Lawyers Clash Over F. Lee Bailey’s ‘Marine to Marine’ Comment
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ O.J. Simpson attorney F. Lee Bailey insisted to the judge today he talked to a defense witness ``one Marine to another″ even though the witness said on television that the conversation never took place.
The issue erupted Tuesday when Superior Court Judge Lance Ito ruled the defense could question Detective Mark Fuhrman about whether he used a racial slur in the presence of Gunnery Sgt. Max Cordoba.
Bailey said Tuesday in court that Cordoba would ``march up to the witness stand″ and reveal the white detective once called the black sergeant a ``nigger.″
In an interview with NBC’s ``Dateline″ on Tuesday night, Cordoba denied ever speaking with Bailey, though he stood by his remarks about Fuhrman.
The latest feud between attorneys delayed the trial over the slayings of Simpson’s ex-wife and her friend. Fuhrman was due back on the witness chair today for more cross-examination by Bailey.
``I did indeed, about two weeks ago, on a weekend, from Mr. (Johnnie) Cochran’s office″ talked to Cordoba, Bailey blustered today.
Bailey said he contacted Cordoba on Tuesday night and cleared up the misunderstanding.
Ito ruled that Fuhrman can’t be questioned about Cordoba during cross-examination. He said he would review the issue when the defense presents its case later in the trial.
After a day-and-a-half of Bailey vs. Fuhrman, legal experts said it’s been a good attorney questioning a good witness.
The question for Simpson, however, is whether a skilled cross-examination of a witness held up as so important by the defense will be good enough. Already, the defense is downplaying the matter.
``No one really expects Mark Fuhrman to break down on the stand and acknowledge planting a glove or acknowledge that he’s a racist. You’re really not going to be able to break down an experienced witness in that way,″ said defense attorney Carl Douglas. ``Hopefully, Mr. Bailey was able to lay some groundwork for other witnesses who will testify and for the real meat, which will be the defense case with the closing argument of counsel.″
On Tuesday, Bailey was said by legal experts to have made some headway, drawing out a few inconsistencies, raising the possibility Fuhrman had the opportunity to plant evidence, and raising questions about the detective’s credibility by exploring Fuhrman’s practice cross-examination.
But Bailey fell far short of destroying Fuhrman, or even getting any significant concessions, about his role in the investigation of the June 12 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
``Both Bailey and Fuhrman are performing so admirably, that in the end, the dual skill of both of them gives Fuhrman an edge. Fuhrman wins if he keeps his cool and calmly denies the charges,″ Columbia University law professor George Fletcher said.
Fletcher noted, though, that the fact Fuhrman has to deny anything or be placed in a position where he must win or lose when Simpson _ not Fuhrman _ is the defendant speaks volumes about how much the defense had already accomplished prior to the cross-examination.
Bailey’s cross-examination has been an exercise in trying to prove Fuhrman committed gross police misconduct by planting evidence against Simpson, either because of racism or a desire to become the hero in a big case.
With tough, precise questions, Bailey insinuated Tuesday that Fuhrman fabricated illogical details, including Fuhrman’s oft-repeated claim that the glove he found on a leaf-strewn pathway at Simpson’s estate was ``moist and sticky″ with blood more than seven hours after the killings.
The lawyer suggested the glove was encased in plastic or rubber, transported to Simpson’s estate and dropped at the scene by Fuhrman, who has testified that he found it there early the morning after the slayings.
Bailey also pointed to exact words from Fuhrman’s preliminary hearing testimony: how he spoke then about blood ``in the Bronco,″ but this week said he never made such an observation, and how he described first seeing the glove at Goldman’s feet.
``And looking there I could see them down at his feet,″ the transcript of the hearing said. Bailey suggested he saw two gloves, not one. Fuhrman denied that Tuesday.
``I was referring to the knit cap and the glove,″ Fuhrman explained.
``Do you see any mention of a knit cap on that page?″ Bailey asked.
``No,″ Fuhrman said.
When asked why he hired a lawyer, Fuhrman took the opportunity to tell jurors he was ``defamed in the media for planting evidence.″
Through it all, Fuhrman kept his composure, usually answering only ``yes″ or ``no″ when the questioned required it, asking for Bailey to repeat questions that Fuhrman didn’t completely understand. Occasionally, Fuhrman smiled, but mostly he kept a serious expression.
Legal analysts were impressed with Fuhrman’s demeanor.
``F. Lee Bailey deserves high marks for his effort, given the amount of evidence, given the amount of material he had to work with,″ said Stan Goldman, a law professor at Loyola University. ``He just doesn’t have a lot to work with.″