'Dog World' sends its news hound to the Simpson trial

March 14, 1995|By Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles -- Every dog has his day. This is John Cargill's.

He's covering the O. J. Simpson trial for Dog World magazine, the biggest gig of his five-year career as a free-lance writer.

This is, after all, the case in which the prosecution believes it can narrow the time of death by proving that neighbors heard the howl of Nicole Brown Simpson's white Akita, Kato.

And so Mr. Cargill labors over his first piece (he's already written the headline: "Kato Knows, But Will He Tell?"), struggling with issues overlooked by the mainstream media.

For example: How many of the jurors own dogs?

"If there are dog people on that jury, that could be pivotal," Mr. Cargill said. They might, he believes, be more inclined to believe the prosecution's theory.

And while the media reported the minute details of housekeeper Rosa Lopez's testimony, Mr. Cargill wanted to know what kind of dog she was walking when she spotted the white Bronco parked outside Mr. Simpson's house. (A golden retriever.)

And what was the name of Mr. Simpson's dog -- a black Akita -- who greeted police when they jumped over the fence of the Rockingham Drive estate? (Chachi, Mr. Cargill said.)

It's those juicy tidbits about the case that go over big with dog enthusiasts, he said.

"There are more dogs in this case than you can shake a stick at," Mr. Cargill said.

Including Mr. Cargill's. He, too, owns an Akita.

Mr. Cargill started free-lancing for the 58,000-circulation Dog World in 1989, writing about such topics as canine hip replacement and pet psychology.

When Nicole Simpson's Akita became a major player in the prosecution's case, the magazine's editor called Mr. Cargill to see if he would analyze the trial from a dog's point of view.

"Our readers have been telling us that it's important to know how the dog might fit into this," said editor Donna Marcel.

The prosecution contends that Nicole Simpson's Akita, who led witnesses to the scene of the crime, was the dog whose cries occurred around the time Mr. Simpson was slashing his ex-wife and Mr. Goldman to death.

"Everything you touch in this case has something to do with a dog," said Mr. Cargill, whose report is scheduled to appear in Dog World's June edition. "Name another case where there were so many witnesses, murder victims and suspects that were all involved with dogs. I can't think of one."

Mr. Cargill has been covering the trial by watching taped broadcast of Court TV in the evenings at his home in Terre Haute, Ind. Free-lance writing is just a part-time job. During the day he works as the chief financial officer for Osler Institute, a company that holds seminars around the country for doctors.

Mr. Cargill figures that in a murder with no human eyewitnesses, and in which lawyers from both sides continue to poke holes in each other's witnesses, the role of the howling dog in RTC establishing the time of death will become more important.

"How could anybody have foretold that the human witness would fall apart so badly?" he said, alluding to Ms. Lopez, who testified about seeing Mr. Simpson's Bronco in front of his house the night of the murder.

"Now that they've ripped up Rosa Lopez, it's all going to fall back on the dog."

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