Defense lands a punch with prosecutors' gloves

June 18, 1995|By ROGER SIMON

Has anything ever fit you like a glove?

If it has, don't tell O. J. Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden about it.

He now knows that nothing fits like a glove. Not even a glove.

Last Thursday, Darden asked Simpson to get up in front of the jury and try on a pair of gloves.

The prosecution says Simpson used those gloves when he was killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, on June 12, 1994.

The prosecution also argues that at some time during the brutal slayings, the left glove must have fit Simpson loosely enough to come off.

Why? Two reasons: One, the left glove was found at the crime scene. (The right glove was found in Simpson's yard, near his house.) Two, Simpson sustained a cut on one of his left knuckles. But there are no cuts on the gloves.

So if you believe the prosecution theory, the left glove must have come off at the crime scene.

And then Simpson must have been cut, because his blood was found at the scene, according to the prosecution DNA experts.

OK, so the glove must have come off Simpson's hand, probably during his fight with Goldman.

But what did the jury see?

It saw a pair of gloves that fit Simpson so tightly it seemed highly unlikely that one would have been flung off.

(Why does anyone need gloves in Los Angeles in June? They don't, the prosecution argues, unless they want to cover up their fingerprints when they are murdering two people.)

How did O. J. Simpson come by the gloves?

The defense says he never owned them at all (and never was at the crime scene that night).

The prosecution says the gloves were purchased by Nicole as a present for Simpson, who often traveled around the country to climates where gloves are needed.

But while Simpson struggled to get the gloves on in front of the jury Thursday -- and even went so far as to tell the jurors, "They're too small" -- Darden seemed to sink through the floor.

It appeared simply unbelievable that O. J. Simpson would have chosen to use those gloves to do anything, let alone commit two murders.

And as lead defense attorney Johnnie Cochran left the courtroom Thursday, he turned to reporters and said: "The defense rests!"

He didn't mean it literally, but the defense was delighted.

By Friday, however, the prosecutors had regrouped.

What was obvious to many observers finally had become obvious to the prosecution: Leather gloves saturated with blood would shrink considerably and that is why they no longer fit Simpson.

And Darden re-called a glove expert to the stand to testify to that.

Did the jurors buy it? Or will they keep in their minds the image of Simpson struggling with those gloves?

We may not know for several more months, but with the benefit of hindsight, we can ask one other question:

Why did Darden risk the glove demonstration in the first place?

Even if the gloves had fit perfectly, what would it have shown? It still would not have proved that they were Simpson's gloves.

And if the DNA evidence linking Simpson to the crimes is not enough to convict him, would his hands fitting inside gloves have done so?

So why did Darden do it?

Based on the public comments of some dismissed jurors, the prosecution is worried that it has not persuaded the jury of Simpson's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The state's case is about to close, and prosecutors feel they still need something dramatic to win.

So Darden decided to be dramatic.

He decided to go for a little theater. Nobody involved in the Simpson trial seems to be able to escape the effect of global television coverage on this case.

And instead of just playing to the jury, which is the only audience that counts, they play to the world at large.

So Darden had Simpson try on those gloves as a piece of high drama.

But in so doing, Darden demonstrated why trials in real life are usually not like the trials on "Perry Mason."

In TV trials, everything always goes right.

In real-life trials, if something can go wrong, it usually does.

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