.J.'s blood, O.J.'s blood, O.J.'s blood."

For their part, Simpson's defense lawyers expressed outrage at a post-trial news conference about the event that led to Ito's decision, while declining to criticize the judge.

And he asserted that it was doubly unfair that Cochran may not be able to present his opening statement on live television, which could blunt the impact the statement will have on public opinion, which could be vitally important to Simpson's future if he is acquitted.

Cochran said Ito acted so swiftly that he did not even have an opportunity to argue that he should be allowed to go forward Tuesday afternoon. The day's events seemed to confirm that the only thing predictable about the Simpson case is that something unpredictable will happen.

Arenella said he thought the prosecution would have been better off reversing the sequence of the opening statements. He said he thought it would have been "less risky" to start with Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark's presentation followed by an attempt to explain to the jury "how and why Simpson could be capable of such crimes."

But Van Susteren said the order of presentation made sense. "The approach is right. You want to end with the gore. While the beatings were terrible, it's not like the bodies lying in a pool of blood."