Cochran Blasts Police As Defense Wraps Up CaseBy William Claiborne
The Washington Post
Angrily branding two key police witnesses in the O.J. Simpson murder trial "the twin devils of deception," Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Thursday pleaded with the predominately black jury to strike a blow against racism and police misconduct by acquitting the celebrity defendant.
Using the rhythmic, thundering style of a revival preacher, Cochran implored jurors to "do the right thingŠ . Maybe there is a reason why we're here. Maybe you're the right people at the right time at the right place to say: "No more!' "
Cochran, in the second day of his closing argument, likened detective Mark Fuhrman, whose hate-filled, racial epithets were captured in tape-recorded interviews, to Adolph Hitler. And he called detective Philip Vannatter, another key prosecution witness, a "demon of evil," contending both men had conspired in "setting this man (Simpson) up" for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman.
The issue of race, which has been just beneath the surface - and occasionally well above it - throughout the nearly nine-month trial, exploded in full fury outside the courtroom during the lunch break as members of the Goldman and Simpson families held news conferences in the lobby of the Criminal Courts Building.
Ronald Goldman's father, Fred Goldman, who is Jewish, shook with anger as he called Cochran a "sick man" and "the worst kind of human being imaginable" for comparing Fuhrman to Hitler.
"He compares racism of the worst kind in this world to what's going on in this caseŠ . This man is sick. He is absolutely sick," Goldman said. Responding to Goldman's comments, Simpson's sister, Carmelita Durio, walked to the same microphone and defended Cochran.
"We have waited all this time, and now Š the attorneys are telling my brother's story. And it's very shocking that once Johnnie gets up and starts telling what we feel happened that this has rocked somebody's world," Carmelita Durio said.
Her sister, Shirley Baker, said, "We didn't create Mark FuhrmanŠ . We've been saying from day one that Mark Fuhrman planted the glove."
Baker added, "It's wrong, even when you're hurting, for someone to get up and personally attack our lawyers and say that they're liars."
The sequestered jurors - nine blacks, two whites and one Hispanic - did not hear the news conference remarks. But they listened intently to Cochran's emotional plea, and many took notes later when fellow defense attorney Barry Scheck followed up with a cooler, detailed assault on the mountain of physical evidence submitted by the prosecution.
Cochran began Thursday morning by picking up where he had left off Wednesday night - hammering away at the two police officers whose actions and testimony lay at the heart of the prosecution's case. He told jurors he was aware that they, by their own life experiences, know that a police officer is "the single most powerful person in the criminal justice systemŠHe can take your life and justify it." Fuhrman, he said, "had the power to carry out his racist views" and, in effect, take Simpson's life.
Referring to testimony that Fuhrman discovered an incriminating bloody glove at Simpson's estate the morning after the murders and that Vannatter carried a vial of Simpson's blood around Los Angeles for three hours the next day, Cochran called the two detectives "the man who carried the blood (and) the man who planted the glove."
Vannatter, he said, helped frame Simpson because he believed him to be guilty and wanted to guarantee a conviction. Fuhrman, he said, was additionally motivated by an obsessive hatred for interracial marriages fueled by his visit Simpson's home in 1985 in response to a domestic violence complaint made by Nicole Simpson.
Cochran recalled the testimony of an acquaintance of Fuhrman's, Kathleen Bell, who said the white police officer had told her he would "like nothing more than to see all niggers gathered up" and burned.
"There was another man not too long ago in the world who had those viewsŠAdolph Hitler," Cochran thundered. He said Hitler was able to rise to power because, as with Fuhrman, no one stood up to stop him.
Accusing Fuhrman of "genocidal racism," he declared, "No more. We're not going to have this. ŠThis man, Orenthal James Simpson, is entitled to an acquittal."
He reminded the panelists of Judge Lance A. Ito's instruction that if they find one part of testimony by a witness to have been false they may reject all of the witness's testimony. By extrapolation, Cochran said, the jury should also reject all of the incriminating evidence that Fuhrman and Vannatter came in contact with during their examination of the crime scene and Simpson's estate the morning after the murders - including the bloody gloves, bloodstains and drops of blood that were the basis for DNA genetic matches and hair and fiber evidence that pointed to Simpson as the murderer.