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SIMPSON TRIAL OFF TO QUIET START.

Byline: Anne Burke Daily News Staff Writer

T-shirt vendor Tuck Datig didn't make a sale all morning. There were empty seats in the courtroom. A street preacher waved an ``Ask Jesus to Save You Now'' banner, but found few souls to save.

Even the star attraction was a no-show.

The O.J. Simpson civil trial got under way at an ocean-view courthouse Tuesday, in what looked to be a quieter and mellower version of the media spectacle that preceded it in downtown Los Angeles.

``There aren't any people around here,'' grumbled Datig, who hawked $10 shirts under warm, hazy skies outside Santa Monica Superior Court, despite a city ban on street vendors.

The low-key beginning was probably an auspicious start for Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki, who is determined that the trial will not degenerate into a sequel to last year's three-ring circus.

The judge pulled the plug on the courtroom camera and slapped a gag order on all participants in the trial.

But late Tuesday, the Second District Court of Appeal stayed the gag order pending further review, and it overturned Fujisaki's ruling banning a closed-circuit audio feed to the trial press room.

The appeals court ordered Fujisaki to issue a new order permitting the audio feed and allowing sketch artists to draw within the courtroom any subject except jurors or potential jurors.

However, the appeals court gave Fujisaki until Sept. 27 to show why he shouldn't have to abide by the order.

Simpson was in Orange County on Tuesday, attending a custody hearing for his children Sydney, 10, and Justin, 8. He might not show up until Friday, when jurors will fill out questionnaires asking how much they already know about the case.

Ronald Goldman's father and stepmother, Fred and Patti, and his sister, Kim, sat together in the front row, wearing buttons bearing photographs of the slain, aspiring restaurateur.

Day one of the trial lasted only two hours - long enough for Fujisaki to throw out several pieces of evidence, and let in others.

The families of Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson have filed wrongful death and survival claims against Simpson, seeking unspecified monetary damages.

The trial comes almost on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Simpson's Oct. 3 acquittals in the fatal stabbings of his-ex wife and her friend outside a Brentwood condominium June 12, 1994.

Fujisaki handed a number of victories to the plaintiffs. He admitted Nicole Simpson's 911 call to police in 1993, the former football star's history of domestic violence, and suggestions that Simpson had stalked his wife.

Fujisaki also took steps to undercut the defense theory that Simpson was the victim of a frame-up.

The gray-haired jurist, seated in a high-back, cushioned chair, said Simpson can't suggest that police planted evidence, nor can he try to pin the killings on Colombian drug lords, unless he has evidence to back up such claims.

But there was some good news for Simpson.

Fujisaki said the former Buffalo Bills' star may use the videotaped testimony of forensics expert Dr. Henry Lee. Lee's testimony at the criminal trial raised questions about whether physical evidence pointed to Simpson's guilt.

But Fujisaki said Lee's testimony can't veer into the area of the Los Angeles Police Department's allegedly sloppy blood-collection techniques, because that's irrelevant to the trial.

Today andThursday, the court will start weeding out jurors who can't serve because of hardship. About 225 prospective panel members are expected.

Also absent from the courtroom Tuesday were Nicole Simpson's family.

Her parents, Lou and Juditha Brown, who have temporary guardianship of Sydney and Justin, and Nicole Simpson's sister, Denise Brown, were also at the Orange County hearing.

Even with nearly 60 reporters taking up most of the 80-seat courtroom, there were several empty seats.

The O.J. File

DEVELOPMENTS:Here are Tuesday's key pre-trial rulings in the O.J. Simpson civil trial.

Simpson's lawyers will be prohibited from telling jurors that former Los Angeles Police Department Detective Mark Fuhrman took the Fifth Amendment during the criminal trial. In addition, they can't say Fuhrman made racist statements unless Simpson can prove to the judge presiding over the civil trial that Fuhrman may have planted evidence.

The judge said he won't allow the defense to mention any other possible killers unless Simpson can prove that the police failed to follow up clues pointing to those suspects.

The judge ruled that jurors will be allowed to view the videotaped testimony of Henry Lee, a forensics expert whose testimony in the criminal trial criticizing police evidence collection was important for the defense.

The judge will allow the playing of 911 tapes as ``spontaneous declarations,'' and admitted statements by Nicole Simpson in police reports as showing her state of mind and possible motivation on Simpson's part.

WHAT'S NEXT: Jury selection begins today.

CAPTION(S):

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BOX: THE O.J. FILE (SEE TEXT)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 18, 1996
Words:805
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