Simpson lawyers attack evidence from Bronco

October 05, 1994|By New York Times News Service

LOS ANGELES -- Lawyers for O. J. Simpson have mounted a two-front attack on evidence seized in later searches of his Ford Bronco, maintaining that such evidence might have been tampered with while the vehicle was left unattended and that police blood tests on the interior are inherently unreliable.

Last month, Mr. Simpson's legal team moved to suppress several crucial items, including the carpeting and pieces of bloody upholstery, seized from the Bronco on June 14, a day and a half after the bodies of Simpson's former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald L. Goldman were found outside her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles.

Judge Lance A. Ito has essentially rejected that motion, although parts of it will be addressed at a hearing today.

The newest defense motion, filed Monday and released yesterday, concerns five subsequent searches of the Bronco, which took place from June 28 through Aug. 30.

In these inspections, conducted after the van had been removed from Mr. Simpson's home to a tow yard, the police seized approximately four dozen additional items, including Post-It message stickers, credit card receipts and cassette tapes.

The Bronco was neither locked nor secured while in the lot, and on June 15 it was burglarized, an incident that was not reported to the police for 26 days.

Such "sloppy handling of evidence," the defense told Judge Ito, broke the vital "chain of custody" that ensures the reliability of evidence, particularly blood evidence.

"It was critical for the police to maintain the security of the vehicle from the time of its seizure until the evidence was removed," the defense motion states.

"Their failure to do so in the face of evidence of actual tampering, unrecorded access to the vehicle and unexplained damage renders any evidence seized inadmissible."

In their motion, Mr. Simpson's lawyers, led by Robert L. Shapiro, also took issue with a highly publicized test of the Bronco that the police performed on Aug. 30. A substance called Luminol, the police later said, confirmed the presence of blood in the Bronco.

But defense lawyers pointed out that Luminol reacts positively -- that is, it gives off a blue luminescent light similar to that of a watch dial in the dark -- not just to blood but to household bleaches, horseradish, citrus juices, watermelon and iodine, among other things.

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