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O.J. Witness Acknowledges 'Faulty' Memory, Maintains Defense Alibi

By Nell Henderson
The Washington Post
LOS ANGELES

A key defense witness in the O.J. Simpson murder trial contradicted herself repeatedly on the witness stand Thursday, but stuck to her central contention that she saw the defendant's white Ford Bronco outside his house sometime after 10 p.m. on the night his ex-wife and her male friend were killed.

Under aggressive cross-examination by prosecutor Christopher Darden, Rosa Lopez conceded she didn't like Nicole Brown Simpson, one of the murder victims, because Nicole Simpson had once slapped a friend of hers. And she admitted to having a faulty memory on a number of other embarrassing issues - which could be a fatal flaw in a witness whom defense lawyers are counting on to bolster their client's alibi.

But Lopez's potentially most damaging admission was that she had never told a defense investigator she had seen Simpson's vehicle at exactly 10:15 or 10:20 p.m., as the defense has claimed.

"All I said was that it was after 10," Lopez told Darden.

"So you don't know how long after 10?" he asked.

"No, sir," she replied.

Minutes are crucial for both sides as they seek to establish conflicting timelines for June 12, the night of the double murders. Prosecutors contend Simpson drove the Bronco from his Brentwood estate to Nicole Simpson's town house two miles away, stabbed to death both her and Ronald L. Goldman, and made it back to his house in time to change clothes and catch a limousine to the airport shortly before 11. They place the time of the murders at about 10:15.

The defense contends Simpson, who has pleaded not guilty, was home napping and preparing for a business trip to Chicago at that moment. To bolster his alibi it has offered Lopez, who worked as a housekeeper next door to the Simpson estate, contending she would testify she saw the Bronco parked outside the estate at 10:15 or 10:20.

Under questioning by defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, Lopez on Monday testified she had seen the vehicle when she walked her employers' dog a little after 10p.m. But Thursday, under Darden's low-key but relentless prodding, she gave a far less exact account of what she saw and when she saw it.

Working through the day with surgical precision, Darden elicited a number of damaging admissions from the Salvadoran emigre, who has said previously she was reluctant to testify.