Witnesses Ben, Jerry would just melt if put on the stand

March 10, 1995|By MIKE LITTWIN

Like many of you who follow the O. J. Simpson trial, I am no

expert in criminal law.

But I do know ice cream.

I specifically know Ben & Jerry's ice cream, which has, of course, become central to the case. For years, it has been central to my life.

Simpson's defense team has said the cops blew the entire investigation when they ignored a container of ice cream in Nicole Simpson's condo that could have proved O. J. to be

innocent. Here's their case: Ice cream, once removed from your regulation freezer, tends to melt.

Marcia Clark objected.

Johnnie Cochran said if Clark ever gave her kids ice cream, instead of spending all her time with her nose in a law book, she'd understand the defense's case better.

Judge Ito wondered if either Ben or Jerry would be called to the witness stand.

Why is the ice cream so crucial? The prosecutors set the time of the crime at 10:15 p.m. because the dog Kato -- not the man Kato -- was howling plaintively. The cops, apparently insufficiently trained to recognize plaintive wails, did not arrive at the scene for another two hours.

Once inside the house, they spotted the ice cream. Was it melted?

If it was not melted, then Simpson, who was home at 11, must be innocent. Because ice cream melts. By midnight, it should have been ice cream soup. You could do laps in it.

Nobody knows the exact condition of the stuff -- because the cops did not take pictures of said ice cream.

When lawyers asked Detective Lange why he failed to preserve this vital piece of evidence, he said he didn't think ice cream was relevant to a murder case.

This stunned me. Sure, Breyer's ice cream can be irrelevant. Many of your store-brand ice creams can be irrelevant and immaterial. But this is Ben & Jerry's. If I'm a cop at the scene, I'm all over this particular dessert treat.

If I'm a cop at the scene, I'm checking the freezer to see if there's some late-night investigative work I can do there.

Cops on the scene would describe the ice cream as "lumpy" rather than "soupy." In explanation, the detective has said that he learned the ice cream was Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, which, when it melts, leaves lumps -- cookie dough lumps. This particular flavor is rife with raw cookie dough. And cookie dough, according to the boys in forensics, does not melt.

As an investigative reporter and ice cream maven, I decided to do my own test.

4:22: Purchase pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Also a pack of Rosa Lopez trading cards.

8:35: Scoop ice cream in a bowl and set it in my kitchen.

8:36: Gaze longingly at bowl.

8:37: Try one little scoop. Don't think it will affect the test.

8:45: First evidence of melting. Take call from my college-age daughter. Argue merits of Cherry Garcia (my favorite) vs. Cookie Dough (hers). Argument ends when I ask Ms. Big Shot who's paying her tuition.

8:50: Ice cream looks suspiciously the way it did at 8:45. As I wait, practice O. J. eye rolls.

8:52: My mother calls. Says if the ice cream had been melted, it means that rogue cop Mark Fuhrman must have planted it there.

9:00: Bubble appears in the melted part of the ice cream. Significant? Not according to Detective Lange.

9:08: Wonder if raw cookie dough is dangerous to eat. Try a scoop as a test.

9:17: Ice cream begins to look like an alpine setting, little trails of melted snow over sculpted hills of frozen cream. Remember reading that the last thing Elvis ate was a huge bowl of Sealtest ice cream. Peach, I believe. No ice cream ever melted in the King's presence.

9:20: Now a river of melted cream. Little bits of cookie dough seem to be clinging to the top of the not-yet-melted-hills, as if holding on for dear life. Am I hallucinating?

9:32: Solid ground disappearing. As far as meltdowns go, we may be in Three Mile Island territory.

9:40: Shake bowl. Still some solid ice cream beneath the river.

9:53: A basic river of cream, topped off with little dots of cookie dough. It's soupy. And lumpy.

10:00: Evidence has disappeared. My wife, obviously a big Detective Lange fan, dumped it in the sink.

10:01: Get a new bowl. Just to be on the safe side, eat this one prior to meltdown.

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